I am writing this post from the Starbucks located in the lobby of the Boston Sheraton Hotel, having had an incredible weekend. My friend Cindy joined me in Boston, and I was sooooo blessed by her company; together, we explored Boston and Cambridge, including adventures like eating White Trash cheese dip at Bukowski Tavern, incredible treats at Georgetown Cupcake, and my first experience on the subway!
But Saturday night was certainly the highlight. First of all, the International OCD Foundation has incredible staff members, and they made this whole experience so simple for me– booking my flight and hotel, picking me up from the airport (someone was there with a “J. Sommers” sign!!), and giving me plenty of time to explore the city. Jeff Bell, spokesperson for the foundation and founder of the Adversity 2 Advocacy Alliance, was the emcee of the event, and he sat down with me on Saturday morning and asked fascinating questions about my OCD and my writing, putting me totally at ease about the on-stage interview that would come that evening.
The event began with a cocktail hour, and then the award ceremony began. Jeff Bell is an absolute all-star, and he discussed the theme of OCD awareness week, which was “Dare to believe … together we can beat OCD,” hitting hard on the DARE, the BELIEVE, and the TOGETHER. I cannot tell you how impressed I was with this man– I can’t wait to learn more about his A2A Alliance. He has also written a book, which I’d like to read and review on this site soon.
After that, I was the first to share. I read an excerpt of my novel, and people laughed in all the right places. It was an incredible audience, a vocal one, so you knew when they were totally jiving with you. Love that. Then Jeff interviewed me on the stage about my experiences. The only question he asked me that I didn’t expect was “Do you ever worry that people will think your fictional story is actually your true story?” and I said, “No, I don’t worry about that because I’m not ashamed of my OCD. Neely has a lot of the same experiences as I’ve had … except she has a much better love life,” which made the audience laugh. We also talked about cognitive-behavioral therapy and about how it is simultaneously horrible/incredible and how someone will know he/she is ready for it “when the hell you’re in becomes worse than the hell you’ll have to go through.” It’s true.
Next up was Jenn Cullen from Washington, DC, who wrote a children’s story called Ranger Ben Discovers the Mysterious Mr. OCD, this wonderful story to help children with OCD feel empowered to tackle their disorder. She wrote it for her son Ben, who was diagnosed with OCD at age 5. He is 13 now, and he joined her on the stage. Very, very cool.
Then we watched a film trailer for Englander Claire Watkinson’s in-process documentary called Living with Me and My OCD. Claire is so talented, and I am so excited to follow the progress of her documentary!
Vincent Christoffersen from New Zealand finished off the evening with his song called “Till I’m Down,” which I completely adored. Vincent is 21, looks 15, and has the maturity of a 30-year-old. He had wonderful stage presence and everyone LOVED him!
They also presented an IOCDF Hero Award to Denis Asselin of Walking with Nathaniel. Denis’s son Nathaniel suffered from intense body dysmorphic disorder, on the OCD spectrum, and took his own life in 2011. Denis made a 500-mile pilgrimage from Cheyney, PA, to Boston, MA, for BDD awareness and research. It took everything in me not to weep as he spoke.
Afterward I met him and was very impressed by his humility. I also met Michael Jenike, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (by the way, I just looked him up, and his CV is 92 pages long! Intense!), and a slew of people who thanked me for my story. It was a wonderful, well-planned event, and I enjoyed being in a group of OCs and awareness advocates, and it only made me want to do MORE. I want to just scream from the rooftops about CBT, and I want to help the general public to understand more about OCD (unfortunately, it still believes primarily that OCs are just “neat freaks”).
This whole Boston trip was an incredible adventure, and I want to thank everyone who voted for me in the creative expression contest. I loved-loved-LOVED this entire experience, and I am so grateful to you for making it possible for me.
On a sidenote, I really want to go to the IOCDF annual conference in Atlanta when it rolls around next year … anyone want to join me??? 🙂