IOCDF Advocate Caroline K talks about her conference experience. Check out the full schedule and register for this weekend’s Online OCD Conference!
How many conferences have you been to?
I went to the San Francisco one, the Washington, DC one, and the virtual one last year.
I’ve also been to all of the virtual OCD Camps for kids that we’ve had so far; I’ve facilitated all of those. And I would say facilitating those has had an equal impact on me as attending the adult OCD Con.
What was it like for you to attend the in-person conferences?
I’m located just south of Boston and I have a lot of OCD around traveling, so going specifically to San Francisco was a huge values-based exposure for me. I had just heard about the conference, I had some friends who were going, and I was asked to speak there. I didn’t want to travel because my OCD didn’t want me to travel, but it was a huge values-based exposure. So that was the motivation to go.
It was the most incredible experience. The conference was definitely life-changing in terms of the people I met there and the education I gained there, and also the education my parents gained there. There was this power in knowledge of this disorder, and it gave them a little more control around their daughter’s suffering.
Washington, DC was a similar experience, but it was a little bit different in that I had quite a larger friend group now, and I felt a lot more comfortable going to the conference. It felt like a real place where I had felt belonging.
How did those experiences compare to attending the virtual conference last year?
I really enjoyed last year’s conference. It was a difficult time in the world, but getting to see those familiar faces you only get to see once a year was a real blessing.
It definitely brought that same feeling that I get at the conference, like, I really missed these people and they bring me so much joy. It was an opportunity to be like, “oh my gosh, I remember you from San Fran!” and DM them and catch up on social. A few of us created a Facebook chat to stay in touch after the last conference. I’m really looking forward to it this year.
But what really is the highlight of the conference for me — and I felt it just as strongly at the virtual conference as I did at the in-person — is that sense of you’re not alone with these thoughts that you’re having, and these people truly understand what you’re going through year-round. That was just so powerful for me.
What would you say to somebody who’s on the fence about attending?
Attending the conference in general is really scary — and that’s OK. It can be scary and we can go, and it might also be fun and educational. What’s so nice about the virtual opportunity is that when we talk about exposure, we start small and gradually get bigger. You’re in a safer environment with the virtual setting so this might be a first step in that exposure. We might go to the first day of the conference and keep our camera off all day. Maybe on the second day of the conference we turn our camera on for one session. It’s a nice way to gradually build that exposure, and that’s an opportunity that you don’t have at the in-person conference. It’s nice practice for Denver, and you might have some familiar faces to see when you get there.
Also, I’d say don’t be afraid to reach out to the people who are talking or to attendees who raise their hands and speak up, because those are the people who have been to many conferences and are willing to have a conversation with you.