Happy 30th Birthday, Nathaniel! Happy 30th Anniversary, IOCDF!
1986 was a banner year, the year both our son, Nathaniel, and the International OCD Foundation came into existence. Unfortunately, Nathaniel died of one of the OCD-related disorders this organization fights so hard to overcome. And I’m also now on the Foundation’s Board of Directors supporting its mission “to help those afflicted with OCD and related disorders live full and productive lives.” Sadly, I was not able to attain that goal for my own son.
At 30, Nathaniel would have been a grown man living a rich and full life, but he fell short of that milestone by six years. On the other hand, IOCDF has
moved from its birth, childhood, and young adolescence, to a robust adulthood of 30 quite successfully. The OCD Community has grown significantly both nationally and internationally over the years — good reason to celebrate.
What would Nathaniel want you to know about his OCD-related brain disorder, BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)? He would tell you that BDD sufferers are not making their illness up. However, it took us a long while to diagnose properly the symptoms that surfaced at age 11—repetitive negative thoughts and severe preoccupations with perceived facial flaws he saw in the mirror. Unfortunately, these irregularities were all imagined. Any mirror into which Nathaniel gazed was literarily broken! What made it even more painful was that Nathaniel was an intelligent, creative, likable, funny, good-looking young man, the guy everyone wanted to be like! In our many conversations with others BDD sufferers since Nathaniel, the stories are similar. With 2% of the population affected by this disease, outreach and support for sufferers and their families become critical. For my family and me, that’s why OCD Awareness Week matters.
On October 14 in Boston, there will be a 30th Anniversary Party at the Benjamin Franklin Center, South End–an event not to be missed. As for our son, my family and I celebrated his 30th birthday quietly at home this past August.
IOCDF’s growth over 30 years is reflected in its outstanding programs— Annual OCD Conference, Behavioral Therapy Treatment Institute for professionals, annual 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk in June, regularly published newsletter, Pediatric Outreach Program, information-rich website, IOCD Affiliates nationally, global partners around the world, Research Grant Program, Resource Directory to find help, OCD Awareness Week, and more.
I wish Nathaniel were still alive to appreciate all this, and even perhaps to enjoy and participate in some of these offerings. Were he here, he would encourage us to keep raising awareness about brain disorders and to eradicate the stigma associated with them. When sufferers and their families benefit, then the Foundation’s mission is achieved over and over again. As we wish the Foundation Happy Birthday on the 14th, we can also imagine where the next 30 years will take us.