What Makes a Good Mental Health Advocate?

I have been fortunate over the years to share the story of my son Dan’s recovery from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. The fact that he continues to do so well is concrete evidence that obsessive-compulsive disorder, no matter how severe, is indeed treatable, and it is gratifying to know that many who are suffering have found hope through my family’s story.

I hear from many people who are at various stages in their fight against OCD. When they tell me they have either read about Dan’s journey or heard me speak about him the first question they often ask is “How is Dan now?”

I am so incredibly thankful that the answer, after eight years, continues to be, “He is doing very well.”

The next question is usually something such as, “Where is he? How come we never see him at these conferences/meetings/or other OCD events?”

It is an interesting question. Should “OCD advocacy” (or advocacy for other illnesses) be a responsibility of those who have recovered from severe OCD? I don’t know. But I do know that advocacy comes in many ways, shapes, and forms. By continuing to do well, keeping his OCD at bay, and living his life to the fullest, Dan is giving hope to all those who suffer from OCD.

But still. What an inspiration it would be to those who are suffering to hear as many success stories as possible. While there are those who do speak up and take on the role of a traditional advocate, many people who recover from severe OCD just want to get on with their lives. And who can blame them?

My son falls into this category. As he and many others have said “OCD is something I have, not something I am.” Dan does not want to be defined by OCD and has made a conscious effort to put it on the back burner and focus wholeheartedly on living his life to the fullest. He has fought his way back from the brink of despair, and perhaps this fact fuels his resolve to leave OCD out of his life as much as he can. Maybe my son’s choice to not focus on his OCD any more than he needs to is one of the reasons he has learned to cope so well.

I do feel that each of us has a responsibility to try to make the world a better place, but how we do that is up to us. My son might not be shouting from the rooftops now that he has overcome severe OCD, but maybe at some point in his life, sharing his story will become important to him as a means to help others. If not, I am confident that he will find other ways, as he has done already, to make the world a better place.

For now, however, I will revel in the fact that Dan is doing well. I will continue to advocate for OCD awareness and proper treatment, and I will respect his decision to not want to make OCD a focal point of his life. Because after all, isn’t that the whole idea?

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