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Happy #ThrowbackThursday! Today’s blog  entry comes from Alison Dotson, who has served as our featured Annual OCD Conference blogger since the 2014 Conference in Los Angeles. In today’s special #tbt post, Alison reflects on what it was like attending her first Annual OCD Conference and what made it such a positive experience she’s now eager to return to each summer. 

Nearly three years ago, I went to my first IOCDF Annual OCD Conference. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited. And nervous. Okay, I was mostly nervous. (a) I have an anxiety disorder. (b) I was presenting, and not until Sunday, so I had several days to be anxious about how it would go. (c) I was going to blog about my experience and didn’t know when I’d have time to sit down and write. (d) I wasn’t staying in the hotel where the Conference was taking place, so I’d need to travel back and forth — and I am terrible with directions.

I ended up loving the entire experience — I went again the following year, and I’m going again this summer. Why? Because I met so many amazing, like-minded people. Where else are you surrounded by people who get OCD, whether because they have it themselves, they treat it, or they have a loved one who has it? There is no other experience like it.

You’ll definitely get a lot out of the sessions; there are so many topics to choose from that you’ll probably have a hard time deciding which ones you want to go to. But you’ll also get a lot out of the evening activities, and even just hanging around the lobby in your downtime. I’ve made some of my strongest connections from introductions in the lobby.

If you’re shy you may be thinking, “I could never just walk up to someone in the lobby and start talking!” But that’s the beauty of the OCD Conference: Shy or not, you’re bound to meet people. As long as you attend, you’ll make connections and learn a lot. Maybe you’ll learn valuable coping skills, such as distractions to keep you from picking at your skin. Or how to use exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy even if you don’t perform compulsions. Maybe you’ll learn that you can really identify with someone else with OCD, even though that person’s symptoms are very different from yours. Maybe you’ll learn how good you are at trivia, or improv! Maybe you’ll learn how strong you are because you always thought your OCD would keep you from traveling, or staying in a hotel, or being around so many other people.

I’ll pass along one lesson from my first year: If at all possible, stay at the same hotel the Conference takes place in. Doing so means you can run back upstairs to your room if you forget something or need to take a breather before diving into more sessions or activities. And you won’t have to worry about getting lost or being late because you’re staying miles away. It’s another great way to meet people — people who may very well become lifelong friends.

Join us at the 23rd Annual OCD Conference in Chicago this summer by registering here

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