Petit Fours » A group blog of authors writing in different genres

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The One about OCD

It must be that time of year again. The kids are back in school, the summer light is smudging into orange, and my OCD is on overdrive. There are some benefits I guess. I get plenty of steps in when I hike across the house to touch the side door locks for the fifth time.

In that way, it’s great exercise and prevents me from cheating with my pedometer by beating it against the tabletop until I get my 7000 steps for the day.

Yes, you read that right. Apparently, the only thing I hate more than The Jersey Shore is not hitting my pedometer goal for the day. You would think, being OCD,cheating would bother me.

You would think wrong.

Anyway, after years of therapy and better living through chemistry, I can now say the words: “You are not (entirely) crazy. Your OCD is only acting up because you’re stressed and your subconscious is having flashbacks to school years spent getting stuffed into garbage cans.” But it doesn’t really matter what I say because I can’t eat the middle of my sandwiches.


OCD is a curious mental stowaway. Sometimes, we’re flying so high I can feel my teeth itch and my hair breathe. Other times, it’s an exhausting passenger living inside my skin, hijacking the controls: Touch this. Oh, God, don’t touch that. Don’t touch that either. Oh, but do touch that! Yeah, touch it again. And again. And—

You get the point.

I guess I should be grateful repeating certain actions is really the farthest my OCD goes. I don’t feel the need to press my nose to things or see green germs running up and down people like I’m living in my own personal version of The Matrix. My crazy is relatively easy to dress in drag and hide. And, even though there are days when forcing yourself to be normal kinda feels like you’re bleeding to death, it’s certainly safer than wearing your coat of many creepy colors.

It’s the ones who wear their crazy nakedly—either because they don’t care or don’t know—that amaze me. There’s a girl out at my barn who’s like that and, for the sake of this blog, we’ll call her J.

J is her own little person. Unlike me, she does not fake any part of herself. She’s the same with everyone and has a sort of genuine cluelessness that lends her confidence and cushioning from other people’s frustrations with her.

Or, at least, I thought so until she came sobbing to me in the barn parking lot and told me her dad was dying. The woman’s grief was bottomless, utterly raw. She was crying in that way where your sobs threaten to shiver you loose from your bones. I didn’t know what to say. And, really, what could I?

J’s dad is the one person who understands her and sees her as she was meant to be seen, as she wants to be seen. With him, she’s not weird. She’s just herself. Without him, the girl she is vanishes while the girl everyone else sees and ignores lives on. And though J may be crazy, she’s lucid enough to realize the terrible loss of this, how the self she operates in this world will be irrevocably diminished without him.  Because, wherever he goes, so does her acceptance. It will never be the same again.

In that light, there’s no comfort that can be offered. There aren’t enough Hallmark cards in the world to heal this. God knows I had nothing to offer. So we sat in the driveway until she was ready to go home. It took almost an hour and I never did think of something worthwhile to say…except maybe this: we spend so much time trying to fake it, so much time pretending we belong on the inside with all the sane people that maybe we’d be better off letting ourselves rest on the outside.

Seems like quite a few of us live there anyway.

Tammy Schubert - September 22, 2011 - 6:58 am

Romily, this is a very touching post.

How awful for J. Sometimes there are no words that can take away someone’s pain or fix a bad situation. You did the next best thing by spending time with her. Actions mean so much more than words and are a huge comfort at times like this.

Jen McQuiston - September 22, 2011 - 7:54 am

Romily, in reading your post, it is beyond obvious you are an incredibly gifted writer. If that is OCD, I would like some of what you are hiding, please.

I love that you are revealing some of yourself to all of us. I know this Romily, but I am willing to bet many of the GRW following simply think of you as the girl who sits quietly in meetings. If only they knew, they would be scared and awed.

There is a drive behind you I can’t quite sort out, but greatly admire. You are so self-deprecating, yet willingly bolster the confidence and rub the backs of everyone around you.

That is all.

Jen McQuiston - September 22, 2011 - 7:55 am

Oh, and I am not J!!!!! In case those of you reading this were wondering. :)

Tami Brothers - September 22, 2011 - 8:07 am

Hey Romily! Simply, wow. You are an incredible person. Like Jen said, most people only know you as the girl who sits quietly in the back at the GRW meetings. Honestly, that’s what I thought. Then you surprised me with your incredibly snarky blog posts and I loved that you allowed us to see that part of you.

Yet again, you have surprised me with the depth of this post (I’m sure your critique partners knew this all along :) ). I love your honesty. I love your resilience. I love that you have so many layers. Like others have said, I can’t wait to read your books. If they are anything like your blog posts, I know you will gain lots of fans. (more so than you already have from this blog)

My heart goes out to J. It’s tough losing that part of yourself and it’s even harder when you know there is no possible way of getting it back. I think you are a wonderful friend.

Hugs to you both.


Sally Kilpatrick - September 22, 2011 - 8:19 am

I have no words. Your writing is incredible and poignant. You are so clearly meant to be a writer.

Linsey Lanier - September 22, 2011 - 8:24 am

Romily, I am as stunned and impressed as the others. There’s much more to you than OCD, such as incredible talent and a caring heart. You, my dear, are what they call “deep.” Be proud of that.

And give our love to J. We all feel for her. I think she will remember your sitting with her and just listening. Things like that mean more than you think.

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 9:16 am

Ack! No!! Jen McQuiston is not J!! I can’t believe I did that b/c the two are in NO WAY alike. Well. Except when Jen McQuiston yells at me in her Mom Voice. It isn’t crazy so much as very, very scary. :lol:

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 9:24 am

I’m really glad you guys liked the post. I set out to write something funny and it turned into writing something that scares me. Maybe I need to remember that.

Pamela Mason - September 22, 2011 - 9:49 am

gosh! Why in the name of all things raw & unholy aren’t you snapped up & published & out there on the artsy writers’ circuit? Because I never fail to read your posts, though I may just now be brave enough to offer a comment.
I’ve seen people like J….it’s grievous to think of her dad leaving this earth – and her. Hopefully the Universe is making a space in her life for another companion who ‘gets’ her. And hopefully she’ll be open to recognizing & accepting that person.
What’s so beautiful is your ability to translate that raw pain & singularity in J to others without condesencion (sp?) .
My personal theory is that we learn at a young age how to squelch that singularity to fit into the herd & be accepted & hopefully have others’ admirable qualities rub off on us by mere association. It takes sheer strength to stand alone & survive. It takes strength to be a friend to that outsider too, because their brillance sometimes collapses & self destructs, & there’s no saving them from themselves. Maybe the rest of us get blessed with the art or insights spun out of that brand of passion & pain.
You’re amazing to leave yourself vulnerable to see that & report it.

Sandra Elzie - September 22, 2011 - 9:51 am

Have you considered writing a book that features your challenges, but also your way of overcoming?

You have a talent for writing…the gift of putting words together that have meaning and draw out emotions in others.

Never quit.

JB Hunt - September 22, 2011 - 10:42 am


It is comedy, but in the very best sense. It’s true, it’s real, and it’s powerful. It makes us skate the edge of laughter and tears.

Thank you.

Sia Huff - September 22, 2011 - 11:25 am

Wow, Rom.
Your one of the first people I met at GRW and I didn’t know you had OCD. No clue. So maybe (for the most part) you are controlling the impulses instead of them controlling you. That takes strength & resilence. But in no way are you faking it.
I’m sad for J. I pray God sends her someone special. He did that day in the barn – you. You, my dear, are very special.

Susan - September 22, 2011 - 11:39 am

Words don’t matter in those cases. It’s the being there that shows you care. And you showed that.

Robin Hillyer Miles - September 22, 2011 - 12:18 pm

I think all of us, whether we have social skills issues, OCD or whatever, show one side of ourselves to the public and keep the inner being hidden, which begs the question … which is the real you? me? him? her?

Great post Romily!

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - September 22, 2011 - 1:23 pm

Touching post, Romily. I don’t think we’ve officially met, but we should change that at M&M. :)

I(gently) tease my sister about having OCD. I do it because I want her to recognize she has it so she won’t let it control her. She rolls her eyes at me, but I remember her ire when we shared a closet and one of my hangars touched her perfectly one-finger’s-space-apart alignment. Yes, my mother had to measure the rod and mark the perfect middle so I wouldn’t cross it. Sis does the door thing, even when I assure her I saw her lock it and double check it already. Hey, at least she’s safer with the door locked.

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 2:10 pm

@ Pamela, you’re very nice to think I should be published. I’m not for a multitude of reasons I’m sure, but I like to think it’s because I have the singular talent of making agents run for the hills. :lol:

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 2:12 pm

@Sandy, nah, I don’t think anyone would want to read an entire book of my navel-gazing :) Plus, I have no platform. I like to think of myself as being a professional nobody.

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 2:13 pm

Sia!! I didn’t know I was one of your first friends. You were one of mine too!! That’s so funny!!

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 2:18 pm

@ JB, I think you and I are on the same page when it comes to comedy. I particularly like the ones that sting. Thanks for commenting!

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 2:22 pm

@ Susan, considering how gracious and warm you are (truly, I’ve always thought you are an excellent GRW ambassador), I’m glad to know you think I did okay.

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 2:23 pm

@Robin, haha! You make an excellent point. Odds are, none of my various personalities are the Real Me. :)

Romily Bernard - September 22, 2011 - 2:26 pm

@Carol, I would love to meet! Oddly, my obsessions do not trend toward my closet (as anyone who has seen my perpetually-rumped self can probably attest). But I did go through a stage where uneven gravel made me break out into terror sweats. There was something about the texture and the unevenness that just made my brain prickle…

Darcy Crowder - September 22, 2011 - 9:13 pm

Romily, sorry to be so late commenting….but I’ll say it again. I KNEW it was you the minute I started reading. That’s how awesome, how strong your voice is. My skin prickles thinking of the day you will get published. I know it will happen, and then, look out!

I love that you are not afraid to share those deep facets of who you are – that’s real writing. And what you did for J – that’s real friendship. She’s lucky to have someone else in her life who understands her so well.

See you at M&M!

Pam Asberry - September 23, 2011 - 11:42 am

Romily, I wasn’t able to be online much yesterday so I am just now getting around to reading your awesome post. I fell in love with you at the August GRW meeting when you introduced yourself to me and shared your heartfelt encouragement with me; I fall in love with you all over again every time I read something you have written. You are gifted, beautiful, hardworking, generous, and self-aware – a combination that will triumph over the OCD. Thank you for being who you are. I can’t wait to see you at M&M.

Lara - September 27, 2011 - 10:57 am

Nice post, sweet blog style, carry on the great work

Deborah Blake Dempsey - September 30, 2011 - 3:17 pm

Wow. Thought provoking and touching. The line, “She was crying in that way where your sobs threaten to shiver you loose from your bones.” just clutched me my friend. I love your honesty and compassion and I can’t wait until the book comes out and you share your brilliance with the rest of the world.

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