Saturday, June 24, 2017

Guess Who's Back

Hey guys,

I'm back! It's been almost three months since I last wrote, and a lot has happened. I had a really bumpy end to the school year, switched therapists, had some health problems, finals happened, and my OCD flared up again. There were also a lot of positive things, though. School let out, I did a week in IOP (intensive outpatient therapy, where I worked for four hours a day on targeted OCD exposure therapy,) I started summer school, watched the new season of Orange is the New Black, and Melodrama came out. Ya'll. Melodrama came out. MELO-FUCKING-DRAMA. Words cannot express how much this album means to me and how beautiful it is, but I'll save that for my next post.
And another positive thing is going to be happening quite soon! You guessed it! The highlight of every hip millennial's summer: The IOCDF Conference.

IOCDF stands International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation, and every year they host a conference called "OCD Con." Last year was my first year, and it was definitely the highlight of my summer. That being said, I had a pretty shitty summer. But still. It was in Chicago last year, and quite a last minute decision on my family's part. We booked tickets less than a week in advance, and it was right after I had finished my second round of a more generalized (aka not OCD-centric) outpatient program. Without getting into details, I have horrible separation anxiety, which is triggered by being away from home. I HATE traveling. Let me clarify: My OCD hates traveling. So it was a big step. But the anxiety seemed almost minute in comparison to the brilliant time I had.

Ok, I know what you're thinking. Oh my God, a mental health conference? How extra-emo-self-involved-loser can you get? I get it. I do. But it's literally the least lame thing I've done. I'll lie out the structure in the least non-sensical way possible: The conference itself isn't specifically targeted towards one group of people. Instead, each day, there are countless sessions in different time slots which are targeted towards different age groups and types of people, eg. kids, teens, young adults, individuals wth OCD, therapists, family members, OCD and hoarding. For example, being a teenager with OCD, I went to mostly teen, kid, individuals with OCD, and a couple young adult sessions. One of the things I love about the whole thing is the fact that it's super informational and accommodating. You don't have to fit any specific label to get something out of it. In fact, it's INCREDIBLY beneficial to parents and family members, as there are sessions specifically targeted towards helping family members better understand the experiences of their loved ones with OCD.

One of the many things that astounded me about the conference was the number of people attending. This was not a small little get-together in a meeting room at a restaurant. No, this was a HUGE ASS PLACE. The conference took place in a 48 story (I believe) hotel, and I'd estimate that more than 1/2 of the people in that hotel were conference attendees. There were literally thousands of other people. And here's the kicker: They didn't all look the same.

This wasn't a hotel full of white, scrawny looking pubescent kids with glasses. There were people as young as three years old and professionals I could only assume to be well into their seventies. There were all genders, all skin tones, all body types, all TYPES OF PEOPLE. Which just goes to show you: stereotypes are, generally, bullshit. The thing that struck me was that, aside from the lanyard labeling one as an attendee and giving their name and hometown, I couldn't tell the difference between OCD Con folks and random business people staying overnight in downtown Chicago. And so goes the "don't judge a book by it's cover" moral. You get the idea.

I could go on to recount every detail of the conference in excruciating detail, but I'll give you a few details in the hopes of helping you to keep your sanity. Here is a list of highlights:
1) The cab ride into the city, blasting Regina Spektor's newly released "Bleeding Heart" through my head phones, adrenaline pumping through my veins
2) The arts and crafts room, which was open all day, where kids could just chill when their wasn't a session that appealed to them, or their parents needed a break. On the last day, there was a session entitled, "draw your monster," where an artist gave us note cards and inspired us to draw our OCD monsters in order to personify them and distinguish ourselves from "our monsters." It was beautiful to watch kids do.
3) A teen panel, in which kids no more than a few years older than myself discussed the challenges of living with severe OCD and shared their experiences, giving feedback and answering pressing questions from young audience members such as myself.
4) MEETING PEOPLE. That was perhaps the most amazing thing I got out of the conference. I am bad at making friends. I did not think, when people told me that I was going to make friends, that I was actually going to make friends. I did. In fact, we exchanged phone numbers and Instagram handles and we talk EVERY DAY. Like, wow.
5) The last night. My parents an I go to a special preview viewing of a work-in-progress documentary about families with kids suffering from OCD. It makes me cry. I am overwhelmed and overjoyed by the exponentially growing awareness, that the utter care people put into helping me and people like me overcome this stuff. This year, that movie is gonna be the keystone event! How rad!
6) After watching the documentary and sobbing my eyes out, getting texts from a girl I had just met that she and her sister were bored at the dance that was going on upstairs (YES, THERE WAS A DANCE! Who's lame now,) and going up to find them, reluctantly making my way onto the dance floor. The girl eagerly egging me on to try these gross-but-delicious fried mac and cheese balls, and introducing me to a group of friends they had also made that weekend. The feeling of being totally and utterly accepted in all of my quirkiness and imperfection. The girl's sister luring me onto the dance floor as I reluctantly stumbled along to the cupid shuffle.
7) Wandering around the surrounding blocks of the hotel with my parents after we had been sitting in sessions all day, and purposefully finding the Trump Hotel, for a photo op of me flipping him off. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.

That was far from as brief as I intended. My apologies. I have written this blogpost in less than half an hour. I'm terrified to go back. I am petrified. My separation anxiety has spiked since last year, and going out of Texas is a terrifying thought. But that's not the point of my writing this. I haven't come this far to tell you it meant nothing. On the contrary, if there's one thing I would like any given individual to take away from this, it would be to stay connected to your values, even if the uncertainty might scare you. I will go back, because I want to see my friends and reconnect with people who understand me. So I will plough forward. I hope you, too, friend, will continue to plough for it, and remember the metaphorical fried mac and cheese balls in your life.

Until next time,



Hi guys! Thank you so much for all of the positive feedback I got from my last post! It honestly meant the world to me that so many of you...