I Have a Magic All-Powerful Broom

The strokes were even, a beat to a silent song. Each swipe of the broom broke the stillness.

Do something. Stop her.

I watched as she went over the same spot. Again.

It doesn’t take twenty minutes to sweep a tiny hallway. You need to step in.

The broom danced, knowing the steps by heart, a deep-seeded ritual. But her eyes…

Her eye-lids were open, but the door to her thoughts was slammed shut – her mind swept away by her OCD.

You’re procrastinating. You went to therapy with her. You know what to do now. You aren’t helpless.

My shoulders tightened with resolve.

I could do this.

“What are you doing, Bobbi?”

“I’m fine.” Her words brushed me away.

“Why are you sweeping the floor?”

“It isn’t clean. It’s wrong.”

I glanced at the tiles. Every last speck and crumb had long been swept away. “What happens if it’s wrong, Bobbi?”

Her eyes fired at me, annoyance painted over her features. “Then it isn’t right.”

“What happens if it isn’t right?”

Another laser beam shot my way. “If it isn’t right, it’s wrong. Bad stuff will happen.”

“What will happen?”’

“People will die.” She snapped the words.

“Is my broom all-powerful?”

She paused in the rhythm. “What?”

“Do I own a magical broom?”


“So tell me how my non-magical broom can make people die?

She stopped, her glare trying to make me disappear.

“How Bobbi?”

“It’s… It’s… It has to be right.”

What was I supposed to do when I reached the morbid obsession?

Would it be okay to be funny?

“So what you’re saying is, I miraculously bought an all-powerful broom capable of deciding who lives and who dies?”

And there it was. A giggle. “No. Yes.”

I smiled.

Maybe I could help her after all.

* * * * *

 In “On Writing” Stephen King wrote, “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

 Write a memoir post – first-person and true – inspired by that statement.

* * * * *

This post is about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

What I did with Bobbi is called “exposure”, a very important part of helping someone with OCD.

This was the first time I ever tried to do one and I was afraid I’d screw it up right until I got her to laugh.

That was five years ago.

OCD has no cure. It never stops.

But it can be controlled.

Tonight I somehow did an exposure while instant messaging with her, and she was so into her thought loop, she didn’t catch on until the very end.

It’s gotten a lot easier as I’ve improved and learned how best to help her.

October 10 – 16 is National OCD Awareness Week. 

OCD, like many mental health diseases, is very misunderstood because people are misinformed about it. They base much of their knowledge on TV shows, the only exposure they have to it.

So please, please, read this post about the Top 10 Things People Say About OCD That Are Likely To Hit a Hot Button just because of ignorance and misinformation.

Pass it on. Share it on Facebook. Tweet it. 

Help me spread OCD Awareness this week.

Feel free to leave concrit as well about this piece.


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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21 Responses to I Have a Magic All-Powerful Broom

  1. Pingback: The Bottle | Riding in Cars with Ducks

  2. Melanie says:

    Marvelous! I have PTSD and my husband has used the same technique with me on many occasions to pull me out of irrational thinking. I love the way you handled this exchange!

  3. Wow, that is a terrific memory–thank you so much for sharing it!

  4. Gayletrini says:

    absolutely awesome how you were able to get to her with a joke. Great read. thanks for sharing.

    • The key is, I would not have known what to joke about had I not gone through this exposure response prevention technique.

      My uneducated self would probably have joked about the floors being clean already, which would have done nothing.

      Because I delved to the real reason – to her using the broom was a way to control and prevent her fears from coming true – the broom had to be all-powerful.

      She still tells herself that today when she’s tempted to use it in that fashion.

  5. Not only is she blessed to have you as a best friend, but I think your life has been enriched by knowing her as well. Hugs to both of you.

  6. Kir says:

    I tease that Everyone in my family must have OCD just a little bit, but I know now how inconsiderate it is to say that…thank you for that lesson this week. TRULY.

    This was written so well and didn’t diminish either of you with the exchange, you are a true friend to her. BRAVO for all the exposure you are giving OCD this month.

    • I’m doing my best to try to educate as many people as I can.

      Misinformation and assumptions about OCD hit my hot buttons too. I know I once went off on Old Tweener because I felt her portrayal of an OCD character in a prompt wasn’t 100% accurate.

      I didn’t mean to rant so much, and it was hindered by one comment being eaten and having to retype it slightly less articulate, but it was a knee jerk reaction.

      Misrepresenting OCD can do more harm than good. Which means my friend and others like her can be hurt because of it.

      Sheri was very gracious in her response, but is why I feel the need to give a real portrayal.

  7. christina says:

    this post is just … amazing. thank you so much for sharing it in this manner.

  8. Anastasia says:

    I have kids like that at work. We have to kind of call them out on their rituals, and humor helps a lot!

  9. angela says:

    She is so lucky to have you as a friend! Not only are you accepting of the disease, but you are trying to actively help.

    Because I make inappropriate jokes, I will say I wish I had a magic broom. And toilet brush. And oven.

  10. Katie says:

    Great job of showing both sides of this tale. I was able to relate to both you and Bobbi. I love how you were able to bring humor into the situation. The old cliche is true, laughter really is the best medicine.

  11. Really interesting, Kelly. Thanks for sharing!!

  12. Janet says:

    Wonderful post……you have a knack of getting really important lessons across in an easy to understand way. My family also used humor quite a bit in helping my son Dan recover from severe OCD. You are so right, you have to know the right thing to make fun of.

    You and Bobbi are so lucky to have each other!

  13. Pingback: Why I Keep Talking About OCD Awareness Week | Dances with Chaos

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