Corey Hirsch: ‘OCD Gamechangers’ Speaker Highlight

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2018 by chrissiehodges

Former NHL Goalie, Silver Medalist, and newly deemed Mental health advocate superstar Corey Hirsch busted onto the scene of advocacy about a year ago, which was the same time he busted into my life!

I received a facebook message right after publishing my memoir “Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” from this guy named Corey Hirsch asking me if we could talk because HE has pure OCD as well! I thought, who in the world is this guy? But, he was insistent that we chat on the phone. And that was when an incredible friendship was born!

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I was drawn to Corey’s strong desire to reach people worldwide who may be suffering from OCD and his serious commitment of no one stopping him from delivering his message. HE is my kind of people! Shortly after we met and became bestie’s, he published his article called ‘Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark’ on ‘The Player’s Tribune’ about living with Pure OCD/Intrusive Thoughts, the struggle he endured, and how he learned to live in recovery.

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Corey is so much like me, which is why I think we are soul-friends, in that we both want to change the world NOW but then we don’t really think about how to make that happen after making a splash! As soon as his article came out, hundreds–-and I mean HUNDREDS of people started reaching out to him in gratitude, thanks, and for help. We talked daily on what to do, how to respond, and where to get these individuals/families to help. He handled it with humbleness, compassion, and true grace.

I truly believe Corey had no idea what an absolute amazing impact his story would have worldwide. And thanks to his courage and bravery in putting it out there, thousands of people now know they are NOT alone and help is available.

Since his splash of a debut onto the mental health advocacy scene, Corey has continued his mission of reaching individuals worldwide. He is partnering as an ambassador for the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health in Canada (CAMH), received the Illuminati Award for advocacy from the International OCD Foundation, and has published a second article on ‘The Player’s Tribune’ titled ‘You are not alone’.

 

I am not only excited to have Corey take the stage at the ‘OCD Gamechangers’ Event, but I am excited to see how much more he and I will do together to reach people at the far corners of the earth to let them know they are NOT alone with Pure OCD and recovery is possible!

For more information on the ‘OCD Gamechangers’ Event in Denver, CO and to buy tickets, please visit www.chrissiehodges.com/ocd-gamechangers.

OCD Gamechangers

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‘OCD Gamechangers’ Speaker Highlight: Margaret Sisson of ‘Riley’s Wish’

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2018 by chrissiehodges

Margaret Sisson; My fellow advocate, friend, colleague, and family.  There isn’t enough blog space to talk about the amount of love and respect I have for Margaret as a person and advocate.

So, I’ll start with my fateful meeting with her son Riley at the IOCDF Atlanta conference many years ago. It was my first conference, I barely knew anyone in the OCD community, and I was nervous! In my first breakout session the presenters asked for volunteers, so of course I raised my hand. I was picked along with this big, burly guy who I instantly felt connected to named Riley. We were supposed to do this serious demonstration on how difficult it is to do tasks with intrusive thoughts constantly spinning in your head. I was supposed to do the task, Riley was supposed mimic intrusive thoughts. When we started, Riley’s intrusive thought dialogue was the funniest thing I had ever heard. I couldn’t keep a straight face, I couldn’t focus, and we both laughed through the whole exercise. I think the presenters hated us!

I instantly adored him. We became friends immediately and then I met Margaret later at an event as we recalled the failed presentation and laughed hysterically. I knew then they would become my family.

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The following years, I watched as Riley fought to wrestle the demons of OCD and substance use disorder (SUDS), but in the midst of that suffering he rose as an integral voice in bringing awareness to OCD and SUDS. His resounding message made a huge impact. His presence as a human and advocate was larger than life. I willingly followed him around the conferences with adoration just to hear him talk and laugh. He could make an entire room laugh just by a facial expression. His humor and personality were magnetic.

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Our lives were devastated when he lost his battle with OCD and SUDS in 2014. It was a terrible loss to the OCD community, his friends, and especially his family. We still feel the impact of his absence to this day.

Margaret, who was always his biggest support and cheerleader, didn’t miss a beat in keeping his legacy of advocacy and memory alive. She created the Riley’s Wish Foundation. Riley’s Wish serves to educate, create awareness, and help provide resources to those living and suffering with dual diagnosis of OCD and SUDS. The foundation stays true to the mission Riley embarked upon in his advocacy of helping those struggling to know they are not alone, and reducing the shame and stigma of OCD and SUDS.

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Riley’s bravery in sharing his deepest struggles as well as the devastation of his passing created a reality of the NEED for more individuals to speak up and out about the reality of SUDS and OCD. His mission will live on through Margaret, his sister Sarah Sisson, myself, and countless others who still hold his spirit and mission close to our hearts.

At the 2013 IOCDF conference in Los Angeles, I leaned over the balcony with tears streaming down my face as Margaret, accepting the Hero of the Year Award in Advocacy, pointed to Riley standing in the middle of the dance-floor and let the hundreds of us watching know that ‘Riley is her true hero’.

To this day, he continues to be a hero to so many of us, and his voice will continue to be heard through all of ours.

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For more information on the March 3rd event in Denver, CO ‘OCD Gamechangers’ and to purchase tickets, please visit my website at http://www.chrissiehodges.com/ocd-gamechangers

OCD Gamechangers

 

‘OCD Gamechangers’ Speaker Highlight: Sean Shinnock

Posted in Uncategorized on February 13, 2018 by chrissiehodges

‘OCD Gamechangers’ Spotlight #4: Sean Shinnock

Sean Shinnock is the epitome of an up-and-coming OCD advocate. In 2016, Sean made a HUGE impact when he was part of a project at the Logan International Airport displaying stories of individuals living with mental illness to eliminate stigma. And I literally mean huge as the displays were eight feet tall!!

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But that is not all Sean brings to the advocacy world. Sean is working on the project ‘Draw Your Monster’ which is part of his greater movement called the ‘Monster Initiative’. During the International OCD Foundation Annual Conference a few years ago, Sean hosted an event so individuals could join him in ‘drawing their monster’. That phrase, action, or creativity is up to the person’s discretion! When OCD first showed up in my mind as an eight year old, I absolutely had a picture in my head of what the monster looked like haunting and torturing me, but never any inclination to draw and see it face to face. Sean’s idea helps bring alive imagery that if kept in the mind can be a manifestation of larger than life fear. When you put it on paper, it may not seem as scary as it feels in the mind. It is a brilliant way to face the terrifying things lurking in the corners of our mind creatively and effectively. By acknowledging the monster and facing it, it just may help take the power away.

Since then, he is working on a project where he can help ‘Draw Your Monster’ to individuals worldwide suffering with OCD. While his project is still in the early stages of development, it really is something I believe he will have no problem getting momentum and support with. Artistry helps SO much in the expression of the scary things we live with that cannot be put into words at times. I believe Sean has really nailed the idea of pulling the fear out of what so many of us call OCD, ‘the monster in our heads’.

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On a side note, Sean probably doesn’t know this, but I secretly call him the supermodel of the OCD advocacy world. Haha! I first met Sean when we were speaking on a panel on ‘taboo thoughts’ at the IOCDF conference a few years ago. When I met him face to face—well my face to his chest—I thought, ‘good lord, is this guy here to present or walk the catwalk?’ He is strikingly tall and has a presence about him that makes you do a double take. But, the most wonderful thing about Sean is his genuine call to help others in feeling less alone with OCD. Like so many, Sean spent way too many years agonizing in tormenting symptoms of OCD. His journey has been a long and winding road to recovery and I am very eager to hear more on his story and inspiration for ‘Draw Your Monster’ at the ‘OCD Gamechangers’ event.

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For more information on the Denver, March 3rd event ‘OCD Gamechangers’ and to buy tickets, go to http://www.chrissiehodges.com/ocd-gamechangers

OCD Gamechangers

‘OCD Gamechangers’ Speaker Highlight: Aaron Harvey

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2018 by chrissiehodges

‘OCD Gamechangers’ Spotlight #3: Aaron Harvey

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Aaron Harvey splashed on the scene several years ago with his hugely impacting and informative website www.intrusivethoughts.org. When I first found out about his website I thought, how do I not know this guy?…and WHY do I not know this guy? Our stories of OCD seemed so incredibly parallel from upbringing, to silence, to shame, and to learning what and how we needed to know to be in recovery. I thought it was so bizarre to know nothing about someone but to feel like you know everything about them. I was very much intrigued.

I felt the same way about Aaron that I did Stuart Ralph of ‘The OCD Stories’. When I saw his website, I was mesmerized, excited, and thankful that it was there to help the thousands of people that were going to need it. I started to write him several times, but ended up just deleting the emails because I was too scared to write him. I swear, it’s no wonder I have any friends at this point! Haha!

What I do know is Aaron’s bravery in opening up a website to the world completely focusing on intrusive thoughts in regards to OCD is one of the most incredible things I have seen in regards to Pure OCD/intrusive thoughts. This is seriously a one stop, normalizing website of hope for those of us that suffer and have suffered for years with sexual, violent, health, relationship, blasphemous, and every other intrusive thought under the sun. The sheer volume of expertise on his website is more than one can hope for in the midst of their suffering.

I think what I admire the most about Aaron is his determination in the decision of wanting to give back. A life with the shame, guilt, and embarrassment of living with sexual/violent/blasphemous intrusive thoughts isn’t the same as creating a website about gardening or food or any ordinary hobby. This is facing incredible fears by putting very sensitive topics in plain view and risking the consequences. He looked at his life of suffering with intrusive thoughts and decided that he didn’t want others to go through what he did. And with that, he put his entire story on display. It is the epitome of selflessness. It is admirable, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that his website has saved thousands of lives. He is a hero in his own right.

I have never met Aaron in person and I invited him to this event with fingers crossed that he’d say yes. And he did! It is one of the many things I look forward to on the weekend of the event is to get to meet him and learn more about who he is and listen first-hand to his story. He will be one story neither you nor I will want to miss!

Aaron Harvey is one of the people who remind me that I am NOT alone. The OCD world and community is a better place because of him!

http://www.intrusivethoughts.org:

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You can hear more about Aaron’s journey to advocacy  at the ‘OCD Gamechangers’ Event in Denver, Colorado on March 3rd at the Historic Grant Avenue Theater. Event doors open at 5pm and presentation is 6:30-9:30pm. $35

Please go to http://www.chrissiehodges.com/ocd-gamechangers to find out more and to link to buy tickets!

OCD Gamechangers

 

‘OCD Gamechangers’ Highlight: Alison Dotson!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2018 by chrissiehodges

Speaker Highlight #2: Alison Dotson: Author, OCD Advocate

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I met Alison Dotson for the first time through a podcast I had several years ago, ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’. When we did the podcast, I really couldn’t believe how similar our stories were and our thought processes around Pure O/sexual intrusive thoughts. We were like OCD sisters!

From there, we were always able to connect at the IOCDF conferences and online with advocacy for OCD.  Through the years, we have developed an incredible friendship and support for each other in times of symptoms as well as through our growing advocacy.

I think one of my most memorable moments with Alison (although she may not agree!) was at the Chicago IOCDF Conference. Alison was the recipient of the 2016 IOCDF Hero Award. As I made my way to a table during the ceremonies before the awards were presented, I sat down behind Alison’s table, although I couldn’t see Alison. There were several people hovering over her, handing her tissues and glasses of water. I jumped to my feet and ran to her, essentially shooing everyone else off.
I said to her as I looked at her tear-streamed face, ‘Alison, you deserve this award, now you need to pull yourself together right this minute and get up there and accept it and stop your crying. NOW!’ I’m usually a really empathetic person, so I’m not sure where this came from, but I really felt like she just needed someone to give her that boost of ‘get up there and strut yo stuff, girl!’

Unfortunately, the next year I received the 2017 Hero award and cried like a damn baby before, during and after. I actually apologized to Alison at the microphone for being so harsh on her the year before! Ha Ha!

I’ve admired Alison’s advocacy for many years. She is probably the most well-known for her book ‘Being Me with OCD’ where she tackles the topic of living with sexual intrusive thoughts of a taboo nature. She is also a well-known blogger on the topic of OCD. I believe Alison is such a ground-breaker with her bravery of coming out with her book on a topic that hadn’t garnered much attention from a lived experience perspective. She really paved the way for so many of us who now feel the relief in knowing we aren’t alone in sharing our stories of Pure O/Sexual & Violent Intrusive thoughts.

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I had the pleasure of visiting and speaking to the Twin Cities IOCDF Affiliate that she is President of this past October. I not only love spending time with Alison as a friend, as she is such a genuine person and hilarious to boot, but it was great to see that her passion in advocacy has been effective in creating a safe space for sufferers in Minneapolis to come together.

On a side note, I had no idea how beautiful Minneapolis, MN is during the fall! There are SO many lakes in that state!

‘OCD Gamechangers’ will definitely benefit from having someone as knowledgeable and witty as Alison is on the topic of Pure O/Intrusive thoughts on our stage!

‘OCD Gamechangers’: March 3rd, Denver, CO at the Historic Grant Avenue Theater. 6:30-9:30pm

Tickets are $35 and we will be streaming the event several days after for the price of a ticket! Stay tuned for more details.

For more info and to buy tickets, go to http://www.chrissiehodges.com/ocd-gamechangers

OCD Gamechangers

Who Are These ‘OCD Gamechangers’ You Speak of?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2018 by chrissiehodges

Okay, I’m just going to admit it. I’m a dreamer. I have big goals, big dreams, and I put a lot of things together in my head and say to myself, ‘I think I can make this happen!’ before I even THINK about the obstacles! That is how I ended up as an advocate, peer support, author, and entrepreneur. I love having an idea and instead of following in someone else’s path, I thrive from just piecing it together out of the clear blue sky. I think I get that instinct from my battle with OCD. When you’ve been at rock bottom, staring death in the face—there isn’t much else that looks too scary in life.

So, when I had this idea on the way home from San Francisco after the IOCDF Conference, I believed if I just planned on it happening, it would!

The inspiration came from pulling my luggage behind me 8 blocks to the BART station in San Francisco, hiding my eyes with big sunglasses as tears streamed down my face. I had been there for 5 days, but it felt like the entire conference went by in the blink of an eye. I didn’t want to go home and leave my friends and the inspiring advocates I only get to see all together once a year at the conference. So selfishly I thought, what if I plan an event and have everyone come to me in Denver? And the idea was born.

My problem is I can dream things up and visualize the end result, but it is the little details of planning in between that I stumble over. The event is less than a month away and it wasn’t long ago that one of my friends said, “Um Chrissie….you have to actually create a platform so people can BUY TICKETS!?”My response was, “I do?????” Luckily I have several passionate, organized and motivated friends in Denver that are helping me!

When I got home from San Francisco, my first instinct was to create a line-up of advocates. I was certain none of them would say yes. To my absolute surprise, every single person I asked enthusiastically agreed! ‘Uh Oh’, I thought ‘Now I really HAVE to do it!’ Luckily, all the big decisions fell into place. Because it all clicked so easily, I knew this was going to be something special.

The reason I asked the eight advocates specifically was because I feel there is a need for a bigger platform for rising advocates doing incredible things to spread awareness for OCD. It’s not easy to take the plunge and launch an advocacy project. Vulnerability and emotional risk of putting it all out there can be terrifying and anxiety provoking. And once it is out there, there really isn’t a great deal of support and acknowledgment other than the community you create. While it is very satisfying to know advocacy projects are reaching people, it can feel very lonely out there in the wide open space without a network of support and appreciation.

I also asked the advocates who are presenting because the theme of their OCD experience is largely around Pure O which is the community name for OCD with intrusive thoughts accompanied by mental rituals. Pure O doesn’t get as much mainstream recognition that the behaviors are actually OCD and prevalent for individuals worldwide. Many people believe it to be rare, and that simply isn’t true. I wanted this manifestation of OCD to be center stage (no pun intended!). With the advocates presenting, there will be a huge emphasis placed on Pure O/Intrusive thoughts. I’m excited about spreading the awareness and hope about this common manifestation of OCD.

I’ve watched the presenting advocates the last few years feeling parallel on their advocacy path, yet feeling distant from them and not knowing how to get us all in one place. Some I am good friends with, and others I have just missed the opportunity to get to know them for reasons ranging from distance to just not having the opportunity of meeting in person. Needless to say, the projects/platforms created by each and every one of these advocates deserves recognition, support, and a stage to be able to connect others to their great work.

Advocacy for OCD is greatly needed, and I assure you there is a very large stage. I’m hoping the event will inspire other budding advocates to find the motivation, courage, and inspiration to launch their own projects. I will gladly do my part to help YOU on the stage of advocacy if that is your mission so together we can reach the far corners of the earth with the same message: You are NOT Alone. Recovery IS Possible from OCD!

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Margaret Sisson, founder of ‘Riley’s Wish’

Stephen Smith, founder of ‘nOCD’

Sean Shinnock, founder of ‘Draw Your Monster

Aaron Harvey, founder of ‘intrusivethoughts.org’

Alison Dotson, Author and OCD Advocate

Corey Hirsch, Former NHL Goalie and OCD Advocate

Stuart Ralph, founder of ‘The OCD Stories’

Ethan Smith, IOCDF National Ambassador

Chrissie Hodges, That’s ME! Author, OCD Peer Support & Resource Consultant

Neil Hemmer, OCD Advocate

I hope you can join us March 3rd, Denver, CO 6:30-9:30pm at the Historic Grant Avenue Theater. If you can’t make it, we will be streaming it for several days after for the price of a ticket. Stay tuned for details!

Visit http://www.chrissiehodges.com/ocd-gamechangers for more information and to purchase tickets

OCD Gamechangers

OCD Gamechangers: Speaker, Stuart Ralph of ‘The OCD Stories’

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2018 by chrissiehodges

‘OCD Gamechangers’ Event in Denver will feature Eight Incredible, Innovative, Inspiring OCD Advocates worldwide who are changing how we spread awareness and hope for recovery for OCD.

Speaker Highlight: Stuart Ralph of ‘The OCD Stories”

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When I first began thinking about the event I am hosting on March 3rd called ‘OCD Gamechangers’, it wasn’t even a question that I wanted Stuart Ralph to be part of it. The biggest obstacle was that he lives in the United Kingdom. There’s no way in the world he’d come over here for an event like mine!

But I took the risk and asked him anyway—and to my huge surprise, HE SAID YES! It was actually Stuart’s message to me saying that he booked his flight over to the US that really made me believe the show would become a reality. Well, now that Stuart is coming, I HAVE to do it!

When I first met/saw Stuart Ralph, I felt star-struck! It was at the OCD Conference in San Francisco and although I knew I would be busy and running around barely even able to catch my breath, I hoped I’d have the opportunity to meet him. I had known about his podcast ‘The OCD Stories’ for quite some time and even started an email several times to reach out to him, but my anxiety got the best of me and I ended up deleting my draft. So when I was headed down the escalator on Saturday late to my breakout session and I see him coming UP the escalator beside me, I was flabbergasted! Tongue-tied, I think I just pointed and said ‘It’s YOU! It’s YOU!!!!!!!!’ He said something back, but I couldn’t understand a damn word he said because of his thick British accent! So, I just waved and ran off to my presentation feeling like a complete idiot. Haha!

I was lucky enough to get to chat with him later at the conference and then again online afterward. What an honor it was to get to meet and become acquainted with someone who has had so much influence and inspiration to thousands of people worldwide! He really is a gem of a person and advocate.

Stuart created the podcast ‘The OCD Stories’ featuring a wide range of guests from the top therapists worldwide for OCD to individuals who are living in recovery. It is a podcast of hope, motivation, and inspiration. What I like about Stuart is his calming, gentle, and inclusive approach to all things OCD. He has a way of making you comfortable around him just by being in his presence. I feel like a chaotic, loud, triggered Tasmanian devil when I get all riled up about OCD topics, so being around Stu is soothing and helps  me to stay grounded on topic. So, I’m hoping to channel his calming energy in the hyper state I will be in at the event.

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Stuart Ralph is an incredible advocate who I do not believe even knows the reach and lives that he saves with his podcast ‘The OCD Stories’. It is an honor to have him part of ‘The OCD Gamechangers’. You won’t want to miss seeing him and learning more about his story of living with OCD and how he became inspired to become an advocate.

 

‘OCD Gamechangers’

Denver, CO, March 3rd 6:30-9:30pm at the Historic Grant Avenue Theater

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to

http://www.chrissiehodges.com/ocd-gamechangers/

We are working very hard to have the event available to watch for the price of a ticket to accommodate timezones/countries. Stay tuned for more info on how to access!

Hope to see you there!

OCD Gamechangers