A Decade- Long Journey with Dermatillomania

It has been one decade since my journey in FOREVER MARKED: A Dermatillomania Diary began. It was unknown to my nearly 20 year old self that I was writing a book back in 2006; I was only trying to find a safe outlet for depressive thoughts surrounding my compulsive skin picking while expressing what I felt was embarrassing and shameful feelings. When I realized that thousands of others around the world share this disorder with me, I desperately wanted to reach out and share my story to let them know that at least one person in the world understands the emotional pain of having to fight this disorder alone. On May 6th, 2006 this is what life looked like to me:

IMG_1510
    – In 19 days, I would be attending a self-harm meeting knowing that my disorder was
    irrelevant to the subject matter.
    – In 20 days, I was turning 20 and felt like a failure in life.
    – I believed that “No guy could handle the emotional baggage, let alone the mental illnesses I face AND the physical scars they’ve caused.” (Forever Marked, pg. 44)
    – I was confused about my path in life and enrolled in Theater for school only out of enjoyment, not passion.
    – I had been picking since my childhood with the severity of it increasing by age 13.
    – I wanted to end my life because I didn’t know how to live, no one could help me locally, and suffering from the level of self-hatred I had was unbearable.

Creating the FOREVER MARKED journal was the first step I took toward taking control of my life. I would not have had the incredible opportunities I had if I not come forward with my secret struggle. From being able to film Scars of Shame at the TLC Foundation for BFRBs conference (formerly Trichotillomania Learning Center) in 2011 to being on “The Doctors” getting professional help for my picking, I have had a decade filled with surreal events partly because I decided to try and help myself in little steps; first by gathering my thoughts in this personal journal that no one had access to.

IMG_1513In hindsight I recognize that by outing the shame I felt in my personal journal I was freeing myself from the percolating negative thoughts that kept my depression shackled. The decision to reach out publicly led to a chain of events that helped inspire me to move forward with releasing FOREVER MARKED. In the interactions I’ve had with people who have Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) I have been touched by stories, love, and compassion that inspires me to become not only a better person, but a more determined fighter for our awareness plight.On May 6th, 2016 I will reflect on how:

    – In 19 days, I will be getting a nerve block for chronic pain in the lower left side of my back that I’ve suffered with since October, 2012.
    – In 20 days I’ll be turning 30 and feel mixed about what I’ve done with my life. I have so much hope for the future but it’s clouded by everything that encompasses chronic pain.
    – I’m married to a very special man who does nothing but support and love me. After everything we’ve done in our 6 years together, we have so much more greatness I look forward to.
    – I dropped out of school twice (once due to mental health, second time due to bullying) then graduated in Child & Youth Care Work.
    – From the beginning of my twenties until I finish my recovery memoir “Embracing Dermatillomania” my struggle with Excoriation Disorder this past decade will be publicly documented in full.

I am not pick- free and will continue using skills I have learned from both Christina Pearson through the Heart & Soul Academy and Karen Pickett. I now only [primarily] pick my face for minutes throughout the day and have not had a single “sit down session” on my legs since my therapy. For now, I will use my tools moment-to-moment and remember that once this rough patch in my life is dealt with I can focus on completing “Embracing Dermatillomania” to give back to the BFRB community who helped influence my path of advocacy. During this time, I also hope to fulfill my desire of finding a job in the human services field where I can be influential in the lives of those who struggle with mental health afflictions.

During the times I am hard on myself for the curve balls life has thrown me I remind myself of the “white spots” on my legs, as two doctors recently pointed out. They are a reminder that great things happened when I slowly opened myself up to the world; I am proud of them because they represent one thing in life I never thought was possible for me. I will continue to spread the word about Dermatillomania throughout my 30’s with the aim of letting others know that there is hope for recovery with this disorder and other BFRBs. More importantly, you are not alone.

(c)GillianPardy

 

Check out the five- star documentary Scars of Shame and Angela’s ground- breaking memoir FOREVER MARKED: A Dermatillomania Diary. Like Angela on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and join her on Tumblr.
  • I was able to kick skin picking in about 4 weeks after taking a Vitamin E supplement. The vitamin makes the skin soft and reduces the urge to pick at it. Hope this helps anyone who has problems with picking at their skin!