It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the IOCDF Hero Award!

As we’re winding down after another excellent OCD Awareness Week, it’s great to look back on the various events and activities that took place. What stuck out the most during #OCDweek was the willingness of people in the OCD community to lend a hand and support, whether you did something as simple as sharing information with someone, or offered encouragement, advice, or personal expertise.

Helping others and recognizing those who go above and beyond in their efforts does not need to be limited to an OCD Awareness Week, however. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those with OCD and related disorders. The IOCDF’s Hero Award is an accolade designed to recognize those people who do just that.

Chris Trondsen and Kevin Putman, the recipients of the 2015 IOCDF Hero Award, which was presented at the Annual OCD Conference in Boston over the summer, are perfect examples of how diverse award winners’ experiences can be. What truly matters in the end and what unites them is the impact they leave on those around them. The two individuals who nominated Chris and Kevin share what inspired their nominations.

Amanda Rosenberg, the individual who nominated Chris Trondsen, writes:

A true hero is someone to admire and trust; someone who inspires you because of their brave, selfless, caring and encouraging character. Without hesitation, I wanted to nominate Chris Trondsen. Chris saved my life, and for that I will be entirely grateful to him for the rest of my life. Because of Chris’s involvement in the IOCDF and sharing his story by presenting at the IOCDF Conference, I found help…It is a true fact that I have never seen someone put others first, and give beyond measures the way Trondsen has and still continues to do. His drive to help others who suffer from the same horrors he did is impossible to match.

Says Saharah Shrout, the individual who nominated Kevin Putman:

Kevin Putman is an OCD warrior! He has created a network of support in his community through his local IOCDF affiliate, through his nonprofit Run OCD and his fundraising events, such as Ping Pong for OCD. Kevin also has a leadership role in the North Michigan Support group and provides inspiration to sufferers, loved ones and treatment providers alike through his personal journey…Kevin works tirelessly to spread the word about OCD to reduce the stigma, raise awareness and build hope.

Now it’s your turn! Let us know who in the OCD and related disorders community has inspired you in his or her efforts to serve as an advocate for OCD and related disorders and help raise awareness, whether it’s through a one-time event or gesture or through a series of activities. The winner will be recognized at the 23rd Annual OCD Conference in Chicago next summer.

You can learn more about the award and submit a nomination here. We’re excited to hear about and recognize the heroic efforts taking place where you are!

Video: View the Powerful Keynote Address by Clint & Joanie Malarchuk

We were honored to have Clint Malarchuk and his wife, Joanie Malarchuk, as keynote speakers at the 2015 Annual OCD Conference in Boston last month. Their talk was a powerful testament to the importance of family and a strong support network. But also a powerful reminder about how many obstacles people often have to go through to get the right kind of help. Even if you’re a famous athlete.

Their talk delves into Clint’s struggles with PTSD, severe OCD, and substance abuse — as well as Joanie’s challenge to help Clint find effective help. And try to maintain a strong marriage throughout all of it.

As Clint explains at one point in the address:

The problem with mental illness or OCD — or any of these issues, I think — and addiction, is that it works. For me, alcohol worked — for a while. Not very long, but there was that little reprieve of anxiety decreasing or obsessions subsiding a little bit. And now you’re chasing it. Because your anxiety would come back so you’re chasing it. What was three beers that might’ve worked was then six and then nine and then twelve…pretty soon it’s an all-day thing and now you develop a dependency. So I’ve basically got two different illnesses now, you know, alcoholism and my mental illness. It was spiraling fast. I was getting very, very desperate.

Clint, now retired from the NHL, is also the author of A Matter of Inches: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond, and works as a certified equine dentist and chiropractor. Joanie is a professional skating coach. Together, they have been outspoken and effective mental health advocates.

Watch their full keynote address from the 22nd Annual OCD Conference on YouTube now.

And then join the online Q&A during OCD Awareness Week where Clint and Joanie will be answering your questions live as part of our #OCDchat series. Click here to learn more.

“Living With OCD” Podcast — The Perfect Cap to #OCDcon Weekend

This year’s 22nd Annual OCD Conference was special in many ways, from record-breaking attendance numbers to the excitement of getting to host this year’s Conference in the IOCDF’s hometown of Boston. Also unique to this year’s event was the introduction of the first-ever post-Conference event, a live taping of the Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (LWOCD) podcast onsite at the Conference.

In the episode taped on the Sunday of the Conference, podcast hosts Julie and Andy Burnfield talk about the background of the show, how it came to be and discuss Julie’s OCD. They also interview Dr. Shana Doronn, a therapist and OCD expert who attended the Conference, and the IOCDF’s Dr. Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the Foundation and a practicing clinical psychologist. Members of the audience were also given the opportunity to reflect on the Conference experience and ask questions at the end of the taping. This was such a special episode for LWOCD hosts Julie and Andy and Drs. Doronn and Szymanski.

The LWOCD episode from the Conference can be downloaded at the following links:

OCD Conference: Going Home

It’s the last day of the Conference: Prepare to be sad when you leave, and maybe sadder when you get home. I said to someone yesterday, “Can’t we just live here?”

“Boston?” she asked. “Or the hotel?”

“The hotel,” I said, “but what I mean is, ‘Can’t we just live with people with OCD and not have to go back to the real world?'”

The answer is no, of course (but let me know if you have any large plots of land we can build an OCD commune on). We live in a world with people who don’t always understand OCD, and after several days of being surrounded by others with OCD as well as caring family members and therapists, it will be a bit of an adjustment to go home.

First of all, take some time to decompress. Relax and reflect on the memorable experiences. Then follow these tips to make the wonderful feelings of community last longer:

  • Keep in touch with the new friends and connections you’ve made here. Did you get an email address or a phone number? Use it! Find friends on Facebook or Twitter, and follow people’s blogs or websites. If you met people from your town or city, make plans to meet for coffee or dinner.
  • If you learned a lot, share it with others. You don’t have to hold a mini conference to do it; just tell a parent or friend about some of the most interesting tidbits. If you’re up to it, you can write a blog post or do a podcast. Spread the word! You’ll feel great talking about it and educating others. It’s the best way to help reduce stigma, and if you have OCD and don’t feel comfortable talking about it, doing so will be therapeutic.
  • Get involved in OCD events. Maybe your area has a local affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. Volunteer with them, or attend meetings. Look for support groups in your area. Start planning an OCD Awareness Week event in October.
  • Look ahead to next year! Consider going to the Chicago Conference, and think about how you might be involved. Maybe you’ll be an attendee again, or maybe you’ll hold a presentation or volunteer for the organization.

It was great meeting you all! I know I didn’t meet every single person because that would be impossible with more than 1,700 attendees — we broke records, folks. Take care. See you next year in Chicago?

OCD Conference: Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!

Wow! What a packed day! I don’t know about you, but my schedule was packed back to back — the only moments of downtime I had were before my presentation with Lee Baer when I went to my hotel room to quietly freak out a little bit and plan what I was going to say. [Editor’s note: Alison’s talk went amazingly well! It was very well attended, and she received many compliments afterwards from attendees. Thank you to Alison and Lee Baer for their presentation!] This morning I attended the keynote address delivered by legendary NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk and his wife, Joanie. It was an emotional experience for everyone there — Joanie cried as she shared the intimate details of Clint’s struggle with OCD and addiction, and as she described her unwavering love for a man who wasn’t always easy to live with. Clint got choked up at the end when he thanked his fellow OCD sufferers, and we all cried at different points throughout the presentation. Clint’s lucky to be alive for a couple reasons, and he’s now dedicated to living a life of service to others. He’s a truly incredible man, as sweet as can be. Continue reading

OCD Conference: Boston edition

How is day one winding down already? I’ve been looking forward to this since last year’s Conference, and we’re cruising through this year’s already. As with last year, I’m wearing many hats: an affiliate representative (OCD Twin Cities president), a speaker (check out my session with Lee Baer tomorrow afternoon, from 4 to 5:30!), and an IOCDF volunteer (writing these blog posts). It makes for a fun varied experience.

Last night after my plane landed—which included some scary turbulence, exactly what a person with an anxiety disorder wants—I quickly prepared to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. The entire evening was like a summer camp reunion, running into people I’d met last year, with a little bit of squealing and a lot of hugging involved. That’s one of the best parts about attending this Conference. Another is meeting new people and connecting almost immediately. Wherever you turn, there is someone who understands OCD and is willing to chat. It feels like home—in a really nice hotel.

This morning I attended a panel session about how to deal with the stigma of having a mental illness, led by Chrissie Hodges, Ro Vitale, and Carol Thomas, a teenager with OCD who’s beginning to share her journey with others who need help. Audience members shared advice on how to push past stigma and pat themselves on the back for the progress they’ve made toward recovery, even if others aren’t as supportive as they’d like. I love how interactive the sessions can become. You may initially attend a talk for the speakers, but you end up learning from audience members as well. We’re a true community, always willing to offer advice to others and to learn from each other.

I won’t bore you with the details of my brainstorm with my co-presenter or the affiliate meeting I attended, but you should definitely look into affiliates in your area and see how you can get involved. Tonight I’m meeting up with a Facebook support group for dinner, and I’m excited to meet these wonderful people in person. We’ve lifted each other up and gone to each other for advice and now we get to chat in real life, another reason I wholeheartedly recommend the Conference: You will make and solidify relationships you’ll cherish for a lifetime. OCD is a beast, but with support and understanding we can tame it. Think your obsession is the weirdest? Just tell someone here about it, and you’ll feel “normal” and be accepted with open arms. Really, just try it.

Looking forward to tomorrow! How about you?


The 2015 Annual OCD Conference is here!

Welcome to Boston! We’re so glad a record-breaking number of attendees were able to join us for the 22nd Annual OCD Conference. This year is particularly special, as we’re able to host so many of you in our hometown of Boston. We’re sure you have questions as you start to get settled and begin planning your weekend, so we’re here to help! Read on for some important information you’ll need to know to make the most of the weekend.  Continue reading