October 9-15, 2016 is OCD Awareness Week and this time in October always holds a special meaning for me. It was during this week in 2010 that I “officially” became an advocate for OCD awareness. Prior to this time, I had connected by telephone with several friends of friends who had children suffering from OCD. Through these phone calls, I came to realize that what these parents who sought me out needed most was not my opinion on certain doctors, medications, or treatments (though all these can be helpful), but HOPE. They wanted to hear that their children would be okay. I reassured them the best way I knew how, by telling them our family’s story. Yes, our son Dan had obsessive-compulsive disorder so severe he could not even eat. Yes, at his worst he was self-injuring and was “borderline psychotic.” And yes, he has recovered. At the time of these phone calls, he had returned to college and was doing really well. I could sense the relief at the other end of the telephone as these parents took in everything I was saying.
So I knew it was helpful to share Dan’s story, and though I was always more than willing to speak to any referrals that came my way my advocacy ended there.
Until OCD Awareness Week, 2010.
I was glued to my computer, watching the live-streamed video of “An Evening of Stories,” which included courageous first-person and family member accounts of what it is like to live with OCD. Simultaneously, there were chat rooms open where people could converse with one another. I had never participated in anything like this before but decided to jump right in. At one point during the chat, I connected with a distraught young woman who had been seeing a therapist for quite some time, but her OCD was getting worse, not better.
“Is the ERP Therapy too difficult for you to do?” I typed.
“ERP Therapy?” she responded. “What’s that?”
This was my light-bulb moment, and in that minute an advocate for OCD awareness was born. Even though our family had fought our way through a disorienting maze of treatments and programs desperately trying to find the right help for Dan, I always assumed we’d had a string of bad luck. I never realized so many others who had OCD were not receiving the proper treatment. I had no choice. I needed to spread the word that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable, and exposure and response (ERP) prevention therapy is the front line treatment recommended by the American Psychological Association.
Six years and one book later, I am still working as hard as I can to spread the word about OCD and its proper treatment. I am beyond thankful that my son continues to thrive. Today he is a college graduate working in his chosen field and living with his girlfriend.
Anyone whose life has been touched by OCD knows it can be a devastating disorder. But it is also treatable. If you have OCD and have not pursued proper treatment, please don’t wait any longer. With treatment, you can live the life you choose for yourself, not the life OCD chooses for you.