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Just two weeks ago, the 21st Annual OCD Conference was getting underway in Los Angeles.  Now we are back in the office and adjusting to reality again. All of the IOCDF staff had an amazing time meeting all of you, hearing your stories, and working to make this a conference you would never forget.  On today’s blog, IOCDF executive director, Jeff Szymanski, PhD, reflects on the highlights of this year’s conference, and takes a look at what attendees had to say about the event on Twitter and blogs around the web. – Editor

As the executive director of the IOCDF, boy do I love to hear that! My friend Sean O’Connell asks me each time we talk, “What is the most meaningful thing you’ve done today?” At the conference, every minute of each day feels meaningful. Shala Nicely sums up my hope for every conference goer, every year in a recent blog post on her Aha! Moments blog:

When I attended my first International OCD Foundation conference in 2010, the whole thing was one huge “Aha!” In session after session, I learned one mind-blowing thing after another about OCD and its treatment, and the fact that as a person with OCD, I did NOT have to suffer. (Read the full post here.)

Jeff-sunglassesSo, I donned my LA conference sunglasses and was prepared myself this year to again be blown away by the richness of the OCD and related disorders community.

K Oakley shared with us her experience of being a parent at the conference:

I again was amazed at the ease people had sharing their journeys of struggle with this disorder.  It definitely is a safe environment where your worst days and fears can be shared without fear of judgment.  We met a young man on the shuttle from the airport to the hotel that was attending the conference.  My not so shy son struck up a conversation right away, and we immediately became “friends.”  It was great seeing him through out the conference, giving each other updates as we went. (Read the full post here.)

As many of you know, the Annual OCD Conference is for individuals with OCD and related disorders, family members and supporters, and professionals. When I ask people about their favorite part of the conference they inevitably remark about how everyone affected by OCD and related disorders comes together on an even playing field to be generous, compassionate and courageous. Our invited Plenary speaker, Dr. Todd Kashdan, had never been to one of our conferences before. Todd is hard to impress, but was immediately struck by the tone of our conference:

But, here is what really got me about this year’s conference: the number of people who returned to the conference not just for a sense of community and an opportunity to learn something new, but to give back. Our 2014 Keynote Speaker, Ethan Smith, was a perfect example of this. The message of his keynote address hit exactly the right tone. He wasn’t up there to just tell his story. He was there to tell his story so that it might make a difference in someone else’s life. His courage and vulnerability during his Keynote was awe-inspiring and we can’t wait to get it posted on our website for even more people to see and be affected by it. Thank you, Ethan!

And we have continued to expand our reach. I was very proud to be involved in an organization that goes the extra step to reach out to underserved populations with the first, full day conference program given completely in Spanish on Saturday, July 19th. A shout out to our Keynote Speaker for this conference, Romina Vitale who wrote a song, My Inspiration, dedicated to the conference, as well as delivering a powerful Keynote address.

Saturday was also the night of our Saturday Night Social, where the entire conference community comes together for dinner, dancing, and more importantly, having fun. IOCDF guest blogger, Alison Dotson, wrote this on her post about the social…

On Saturday night we got dressed up for dinner and the awards ceremony. First up the IOCDF honored advocate extraordinaire Margaret Sisson for her role in spreading awareness in Georgia…. Next up was Minnesota-native comedian Maria Bamford, who received the first annual Illumination Award. Bamford uses her comedy circuit to spread awareness about OCD, telling side-splitting–and sometimes heartbreaking–stories about her life with the disorder. She sang a hilarious little ditty she wrote about her obsessions and compulsions, which had me cracking up every time I thought of it the rest of the night.

Since I’ve loved Bamford for years, and because she’s a fellow Minnesota native, I quietly approached her. I told her I’d hoped to see her show last fall in Minneapolis but that I’d already spent money on a David Sedaris appearance. She nodded and said, “You have got to plan your comedy show budget very carefully.” When Maria went to the dance floor for the first song of the night, IOCDF Communications Director Carly Bourne said, “Alison, go dance with her!” Ack! Let me tell you — I do not dance. But I danced on Saturday! What a blast. I’m sure there’s photographic evidence that I may already be regretting… (Read the full post here.)

The photographic evidence.

For now, however, conference season is over, and Chrissie Hodges summed it up well:

I sit here tonight in front of my computer and I miss my friends from the conference. I miss the unspoken acceptance. I miss the excitement of discovery and the stories of triumph over tragedy. I miss the conversations that come naturally because of a common denominator between 1500 people. And I miss that feeling of being among “my type of people.”

I am the luckiest person in the world to have found the IOCDF and to have been blessed enough to attend a conference that has positively changed countless lives for so many years, including my own. Yes, there is sadness…but it is lined with optimism and confidence that the last few days of my life have changed me positively…and just like the conference time warp happened so quickly–before I know it, I will be right back on a plane heading to Boston for the IOCDF Conference 2015. (Read the full post here.)

I’ll see many of you in Boston. I will be the blur moving through the crowds.


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