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Denis AsselinMemorial Day Weekend is not only a time to celebrate the beginning of summer with friends and family, but also a time to remember those who we may have lost. In today’s blog, we are honored to share a guest post from Denis Asselin as he remembers his son Nathaniel and the journey Nathaniel’s loss inspired.

“Are you still walking?” friends often ask me. I answer, “Is there a cure for OCD and related disorders yet?”

Seven million, four-hundred thousand steps later (or over 3,700 miles), I continue to walk to tell Nathaniel’s story. One pilgrimage has morphed into another, and the miles have had an impact. Our son’s journey, as well as ours, continues, a testament to the power of words and stories as well as the unanticipated magic of the butterfly effect.

nathanielOne of Nathaniel’s favorite childhood novels was The Hobbit. I first read it to him when he was quite young, and I could see the tenacious grip of the plot in his dark brown eyes begging me to keep on reading. We understood Bilbo Baggins’s hesitancy to leave the Shire since the comfort of home and the predictability of daily life can lure anyone into complacency. But we also knew that a big adventure awaited him with his first act of bravery—stepping out the door—and once the journey began, there would be no stopping it.

I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and tell your story, too. It will make a big difference, not only in your own life, but also in the lives of sufferers and the families and friends who live with these disorders. For me, a phone call from a family in distress who lost a son to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) in March, an email from a woman about her daily challenges with this disorder, the courageous testimony of Eric Duarte at the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD walk in Sacramento two weeks ago, and six-year-old Cameron’s struggles with OCD let’s me know that we have yet to reach our goal.

This spring I have been re-reading the daily blogs of my walks in 2012 and 2013, and I vividly remember each day—Lynn at the breakfast diner in Philipsburg; Pat at the clinic; Milton at Kids’ Peace; Janet’s $10 contribution in Hatfield; Eric, the restaurant manager, who paid my meal at Carrabba’s; Mary Ellen at the Dunkin Donuts in Connecticut; and the warm welcome of residents at the OCD Institute at McLean—all of them encounters at the heart-level that have been imprinted in every cell of my body. I told Nathaniel’s story over and over again and my listeners shared their own stories of cruel brain disorders suffered by family members, friends, or even themselves. What stories do you carry inside you? Who is your Nathaniel? What are you witnessing in your own life that needs to be shared?

Stories can heal us, but first, we have to have the courage to tell them. And when we do, we learn that we do not stand alone. Together, we create a community of hope and support that will draw more attention to the need for funding, research, and better treatment. Research is yielding answers, and more financial contributions can bring us to the tipping point. But first, we’ve got to step out the front door.

Please join us in Boston to walk on Saturday, June 7th, or walk in your own community as a public witness to these disorders. Virtual walks count too, if getting out is too difficult. But remaining isolated and alone in the Shire won’t do. Buen Camino!

Click here to learn more about the walk. You can also take a moment this Memorial Day to remember or honor a loved one with a gift to the International OCD Foundation, to help us continue in our mission to help all people with OCD and related disorders to live full and productive lives.  


  • CJ

    I am interested in reading about this young man and his struggle with OCD. How can I read about it the story?(Denis Asselin’s son, Nathaniel)

  • Georgia carrington

    Denis, I feel sad that I have yet to join in a walk or to even meet you as you walk the roads from PA to MASS..I am not comfortable; sending money on the E-Mail, but I am going to send a check to you to pass on to the Foundation. Some day I will get back to PA and hopefully, see some old Westtown friends. Fondly, georgia


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