I have been facilitating a monthly OCD support group for the past 21 years. I never would have thought I would continue to provide this service for this long. We have had to move the group to different locations. I have to interrupt family functions in order to attend the group as it is on a night that I typically don’t work. Also, I do not get reimbursed for this time. However, being a part of this group has been one of the highlights of my work and, 21 years later, I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
I never know who is going to come or how many people will be there but I am guaranteed that something special will take place. This past group was no exception. So many people attended that we were packed, like sardines, in the group conference room of my office. There were children, teens, adults, parents, and grandparents in attendance. As they began to share their stories, the room became quiet and each of us became intensely focused on the person who was speaking, some being moved to tears as the stories of living with OCD can be so painful.
Two people, who come to the group consistently, had both been struggling to face really big fears. For a woman who had a fear of all things medical, she felt incapable of ever going to a doctor and yet she knew, someday, life circumstances might require this of her. Another man, with harming obsessions and scrupulosity, had been planning to provide an OCD support in his church but after the church created several obstacles, his OCD kicked in and convinced him he really was evil and GOD did not want him to create this support for people at his church. These two people challenged each other to face their fears anyway and, last week they shared their courageous stories of having her first doctor visit and launching the first OCD support group in his church. We all cheered, knowing how far they each had come in taming their OCD monster.
At the end of the hour, I noticed that a teen girl, who was new to the group had not spoken. I asked if she had any questions. She whispered to her father that she would like to tell me privately. This is typical of OCD. It won’t let you speak these thoughts out loud and makes you feel such shame for having them in the first place. Although a bit out of the ordinary, I asked the group to carry on without me while I met with the girl in my office for a few minutes. I wanted to show her how exposure therapy worked so I met her where she was able to share her OCD fears which was alone with me in my office. Then I asked her if she could be brave and I would help her to share these thoughts with the group. She never looked back. We ended that evening, with this young girl telling all of these strangers her most vulnerable fears. The group offered her support and shared how they do their therapy. She then said, “we really should do this more than once a month!”.
Nothing is as helpful as the power of human beings coming together to share their difficult journeys with one another. I am so grateful to be a witness to this in the OCD support group.
*Information in this blog about people in the support group has been altered to protect their privacy.
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For more information on how to start an OCD support group visit: https://iocdf.org/supportgroups/how-to-start-a-support-group/