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The IOCDF Community Highlights blog aims to highlight community members who are making strides to raise awareness and advocate for OCD and related disorders.

About the “What if” project:

“What if?” is a collaborative film project by Robin Roblee-Strauss for his senior thesis project that documents the experiences of living with OCD. The film focuses on the voices of those struggling with OCD as the experts on their own internal experiences and recovery processes. And guess what….you can be involved in its creation! Go to www.whatifocdmovie.com to learn how you can be a part of the project by sharing your story, contributing cinematic or artistic expertise, or donating. By creating a movie with the help of individuals with OCD, Robin hopes to empower sufferers to speak out and show the world a brave and honest look into the struggle with uncertainty and anxiety.

Who I am:

Hi, my name is Robin Roblee-Strauss.

I am a student filmmaker at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA. I have also taken courses in psychology, neuroscience, and Critical Disabilities Studies. Since I was small, I have struggled with anxiety. I was diagnosed with OCD for a number of years, but at present, I have begun to find my way.

What I want to do:

I am making a non-fiction film about OCD and anxiety for my senior film thesis. My aim is to document a series of stories about peoples’ experiences struggling with OCD. I will speak with a diverse group with the OCD diagnoses. Among them will be people of different classes, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and with different thematic manifestations of OCD. This will accurately show the extent to which this disorder pervades society and emphasizes OCD’s many expressions.

I am particularly interested in exploring OCD and anxiety’s core pathology which is an intolerance for uncertainty. I want to make clear connections across the different thematic forms of OCD and create relationality between people suffering with OCD and those that don’t. We all are navigating lives filled with uncertainty.

Since OCD is so misunderstood and has so much stigma attached to it in popular culture today, I will attempt to dispel myths and inaccurate information. This will be done by providing critical interviews with top psychologists, researchers and mental health advocates working in the field of anxiety disorders. I will also shed light on some of the less talked about aspects of OCD that are often considered shameful and misunderstood. For instance, intrusive thoughts with taboo content. My hope is that with a diverse array of stories, informative interviews, and creative cinematic expression, my film will provide a fresh look at OCD and anxiety. In addition, it is intended to create a sense of understanding and universal interest in the struggle with uncertainty.

Why I want to do it:

This project is near and dear to my heart because it comes out of my own struggle with anxiety and OCD. I feel there is an urgent need for the media to be more accurate in talking honestly about experiences of mental health and hence normalizing these experiences. Projects like this one will, in the long run, ensure that people can talk openly about their struggles and get effective support and care rather than being filled with shame and confusion.

I have struggled with anxiety since I was very small and early on in high school, my anxiety began to take the form of OCD. About two years ago, I was able to find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) therapist who specialized in treating anxiety disorders. Her practice was an hour away, but of my own commitment and a strong desire to get help, I decided to give her a shot. The next six months I began an intensive course of therapy. It took an incredible amount of effort and work, but I was able to change the way I looked at and experienced my anxiety

That semester in college I created an independent study titled “Living in an Uncertain World: Anxiety and OCD in its Personal and Social Contexts.” In this study, I created a psychological ethnography which explored the phenomenon of psychologists and therapists who work in the field of anxiety disorders and also have an anxiety disorder diagnoses themselves. I consider this to be a fascinating and important topic.

The fact that there are many well-regarded clinicians who have the first-hand experience with OCD and are at the same time shaping and tailoring treatment to be more effective and empowering is crucial for the field of mental health treatment. This project gave me the opportunity to connect with many prominent clinicians and mental health advocates. After this project I felt I was part of the “OCD community,” a network of wonderful people, therapists, psychologists, and OCD sufferers. They left me wanting to do more.

During the summer I did an internship with Stuart Ralph (creator of The OCD Stories podcast) writing press releases and organizing show notes. Over the next six months, I participated in an internship with Servicenet, a local mental health organization. I was part of an anxiety-disorder team that trained clinicians on how to effectively treat clients with anxiety disorders using CBT and ERP. I attended weekly case discussion sessions and had the opportunity to work as a clinical intern with clients struggling with anxiety and OCD. This experience opened my eyes to how little the average clinician had to offer as an effective treatment for anxiety disorders.

These past two years I was privileged to attend the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) conference.  This year I attended as an exhibitor promoting and networking for my film project. The Conference has allowed me to further my knowledge about OCD and anxiety treatment as well as giving me an insight into peoples’ varied yet astonishingly familiar experiences with the condition.

How I want to do it:

This year I have the unique opportunity to create a film thesis. Some funding from a number of grants which will help me with the costs of the travel and equipment I need for my project. I see this project as a collaborative narrative of those struggling with anxiety and OCD. My aim is for this process to be an opportunity for people to share their stories bravely and honestly. My hope is that we as a community can normalize our struggles with mental health. The goal is to have people be comfortable talking about their condition in order to receive support from mental health professionals, our communities and our society.

I invite you to be part of this project. I look forward to collaborating with you, listening to your stories and hearing your insights. You can learn more about the “What If” project and make a donation by visiting the GoFundMe page here.

Robin Roblee-Strauss

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