An essential part of Disability Pride Month is raising awareness, celebrating overcoming obstacles and being authentic without needing to hide. It is also about challenging misconceptions around disabilities, seen and unseen.

Two of our staff have shared their stories to mark this vital awareness month; this time, it’s the turn of Executive Assistant in our Fundraising Appointments team, Kerry-Ann Charles.

Since joining Peridot in 2019, Kerry-Ann has harnessed her brilliant organisational skills and passion for making a difference every day to provide first-class administration support to our consultants and partners.

We thank her for sharing her story.


As some people might know, I’m an extremely private person. However, since it’s Disability Pride Month, I thought I would embody one of Peridot’s values and ‘be brave’ by sharing my story — so, here goes.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) a decade ago, although I had been silently suffering for many years before I was diagnosed. It’s been a journey.

I can’t count the number of times people have said, “Oh, the cleaning thing,” or “You must be super clean and organised.” *Cue an eye roll.*

Disclaimer: I am very clean. And I am organised — most of the time!

While being clean and organised are some visible traits, there is so much more to OCD that society misunderstands and trivialises, including misinformation from TV shows and social media.

OCD is not a cute, quirky personality trait or something to make fun of. For some, it can be a very distressing, unpleasant, and often lonely condition.

Living with OCD is a daily battle. I may not show it because I’m a master at masking, so the person next to me would have no idea of the internal struggle I’m experiencing. On bad days, OCD can cause very distressing feelings, thoughts, and rituals that I try to control but simply can’t, resulting in extreme anxiety.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to manage my condition over the years with the right tools, practice, and support. OCD is also linked to mild to severe anxiety and depression.

So, what is OCD?

According to OCD UK, only 26.5% of people with OCD perform cleaning and washing rituals.

OCD is a serious anxiety-related condition. A person experiences frequent, intrusive, and unwelcome obsessional thoughts, commonly referred to as obsessions. These obsessions can be extremely distressing, leading to repetitive behaviours or rituals to ease the distressing thoughts and feelings and sometimes to prevent harm. Some of these rituals can include:

  • Constant reassurance from others can be mentally exhausting for the sufferer and those around them.
  • Avoidance of people, places, and objects, even as far as books, music, and television.
  • Internal mental counting, checking of body parts, or blinking — all compulsions.

Honestly, this list is endless — a vortex.

Compulsions bring temporary relief until the person’s fear or thought is triggered again. In some cases, the intrusive thoughts or fears are forgotten, but the compulsion becomes a habit and part of the person’s daily life. Individuals continue these habits to feel “right,” though, in reality, it can be detrimental to their daily lives, causing suffering for themselves and those around them.

OCD myth busters

There are many misconceptions about OCD, but these are the most common ones:

Myth: “We’re all a little OCD.”

Reality: No, 1-2% of people have the condition. It usually develops in early adulthood and is hard to navigate, control, and understand. 

Myth: “It’s about being obsessively tidy or clean.”

Reality: It’s more complicated than that. According to OCD Action, people with OCD experience intensely negative, repetitive, and intrusive thoughts, combined with a chronic feeling of doubt or danger, which form their obsessions.

Myth: “People with OCD wash their hands non-stop.”

Reality: To quell an obsessive thought or anxiety, people with OCD often repeat actions—their compulsions. Washing hands can be a compulsion, but not everyone with OCD has this urge.

People with OCD go through various experiences and try to control their compulsions differently to ease their fears, but I won’t go into detail here. You’ll find out why in the next section.

What not to say to people with OCD

Whether or not people are aware of what they say, being mindful and understanding toward those living with the condition is important. Here are some things to avoid saying:

  • “Why do you do rituals?” or “What are your thoughts or feelings that make you so distressed?”

For me, this can trigger my obsessions and compulsions. Trust, understanding, and a strong support network are crucial. Asking about my rituals only makes me feel belittled and silly when it’s beyond my control.

  • “Oh, the cleaning thing,” or “You must be super clean and organised.”

It’s not like Monica Geller from Friends — but I do love that show.

  • “I’m a bit OCD.”

This is my least favourite. Just because someone likes their towels folded neatly or pens aligned, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have OCD. Such sayings and characters trivialise the condition and belittle those suffering from OCD.

  • “Just stop thinking about it.”

If I could turn it off like a light switch, I would. Instant cure!

  • “It’s all in your head” or “Just try and relax and stop worrying so much.”

These comments are passive-aggressive and disrespectful, disregarding the person’s feelings and experiences. What seems minor and unimportant to you can be highly distressing to someone with OCD.

  • “Why are you so stressed?”

This question triggers us more and makes us feel like a burden, leading to bottling up feelings even more. Some of us know we are a little irrational, but challenging our stresses isn’t helpful. 

Tips and Support

It took me a long time to find balance and accept that OCD is part of my life. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Therapy: I can’t stress this enough. CBT therapy through the NHS or privately is the first step. There are also optional group therapies. Talking to a professional helps you understand the condition.
  • Face the fears in therapy: This is hard and uncomfortable, but suppressing the thoughts makes it worse.
  • Find the right people to talk to: A strong support network is key. Close family and friends you trust make the journey easier.
  • Laughter: Once I understood my condition better, I could laugh off some habits with friends in my support group. Making fun of myself and having them poke fun at times weirdly made my obsessions and compulsions smaller.
  • Meditation: I started this a few years ago, and it’s a big help. It’s okay to fall off sometimes; the main thing is being present in the moment. It helps calm the mind and body.
  • Gym/working out: This is a huge part of my daily routine. As part of the OCD family, we stress a lot, which is sometimes out of our control. The gym helps release stress and provides clarity.

There are many ways to cope with OCD, and everyone has their own methods. There was a time when it took over my life, and it was miserable. Thankfully, with years of practice, therapy, and acceptance, I’ve overcome many challenges.

There is no cure, and it still gets the better of me at times (picture a rational and irrational version of yourself in a boxing ring). Although I have this condition, it doesn’t define me as a person or my character; it is just a tiny piece of who I am.

To all my fellow OCD warriors: We’ve got this. We’re doing great, and we continue to fight and win.


Learn more about OCD

Books

Links for information and support