Well, we survived Dallas. More than survived, I’d have to say – we took Dallas by storm! In the aftermath, I’m taking a mental health day and using it to get caught up on the homework and the sleep that didn’t get done last week. But first, as I wait for a pizza to arrive, I wanted to check in and talk about how AMAZING our conference was.
Friday afternoon, the boyfriend and I headed up to Dallas. (Why yes, I did just say boyfriend. As we quite publicly outed ourselves as a couple this weekend, I now feel like I can share this here. But there will be more on this… it’s a topic that requires its own post.) You’ll remember me writing a post stating that I was pretty much scared to death about everything that might go wrong. Up until the last minute, I was still responding to RSVPs and e-mails, trying to get a handle on the whole “lunch” situation, and figuring out exactly how the support group section of our conference would go. I was thankful not to have to drive myself, and to have a wingman – because quite honestly, I was going a little nuts.
Did you know that it’s quite possible to obsess madly about an OCD conference?
We were up bright and early on Saturday morning. I slipped into my good suit, grabbed my camera, said a little prayer, refused to wash my hands the 27 times I wanted to wash them…and off we went. After arriving at the hospital where our conference was held, things kicked into high gear. Name tags and buttons to be laid out and pinned on, literature to spread, food to organize, sign-in sheets to manage. Craig and I were immediately sent on a mission to locate chairs in the fourth floor conference room – which would have been an easy task, if there had been a conference room on the fourth floor. (Note to self: In a hospital, there may be multiple fourth floors.)
It was slightly chaotic, with our president realizing that she was speaking and then immediately sitting on the panel of professionals – no break for preparation. And a good reminder to all of us that things don’t have to be perfect.
For those of us involved in this organization who actually have OCD, a little harder than for most. But we do survive.
Still, by the time people started arriving and checking in, everything had been managed. As I looked around, I noticed an inordinate number of handwritten name tags. Everyone who had RSVPed prior to Friday night had a pre-printed name tag, and my tally was at 104 – eight people MORE than the maximum allowed by the fire code. I panicked a little, and had to be reminded that these things always work out one way or another.
And then, the conference started.
Our theme was Treatment Options, and the morning session started with a panel of professionals discussing various types of treatment: In-home, intensive, deep-brain stimulation, out patient, treatment of children and adolescents, phone and internet treatment – Exposure and Response Prevention, of course, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It didn’t cover everything, but it was a good start to the day. Personally, I loved getting to hear about Deep Brain Stimulation – something I didn’t know much about before. We were lucky to get Seth Disner – a graduate student who’s worked extensively in DBS – to come speak to us.
Lunch – which was NOT a disaster at all – went smoothly. Craig and I stole off to the hospital cafeteria where we had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people.I believe that we’ll all keep in touch, and develop a network of support – which is ultimately the goal of the conference. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in making sure things happen for other people that I forget to make things happen for me. And it was truly a joy to be able to sit down and just be part of the fellowship for a bit, instead of feeling solely responsible for making sure that everyone else was happy.
Lisa Buchanan, author of The OCD Hope Book, led off the afternoon session. Lisa is the mother of a 15-year-old son with OCD, and her presentation was truly inspirational. In fact, she gave me some things to think about that I hadn’t considered – something I didn’t think was possible, after a lifetime of living with OCD.
And her son? Kid’s got spunk. He was absolutely impressive. I only wish that I’d had the kind of clarity about my OCD at his age.
Our afternoon panel was made up of 8 people with different kinds of OCD stories – success stories, different kinds of treatment. Lisa’s son sat on this panel, as did both Craig and I, and Judi Lynn Ott – the facilitator of Austin’s local Hoarding support group. I was terrified – of course. It’s not as if I don’t speak about OCD on a pretty regular basis, but the anticipation of doing so scared me. Still, I felt good about what I had to say once I got the microphone in my hand. I felt like I was able to talk about support groups and services for students with disabilities as valid treatment options, and I even collected a few e-mail addresses of people who were interested in getting involved in support groups.
Craig spoke to the benefits of intensive treatment. He offered up the line, “This is my life. It’s my LIFE,” when addressing the issue of how he’d managed the intensive programs. It was something people needed to hear, and they responded to it. And I was so proud. But I’m a bit biased, of course.
It was wonderful to hear from Judi Lynn, and as I’ve already said, Connor Buchanan was inspiring. Mark my words – in the next few years, he’s going to become a force to be reckoned with in OCD Advocacy. Mark Henry of the Dallas OCD Meetup group spoke, and reminded us again how important peer support is. Nora and Terry spoke to their treatment, to how medications can be effective, and to the benefits of finding a good therapist.
I was proud to be a part of such an amazing panel of people, all of whom have come through this fight with OCD – who are still going through it.
We took questions and were able to address some issues from the patient side of things – a well rounded out meeting, I think, starting with the professionals and ending with the patients. And of course, we were able to put out the news about local support, which is so important to all of us.
The meeting ended with the support group sessions, which went smoothly and served to connect people who might not otherwise be connected. I always worry that there won’t be enough time – that I won’t be a good facilitator, despite my experience. I worry that I’ll look foolish. I was lucky to have help this time. From what I’ve been told, the groups for hoarding and children went very well, and I can personally say that the adult group was wonderful. Everyone had the chance to talk, to share strategies, to remind us that we aren’t fighting alone. And we ended with a Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise that, I believe, made us all want to go home and nap while our brains were oddly quiet.
We were well attended. Official tally was 106, though I’m guessing that some people forgot to check in, and I’m estimating we hit between 110 and 120. The feedback was wonderful, and I truly feel that we were able to help direct some people to getting the help they need and the support they want. We’re already planning for the Houston meeting in June, and if our numbers keep increasing, I expect we’ll easily hit 150 people then.
As we grow, we can only do more and more good. I am honored to be the Vice President of OCD TEXAS – privileged to be a part of a group doing so much for OCD Advocacy in Texas.
I’ve received two e-mails today from people wanting to know about our local support group here in Austin.
And today? I’m exhausted.
We didn’t return home until late Sunday evening, and I find myself with a stack of work to be finished before tomorrow. It will get done. Just as soon as I eat a couple pieces of pizza.