Recently, I spent a few days back at what I think of as my alma mater, the OCD Institute in Belmont (Boston), Massachusetts. Arriving there was almost a surreal experience. I had the images of my first visit, in the winter of 2013, playing in my head as the present scene unfolded. The two occasions could not have been more different.
In 2013, I arrived with little hope for my future, teeth-grittedly determined to live my life consistently with what OCD told me about myself (that I was a monster), regardless of what any well-intentioned therapists, doctors, and other fools might try to tell me.
Last week, I launched myself up the front steps of the program’s home at McLean Hospital, breathless in anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see those well-intentioned "fools" again.
I’d made the trip from Toronto to talk to current residents about my story; my particular challenges, how I’d struggled through treatment, and how I’ve been slowly rebuilding my life since my discharge. It wasn’t a one-way conversation. I learned something of their lives, too. Some, newly-arrived, had that deer-in-the-headlights appearance I recognized only too well. Others had the tang of confidence that comes after twelve weeks of staring down one’s worst nightmares in treatment. Perhaps most of all, I gained a deeper appreciation for the commitment OCD survivors must have for themselves, not just to make gains in the program, but to maintain them afterward. I hope that in turn, I provided a bit of evidence that there is life – joy, dreams, love, and success – after OCD. I really hope, too, that something I said will make it more likely that they, in turn, will return to the OCD Institute to talk about their own successes.
In some ways, I don’t think I could have chosen a better vehicle than Dinosaur to use as my training wheels while I learn how to drive my life again. It gives me the pleasure of learning new skills, crafting a story, giving myself my own goals and a feeling of purpose. It also gives me a chance to appreciate that, all those times in treatment when I was frantically squirming, I was undergoing more of a transformation than I ever could have guessed.
While I was at the OCD Institute, I was able to make a few sketches of the place, for future reference. Here's an example. This is a window-seat at the end of hall of patient rooms, looking out onto a lawn and a large pine tree. It's nice to chill here during a break in an otherwise busy day.