After weeks of failed attempts and becoming increasingly frustrated with my brain’s inability to form the perfect sentences to depict such a meaningful experience, I have decided to ban myself from the backspace key and force myself to get comfortable with a new idea. The idea that maybe, no matter how skillfully I place my words together, I will never be able to accurately describe my experience at the OCD conference because maybe these words I have been searching for just do not exist. Maybe some experiences are only meant to be felt.
But, with that disclaimer, here I go.. trying my best to do this justice:
[International OCD Conference 2015 in Boston, MA]
Enter: Hannah. First time attendee.
I was immersed into a sea of compassion and understanding. The ubiquitous blue name tags were a constant reminder that I was surrounded by the bravest of the brave. I rode the waves, I listened to the stories of tragedy and hope, and I gained more knowledge on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in a few short days than I have in the past decade of experience.
I took full advantage of my surroundings – I allowed myself to be the most vulnerable I have ever been. I allowed the disease that has brought on so much self shame to streak naked through the hotel. And it was not alone in it’s nudity sprint. My vulnerability was in good company. I quickly learned that small talk does not exist when two people are willingly airing out wounds. The bonds formed fast. Within minutes of conversing with a new friend, I found myself spilling intimate details of my disorder that I have never shared with anyone. I seized the opportunity to share my scars and my successes, my victories and my losses. I could breathe. I was at sea level after spending years at the highest of altitudes.
Liberating, empowering – these are understatements at best.
Living with a disorder, especially one that has proven to be so devastating, you never really feel lucky. For the first time in my life, I feel fortunate to have OCD. I feel fortunate to have met the amazing professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping us through our struggles. Fortunate to have made an incredible best friend who lives across the border (Hi Melanie!!) and incredibly supportive peers who I will stay in touch with for life – through group texts and google hang outs, no less. Fortunate to have simply been in the presence of such bravery and fortitude.
Rewarding, fortunate, lucky. Words that I never imagined I would place beside Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but the OCD conference 2015 has changed that. The strength I received in those 4 days in Boston is enough to carry me through until Chicago 2016. And I cannot wait.
Thank you, IOCDF. I have never, ever been more assured that there is so much hope for us all.