While many skin pickers know of the main vicious cycle in our daily lives, there is an underlying cycle that keeps many of us repressed and discouraged. The one we know about is the internal cycle that keeps our disorder alive and thriving while the other one is external and holds us back from sharing our experiences with the world.
The internal cycle is one that I still face every day, but the emotional aftermath is no longer harmful to my sense of self. I pick at my skin, which causes marks on my face and body. I become self-conscious about these marks which creates anxiety. But what drives us to pick in the first place? Anxiety… and thus the cycle continues.
Anxiety –> Pick to relieve it –> Become anxious about the physical aftermath –> Rinse & Repeat
How do we stop this cycle? We can’t intervene at the anxiety stage by just simply not having it, so do we fight through it with tools that aren’t readily available everywhere? With the supports set in place in California by TLC, we can learn them, but many of us need constant reassurance and guidance to get through these feelings by trained professionals who are able to empathize and understand our struggles. When the overwhelming anxiety of the withdrawal settles down (which I’ve never reached the point of, but know others have)… what supports do we have to ensure maintenance of not falling back into this behavioral pattern? This is where the silenced second cycle comes in.
The external cycle is one that I work towards breaking every day through social media, my book, the documentary, and with the guidance of TLC. Just recently with the launch of the official documentary Facebook fan page, I have been reminded how secretive we are in not wanting anyone to know about our condition. Staying silent about our disorder hurts us in not having the resources in place for us to get the help we need, as outlined below:
We want professionals to understand us –> We don’t tell professionals anymore because of past discrimination from some –>Some professionals never learn about it to do the research–> A client comes in with Dermatillomania and it will be misunderstood by the professional –> Rewind
There are variants of this cycle, including us wanting the general public to not judge us but how can they not judge when they don’t have the educational resources in front of them to understand? We are then left feeling more alone than ever, unwilling to step outside our comfort zone and demand that we be treated fairly and have the skin picking disorder be known to the general public to prevent generalizations and misconceptions. In my personal life, this includes negative responses from the Canadian Mental Health Association- Nova Scotia Division that started nearly 2 years ago and continues even today with me extending my advocacy journey out to them again, also giving them a chance to become an ally. This story will be saved for another day, CMHA- NS, be rest assured because I refuse to let you get away with not supporting a local on the journey I am on yet again.
I have been told by people that they cannot join my Facebook fan page because of the chance that someone on their friends list will be on Facebook in the split second that they click “like” then go to their news feed to delete it. That moment, lasting under a minute, is enough to steer people clear of clicking one button to stay updated about an issue that they need support with daily, one that is so close to their hearts. I was there myself before Facebook dominated the internet; I created a blog, which later became the basis of my memoir, anonymously so that I could keep it hidden from my normal blog where my friends were. It’s frustrating that I am unable to directly help others with my advocacy by letting them know that it’s okay to come out with this disorder, that in fact life can be better!
It’s been 4 days since the launch of the Facebook fan page and I’ve been spamming/ washing the walls of social media sites with the fan page because I am proud. I am also terrified. Putting out my memoir with secrets from up to 7 years ago is one thing but to have a camera on you as you engage in skin picking and tell it what you’re thinking and feeling, that brings to the table a new level of intimacy that can’t be made up. Words in a book can come from a fraud, a very creative mind, but when it’s on the big screen as a cohesive story it’s very real and hard to forget. I see the current 231 “Like”s on Facebook and wonder if working on this documentary for 3.5 years was worth it- maybe such a low number is a sign that Scars of Shame is needed to bring awareness. I put my blood (literally), sweat, tears on the line and put myself in the spotlight because it’s my life mission. It needs to be done but I don’t see it happening, so I have to make it happen. If more people came out in this manner, I may feel the need to slowly back away from actively “creating” and let others take the reigns but I can’t until more people begin to speak up. In this sense, I feel alone again in having this disorder because of the choice I made to go public with it.
So then there’s a possible 3rd cycle, directly relating to the success of the documentary. With only 231 “Like”s (and each individual one is cherished!), when it’s entered into film festivals and moderators/ judges see that the audience isn’t there, they will reject it. Everyone needs to know that there is an audience for this documentary and that many people have been waiting for years for this to succeed.
Not enough “Like”s –> Judges/ TV stations not believing there’s a market for it –> Documentary is rejected –> It won’t get exposure, to people who need to see it –> The goal of awareness (for sufferers, for professionals, for the general public) fails
I beg you all to “Like” the fanpage- sharing it is an amazing bonus! I don’t have financial gain from this documentary so my need isn’t one from greed, it’s for having real awareness about this disorder done right. I have seen the fine cut version of the documentary and I am THRILLED that it was done with class to not turn sufferers into sideshows and it was put together remarkably well! It is an educational documentary done with respect to me, TLC, and the skin picking community. If this documentary isn’t the one to create awareness, I am terrified that one will come out in a few years from now that will take that platform… except it will be done to dehumanize us for the “shock factor” and that will be the first public look at Dermatillomania, which will set us back years in advocacy. PLEASE let Scars of Shame be the eye opening documentary- all it takes is liking the page, sharing the link and encouraging others to do the same. Through Twitter (#ScarsOfShame), Facebook, online forums, blogs… I really need you all!
New links to check out:
www.christinapearson.com – After 23 years of service to TLC, the founder Christina Pearson is embarking on a personal journey to further the awareness of Trichotillomania and Dermatillomania while helping those who are affected by these disorders.
https://www.facebook.com/CanadianBFRB – A Canadian version of TLC is in the works of being created! Show your support on Facebook and let’s help get this organization started!