The 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk provides an opportunity for families and friends to come together and meet others experiencing similar situations who have traveled along similar paths to find OCD treatment and support. I have been privileged to attend various Walks in Boston, Northern California, and last year’s inaugural Walk in Atlanta. It is such an exciting experience to meet families walking together in support of someone they love. In Atlanta, I had the privilege of meeting Kelly Channell and her family who walked for their son. I asked Kelly to share what it was like to experience the Walk for the first time.
I want to share our experience at the first Atlanta 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk hosted by the International OCD Foundation and OCD Georgia at Chastain Park last year. At the time of the Walk, my son was still too sick to participate. My husband, daughter and I walked in his honor, as well as in honor of all the people (and families) suffering from OCD and/or a related disorder. The 2015 Atlanta Walk was a very special experience for our family. OCD is a crippling illness. It not only affects the person battling it, but the entire family, as well. It can be a very lonely place. Most people do not understand OCD or its potentially devastating impact. In this sense, it is an “invisible” illness. That’s why being surrounded by a community of people that not only understood the illness but have also walked in our shoes meant a lot to our family. All of the sudden, strangers became friends.
Our son has PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections). PANDAS may sound cute and cuddly, but it is anything but. We lost our normally functioning child overnight on January 30, 2014 following a strep infection and our lives have not been the same since that day. Our “normal” busy life was lost to a child with OCD symptoms, anxiety, tics, and rage. School, sports, and friends were no longer part of our routine. We went from a life of predictability and consistency to one of chaos and confusion. Knowing our child better than anyone else, we knew right away that something was terribly wrong. Simple tasks that were once taken for granted — like going to school, taking a shower, brushing his teeth — were almost impossible. We eventually had to travel out of state to find a doctor who would treat our son. He may have looked okay from the outside, but on the inside he was battling debilitating intrusive thoughts. At one point, he couldn’t even leave his room.
We were lucky to find a local therapist who worked extensively with our son and our family utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Her knowledge of both the nature of PANDAS and the treatment of OCD has been a critical part of the process of getting our son better. We still have a way to go and our son continues to heal with time.
We very much look forward to the 2nd Annual 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk in Atlanta. Anyone dealing with a chronic illness such as OCD needs support. Awareness is key. Visibility is key. A sense of community involving other people living with similar issues is a must. Our family certainly felt that level of support and community at last year’s Walk. Thank you to the International OCD Foundation and OCD Georgia for your efforts at raising funds and awareness for all of the families out there dealing with OCD. You are making a difference in our lives!
If you are in Atlanta, Boston, Oakland, or Houston on Saturday, June 4, 2016, please join me and my family as we walk for our son, and for all of the families affected by OCD.