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I can’t explain how incredible it feels to be among so many people who understand me–it’s one thing to email with people who have OCD, but it’s quite another to be surrounded by them!

Last night I planned today’s schedule. I fully intended to go to a morning session, but my roommate (and fellow workshop facilitator, Chrissie Hodges) and I ended up sitting in our room, drinking coffee and talking about OCD. We’ve already talked about how similar our backgrounds are, but this morning we went more in-depth about our triggers and darkest moments. I’ve shared things with her in the last 24 hours I’ve never told anybody! And instead of saying, “Oh, Alison, that must have been so terrible,” she laughed. She laughed because she’s been there. She fully understands what it’s like to have inappropriate intrusive thoughts. (Don’t go around laughing when people divulge secrets to you in general, though.)

After we finally pulled ourselves out of our conversation, I got ready for my book signing. I met some wonderful people with OCD. I’m still amazed how many people I’ve met who have obsessions like I’ve had. For so many years all I knew of OCD was that people with it would wash their hands all the time. But I’ve also met several people whose OCD symptoms were nothing like mine! The more people I meet, the more I realize that no matter what our particular stories may be, we share a common truth: We’ve at some time or another been ruled by our obsessions.

I attended a session on how OCD is portrayed in the media, and how inaccurate news stories can be. The media’s job is to get as many views as possible, and sometimes that means sensationalizing this disorder, twisting the truth for dramatic effect and picking only the most headline-worthy quotes from lengthy interviews. But the takeaway was that we can all be advocates, and we don’t have to wait for traditional media sources to tell our stories for us. We can tell our own stories; we can share them on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and in person.

I just came out of a session for young adults; a panel discussed the possibility of relapse and how we can prevent a downward spiral. The fact is that there’s no cure for OCD, and that means we will have intrusive thoughts, and we will feel anxious and have fears. That’s life! The goal is to be armed with the right tools and not to beat ourselves up when those things do happen. An attendee made a great analogy: If you were on a weight loss plan, lost five pounds, and then gained two back, would you just give up? Or would you say, “Hey, that’s just a minor setback. I know I’m capable of losing weight because I’ve done it. Now I just need to get back on track.” Instead of giving in to OCD because it’s trying to poke its nose back into your business, recognize what’s happened and move on. Elizabeth McIngvale was on the panel and said that if you, say, wash your hands as a ritual, you can fight back right then and there and engage in an exposure. Stay mindful and you can decrease the chances that you’ll experience a full relapse.

That’s what I have for now! There’s still more to come, and even though I attended only two sessions today, there are so many more to choose from. It was hard to choose just one in each time slot. See you soon!

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