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The 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk on the west coast will take place in one week on Saturday, May 10th in the Capitol City of California, Sacramento.  I’m really excited about this walk. It is another step toward the IOCDF’s goal of working with our affiliates to someday host walks in communities and towns all across the country. The OCD Sacramento affiliate has done a great job planning this walk with us in a short period of time.

One of the biggest reasons we started the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD walk was to encourage people in the OCD community to step outside, take a stand, and become an advocate helping to raise awareness about OCD and related disorders.  One such advocate is Erik Duarte.

Last year, Erik was so inspired by the Asselin family’s story of their son Nathaniel’s struggle with BDD, Erik, who himself has struggled with BDD, joined the 2012 walk in Boston “virtually.”

This year, Erik was lucky enough to have a walk in his own backyard: Erik will be attending the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk in Sacramento on May 10th to share his story about overcoming BDD.  I’ve asked Erik if he would share his story with you today, and to encourage all of you to join the walk, whether you are in Sacramento, Boston, or anywhere else. You can make a difference by telling your story, raising awareness, and raising money to support the IOCDF.

My Story:  By Erik Duarte Erik Duarte

I was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in August 2009 at the age of 18.  I am not certain when the symptoms first began but I do remember when I was 13 asking my niece for at least several minutes non-stop if my ears were big. When I was in elementary school we were assigned a partner and we had to draw a picture of each other.  When my partner was drawing my face, he mentioned that I had a large forehead. I didn’t notice that before but, after that comment, I spent a great deal of time looking in the mirror, examining my forehead, which I now knew was large, from every angle.

By the time I was a senior in high school, BDD had taken over my life, although I had no idea what was happening to me.  I spent endless hours looking in the mirror trying to find just the right angle so my ears would look “normal.” When I wasn’t checking my appearance in the mirror I was researching otoplasty (ear-pinning, a type of cosmetic surgery). This behavior progressed to the point I would not leave the house and wore a beanie 24/7 to cover my ears, even in 110 degree heat.  I removed it only to shower and inspect my ears. I was eventually diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and began treatment that never addressed the core issue, BDD.   

After many months of ineffective treatment (I went through three therapists and two psychiatrists) and very little improvement, I began treatment at the Anxiety Treatment Center in Sacramento with Dr. Robin Zasio and Tracy Roulet. The treatment included Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention.  It was the most difficult thing I ever had to do — but I began to finally see progress — and the pay-off was huge. I was given the name of a psychiatrist who treats OCD and after many months, and several tweaks to my medication, we found what works for me. 

Almost five years later, I have completed a Veterinary Assistant course, became certified as a No Child Left Behind Paraprofessional so I can work with Special Education students, and am enrolled full-time in college working towards a degree in Health and Fitness. Just a few years ago I did not think any of this would ever be possible. But, with a correct diagnosis and proper treatment, I am proof that it is possible to live a happy and productive life.

Last year, I learned about the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk in Boston and read about Nathaniel Asselin, who battled BDD for many years. It is Nathaniel’s story that is the inspiration for the Walk. I remembered all too well those days when I felt I could not go on. I have created a team and we all will be “Walking With Nathaniel” in honor of his memory and to support the Asselin family in their efforts to bring awareness to and help raise funds for BDD programs and research.  I am very excited to have the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk on the West Coast this year.   

My mantra during treatment was “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give up” and that is the message on want to share with everyone with attends the Walk in Sacramento.

If you live in the Sacramento or Northern California area and would like to hear Erik’s story first hand, join the OCD Community on Saturday, May 10th in Sacramento.   Find out more information about the Walk here: www.iocdf.org/walkNORCAL You don’t have to fundraise or register to walk.  There is strength in numbers — come join us on Saturday, May 10th, and lets raise awareness about OCD in the local Sacramento community together. 


  • Walking Denis

    It is you, Erik, that inspire us to keep “Walking with Nathaniel.” We are touched by your personal story and admire your immense courage to keep moving forward. If Nathaniel were here, he would give you a thumbs up too. He recognizes fortitude and knows what it takes to do what you do each day. Your journey certainly hasn’t been easy, but you have learned, as we have too, to put one foot in front of the other and to keep moving forward even when the destination isn’t clear. Trust that there is always a path before you and a place for each footstep. Buen Camino, dear friend! We will be with you in spirit on May 10 in Sacramento.

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