The area of my life where my picking impacts the most is my social life. The relationships that I form with family, friends and partners are constantly impeded by my impulse control disorder – Dermatillomania. Family will comment on my spots and my scars, remarks that are hurtful but that are probably only made because they care – yet it forms a barrier between us. I become upset with them, so I take it out on myself (I pick) and then I resent them. Friends invite me out clubbing or to the beach and I have to come up with excuses as to why I can’t go. Then they stop inviting me out as much. Especially considering I don’t handle “drop-by” visits very well – I need substantial notice to cover my skin.
And partners! Where do I even begin to start with partners? Partners are usually those we are most intimate with. The ones who see us stripped naked – both internally and externally. How do you even begin to let someone into the life of a Dermatillomaniac? For me it’s usually been a slow process… friendship first, only hanging out with them when my picking is reasonably controlled and I’m covered in makeup, sex happens only in the dark, sleepovers are usually avoided. My son’s father did not see me fully naked until I had to give birth to our son – and even then I tried to stay fully clothed much to the midwives and doctor’s dismay haha!
Sometimes I have pre-warned potential partners that I have Dermatillomania by showing them old pictures of myself and telling them a little bit about the disorder; other times I have not mentioned anything until a few months into the relationship they ask me why I fidget so much with my skin and then I am forced to give an explanation. Either way the issue, whenever and however it is brought up, is a tricky one to negotiate. And that’s when I start wishing I could stop picking before I meet my next partner so I never have to cross this bridge again.
But how realistic is that wish? Yes, one day I might stop… but am I letting people slip through my fingers in the meantime? Distancing myself from others until I have this disorder under control? I like someone at the moment, he’s just a friend, but he wouldn’t even have the slightest inkling about what exists under my clothes and under my makeup. And I don’t want him to know because I am embarrassed by it and I am disappointed in myself that I still do this. So the reality of the situation is that for now, he just remains a friend, while I continue to awkwardly turn down offers to hang out.
I want to stop for him. Well, for everyone really – for my family and friends as well. But I can’t stop for them – I have to stop for myself. And I have to want to stop! And although I do, I really do, I know there’s still a part of me that holds onto the picking because it’s all I’ve ever known. It’s my safe place: a haven almost, that I can use to hide away from the world when it all gets too much.