Alberta OCD Foundation
Jennifer first volunteered visiting patients at Selkirk Hospital in Manitoba at age 15. At age 17 she worked as a dietary aide in Long Term Care where she knew she loved being an advocate and providing care for others in need. At 18 she moved to Alberta to play for the Grande Prairie Wolves College Volleyball team. She coached Bantam volleyball, volunteered at the Peace Area Riding for the Disabled Society, Youth in Action summer program and the Rick Hansen, Wheels in Motion fundraiser. In 2004 she won the Women’s Junior Muscle Beach Fall Classic Bodybuilding Competition where she learned that changing your body size does not change the way you think about yourself.
Jennifer received a BPE from the University of Alberta and has been working as a Registered Recreation Therapist in Edmonton for 12 years. She is the chair for her LUE for HSAA (Health Sciences Association Of Alberta) and on the Therapeutic Recreation Program Advisory Committee for NorQuest College. In 2018 she spoke at the IOCDF Conference in Washington on "It's not just (homo)sexual OCD" and at NorQuest College on “TR Workplace Process and its Role in Mental Health Recovery.” This past year, she's enjoyed presenting at Young Adult Services and Access Open Minds and at Alberta Hospital on "OCD explained" and her experience.
In her spare time, you will see Jennifer cooking/baking, playing league sports, sewing, making crafts, journaling,camping/travelling, gardening, hiking, snowshoeing, snowboarding, riding her motorcycle, hanging out with friends/her pup Mahnee or meeting strangers.
Jennifer does not recall life without OCD. She kept extremely busy and coped by using Recreation and Leisure as a healthy outlet to experience joy while suppressing shame and hiding her ‘embarrassing,’ yet torturous symptoms. It was a struggle to not only reach out, but to find appropriate treatment in Alberta. She luckily found the CFCBT and in 2015 began her journey to recovery. While overcoming shame, she was interviewed twice on Global TV for OCD awareness week and incorporating the AOCDF. She was a guest speaker on the CFCBT Q&A Panel for OCDweek and #GETloud week. Jennifer was interviewed by CBC, live radio twice, on OCD and the isolation she experienced.
Jennifer is forever grateful for her psychologist and psychiatrist, her main supports who guided and supported her as she worked hard to peel away the layers of OCD and uncover her true self. She is very grateful for meeting others who live with OCD. They became extremely important aspects of her recovery and now remain as close friends and her support system.
Jennifer suffered with repeating, checking, and counting, which affected her walking, blinking, eating, drinking and breathing. She experienced a variety of OCD symptoms throughout her lifespan, especially magical thinking, superstitious OCD and Health OCD. She also lives with GAD, social anxiety and depression.
Jennifer believes that no one should experience the journey of recovery alone. Her goal is to bring correct awareness to the illness, build a supportive OCD community and increase treatment/affordable options for OCD suffers in Alberta with the efforts of the amazing and dedicated AOCDF team.
Jenna has been an enthusiastic and dedicated member of the Alberta OCD Foundation (AOCDF) since it’s conception in the spring of 2018.
An avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast, she finds great solace in nature.
Her fascination with the natural world inspired her academic pursuits and has ultimately shaped her career. Jenna graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in Ecology and is currently working as an Environmental Scientist.
Outside of her profession, music has always been a powerful outlet for Jenna.
Whether singing, writing, or simply listening, music has helped her to process emotion and remains a steady source of inspiration in her life. She sees music as an incredible way for people to give voice to their pain and transform it into something beautiful. And celebrates it as something that brings people together and fosters connection unlike anything else.
She also finds great joy in photography. The process encourages her creativity and an appreciation for detail that often goes unnoticed and it has enabled her to capture and preserve some of her most meaningful moments and experiences.
Besides her creative outlets, Jenna is a tea connoisseur of sorts and enjoys watching melancholy documentaries, losing herself in books, collecting antique treasures, and spending quality time with loved ones.
Her compassion runs deep and she is motivated by a strong desire to be, for others, the person she so desperately needed in her own mental health journey.
Jenna has never known a life unafflicted by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), severe and sometimes debilitating anxiety, and periods of depression. She suffers primarily with intrusive thoughts and as such, her struggles were often internalized and went unnoticed by most. The shame she felt made it difficult to seek help. Her journey to diagnosis was long and challenging but with the encouragement of those closest to her, she found specialized therapy and an incredible support network and was able to begin actively working towards recovery.
Her pain has cultivated a tremendous sense of empathy for others and has compelled her towards a role in mental health advocacy.
She believes wholeheartedly in the resiliency of the human spirit and the power of community in healing, growth, and recovery. And hopes she can use her lived experience to gently support and empower others navigating the difficult and often lonely terrain of mental illness.
Together with an amazing team at the AOCDF, she hopes to offer much needed resources and create safe spaces for those afflicted by OCD and associated disorders in Edmonton and surrounding areas. Spaces where people can come together and share their stories, support one another in treatment, and feel heard.
“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Laurel is the Secretary for the Alberta OCD Foundation. Laurel works in the Events Industry here in Edmonton. In her spare time, she enjoys going to movies, theatre shows and watching YouTube. She also will never say no to some good cookies.
Her OCD journey began at a young age where she found her worries to be all consuming and challenging to overcome. She struggled with constant checking, worrying and an overall feeling that certain things weren’t right. However, at the time, she did not understand what obsessions and compulsion were or even what OCD was. It wasn’t until December 2017 where she found herself unable to cope and needing to start helping herself.
Luckily, a few short months after her diagnosis she had the pleasure of attending the first AOCDF support group and it changed her life. It was amazing to be around such a supportive group of people who understood the challenges but also the triumphs that came with living with OCD. She hopes within her role to support individuals like herself as well their families to show that even in the toughest times there is support, kindness and that you are never alone.
Jay's journey with OCD has been a wild ride! He is so happy to have the opportunity to offer a hand, and support, for those who experience it as well. He has had anxiety his whole life, periodically ebbing and flowing, but it wasn’t until he started to feel the pressure of university that detrimental compulsions began to accompany his obsessional thinking. He allowed the anxiety to grow, and ended up quite isolated from the world as he began to fear the compulsions that would inevitably follow him wherever he went. Checking, checking, repeating, repeating, trying to get to sleep, building up the exams and other “significant events” to life and death experiences. After finishing his education, it was time to put his foot down, and sought therapy. Since then he has seen his life regain its color, and now he can breathe and live again. When he was at his lowest, he often wished that someone in his everyday life would recognize his unconventional behaviours as OCD, to say the simple few words, “I understand”.
At the AOCDF support groups, there is no judgement, no shame, in any of the strange behaviours or thoughts one may have – we understand. All experience OCD in different ways. You may meet people who actually have similar aspects to your struggles! But regardless, we all share the same fear, anxiety, isolation. When you attend one of the support groups, you are safe, and with friends. So that little piece alone, aside from everything else the events provide, is why Jay continue to be a part of this wonderful group.
Aside from his commitment to AOCDF, he enjoy many hobbies and activities, such as rock climbing, reading, gaming, and even mathematics! Music is very important to him, and he is currently learning how to swing dance.
Megan is an auditor for the Alberta Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation. She lives with OCD and has previously lived with an eating disorder. She is very much interested in how OCD and related disorders affect people in unique ways across a myriad of contexts. She has lived mainly with “Pure-O,” that is, mostly obsessional OCD. For her, and many others, OCD has concentrated around relationships and thoughts of harm.
Meeting other people with OCD, through support groups, conferences, or what have you, has been instrumental to her healing process. She looks forward to continuing that process together through the AOCDF.