It’s hard to gain acceptance about a condition that you didn’t want and never asked for. The difficulty in coming to terms with having a chronic disorder that causes lesions on the skin can be overwhelming in day-to-day life. How can a person look at their skin and be okay with what they see? This is something I had to learn before having the opportunity of being on The Doctors and receiving effective treatment for skin picking from Karen Pickett.
First, you must accept where you are at in your journey. If you are reading this, you’re already on your way to educating yourself about dermatillomania while trying to find ways to live a more peaceful life. In never expecting to be on a daytime talk show getting therapy, I became non-judgmental about how the marks on my skin defined me. Instead of continuing to blame and hate myself during my teens and early twenties, I looked at my life from the view of living in an alternate society; one where marks don’t signify the false stigmas we’ve worried about (looking unhygienic, linking back to drug use, etc). A world where people see marks as mere discolorations of the skin; if everyone else was okay with me having a disorder, would I be?
To an extent, the answer is yes. We would struggle with time management while engaging in the behavior but we wouldn’t have to cancel social outings or feel the need to spend additional time covering up our marks because of the shame associated with our appearance after picking. This wasn’t enough for me to accept, so I needed to find ways to appreciate my body. Through modeling I was able to see myself through another perspective. In seeing fully edited images that removed my marks and scars, I was able see past the spots that covered me all over. Since I developed this disorder as a child, I do not remember having clear skin; in seeing a person behind the marks, I realized that there was more to me that I couldn’t see because I was trapped in my own world of isolation.
The greatest way I gained acceptance about this disorder was through connecting with others who share the same disorder. It started by joining online communities as an observer, then I became active a year before FOREVER MARKED: A Dermatillomania Diary was released. With the positive feedback of my memoir from the community, I was emboldened to become a writer for various platforms while getting involved with The TLC Foundation for BFRBs and Canadian BFRB Support Network. Had I not opened myself to a world with others who struggle the same way I did, my feelings of loneliness would have increased as my exposure to others would have been non-existent. In reading your experiences in forums and through PMs, a lot shame was lifted because I recognized that my personal self talk was unreliable— if flawed thinking about myself didn’t apply to your stories, why would I apply the double standard of being deserving of shame and embarrassment?
While you don’t need to model in front of a camera or be active in the Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) community to gain an acceptance of living with this disorder, it can transform how you see yourself living with dermatillomania. Living with it may not be your preference but understanding how it affects your life can be useful in seeing how the disorder manifests moment-to-moment. I want you to know that…
You have permission to love yourself with your marks.
You do not have to feel ashamed of something you cannot control.
You are worthy of being accepted no matter what the condition of your skin is.
This disorder does not define you- it’s only one part of you.