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6 Things I Want Other People With Dermatillomania to Know

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Living with dermatillomania (also called excoriation or skin-picking disorder) comes with many challenges. Many have to do with the sheer lack of information there is about the disorder. At the same time, even with the information that is available, it still takes some navigation to figure out how to deal with the disorder and everything that comes along with it. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned about this disorder over the past 21 years I’ve lived with it.

1. This is not damnation.

So many of us look at this disorder as a “life-ender” of sorts. Because there is no known cure and not many treatments are long-lasting or effective yet, the idea of not being able to ever stop scares the hell out of people. (Understandably so.) When I first thought about living with this disorder forever, I was in a state of turmoil. I hated the disorder. I hated that I couldn’t control it, and I hated myself most of all.

What I’ve learned is even if this disorder is forever, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Picking my skin, which leaves marks and scars, is not ideal, I agree, but it doesn’t have to be the end of my life. You can still live a happy and full life despite this disorder.

2. The comments come from a place of ignorance.

People say or type nasty things. They say things like we’re diseased, freaks, disgusting and so on and so on. Every single one of those comments comes from a place of ignorance. Even if the person says they understand or know about the disorder, they clearly have more to learn. If they actually had any inkling of what it was like to live with this, then they probably wouldn’t be saying any of those things. Their words are not a reflection of us or our own value as human beings; however, their words are a reflection of their lack of information and empathy.

3. Your marks and scars don’t define you.

Relating to the above, these picking spots and scars don’t mean squat about you as a human being. People with dermatillomania are some of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met and they each have a bucketful of other wonderful traits to go along with it. Skin is skin. It is not who we are and neither is dermatillomania.

4. You are absolutely worthy of all things great.

Flawed skin does not determine whether you deserve amazing things in life. We are still worthy of love and friendship and kindness, and we can have it. It might take someone to show us we are still worthy of these things. Just know if you’re feeling worthless, it’s all a lie.

5. Sometimes this disorder still sucks.

At the risk of negating all the positive things I’ve said so far, I have to admit this disorder still sucks sometimes. It can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing. It can be exhausting having to explain things and trying to cover things up. And that’s OK. Not every day has to be wonderful, and we’re definitely allowed our not-so-great days. It doesn’t mean we’ve failed or we’re slipping away from recovery. It just means we’re having an off day.

6. You can find peace.

What all of the above amounts to is finding peace with yourself and with the disorder. It might seem like an insurmountable achievement, but the possibility is there. It might take a short or long time, but we each can find this and the sense of freedom that comes from it.

Originally published: July 28, 2016
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