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Letting Go of Needing a Cure for My Dermatillomania

The word “cure” is complicated. Depending on what your intentions are, it can be used in many ways. For instance, if you’re a shyster, the word “cure” can become a tool used to lure people into buying a product or an idea. If you’re on the other end of that, say a person with a chronic or mental illness, then the word “cure” can seem like a last vestige of hope of getting your life back or being “normal.”

I used to cling to the word “cure” as my last lifeline. I’m on the mental illness side of things, living with depression, anxiety and dermatillomania, also called excoriation (skin-picking) disorder. While the depression and anxiety have definitely been exhausting at different points in my life, it was always dermatillomania I wanted a cure for. It was the one, from the age of 5, that made me the most broken.

My thoughts were: without the disorder in my life, I’d be happier and people would like me more. I’d be normal. I could go through life unassumingly or go on to do the great things the disorder was holding me back from.

I wanted that cure. I needed it. I would pray for it constantly and cry over the fact that it never came.

Over time, I had to learn to let go of the word “cure.” Mostly because I was hinging too much of my life on it and hoping it would be my salvation. Really, I had to be my salvation. I know it sounds defeatist, but hear me out. Waiting for a cure, my life wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it was getting worse as I inched closer and closer to suicide.

For a person who picks her skin like me, the word “cure” can seem like the only thing preventing the entire world from crashing down around us. In reality, it’s just a word and a potentially counteractive hope that can keep us sick. I say can because everyone is different. For me, and for many others I know who have seen in the body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) community, the word “cure” does not bring salvation. Mostly because a “cure” doesn’t exist.

We live in a time where there are barely any viable treatments for dermatillomania, let alone a cure. Coming to that realization, I realized I had to let it go.

The word “cure” had become my crutch. Something I would lean on and say, “Yeah, it’s really bad right now, but someday, it will be stopped.” I had to stop leaning on that crutch and learn to stand on my own, even with my skin-picking disorder. For me, that was one of the best things I could ever do.

I understand it is beyond difficult to do. I understand it can feel like you’re ripping your soul out, but my point is we can’t rest and rely on a cure that may or may not ever exist to make us better. Whether it’s a matter of seeking out new treatments, learning to manage our illness or finding support in some other way, we have to be an active part in our recovery and we can start doing that right now.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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