I got to thinking tonight that if I could address my future/current partner about my mental illness, what would I say? Those of us with derma know how tricky it is to maintain relationships and intimacy because of the way we feel about ourselves. It’s a hard topic to discuss. When is the right time? When should we bring it up? Before or after they notice our uncanny obsession with our skin? And for those of us who are public about our disorder, what do you do when a person interested in you, reads about your illness online before you even have the chance to inform them of it? It sort of feels like someone has read your diary without your permission. I have had that happen to me before and I didn’t like it. The only alternative for me is to jump right in before I’m ready and share my intimate deals with a potential partner before they find me online. It’s not a nice situation to be in but the only alternative is to disappear online and I cannot do that to all of you who have kept me going for so very long. So I’m curious, what would you write to your future/current partner if you could? How would you explain this disorder to them? What would you want them to know? How would you want them to show that they understand? How would you want them to show that they care?
This is what I wrote…
Dear future/current partner,
If you have stumbled across my blog before we’ve had a chance to talk about this thing that I have, then please be honest and let me know.
Don’t pretend you haven’t seen it and then try and find ways to get it out of me.
This is not a secret of mine. This is a mental illness. A serious one. Not only has it physically damaged my body but the emotional trauma that living with this disorder has had on me, has been profound. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve almost committed suicide over this condition. It felt (feels) like the only way out at times.
I have had this since I was 4 years old. I’m almost 29. I cannot control it. It is a part of me. Sometimes I will go into remission and I will look almost completely normal, to the point you wouldn’t really think anything too serious is wrong with me.
And then I relapse. As you will no doubt see from my many photos and videos.
And of course the symptoms aren’t just physical. When I relapse it takes a huge toll on me mentally and emotionally. I become withdrawn, angry, depressed, anti-social and suicidal. Not only do I become my own punching bag but so do the people around me. The people closest to me. Although I am working on this.
If you are still reading this and are still interested then please know that it will take me a while to become comfortable in my own skin around you. I won’t let you see me naked unless the lights are off. I will flinch and pull away if I think you can see or feel my imperfections. I quietly die on the inside when you notice them. I know they are there; I don’t need to be reminded of them.
I will wear makeup all the time not because I love makeup or because I am trying to hide my true self from you, but because I find my own reflection so distressing that I don’t want to put anyone else through that.
And maybe you think I look fine. Beautiful perhaps. But after years upon years upon years of being called every synonym under the sun for ugly, I don’t feel anything but. I have been told my appearance makes people feel sick to the stomach. I’ve even been told that I look so f***ing disgusting that I should just kill myself already. So I wrote my goodbye letters and then thankfully found the courage to book myself into a mental hospital instead of acting on those words and taking my own life. These comments were made to me in my 20’s. I won’t even bother describing the school yard bullying. We all know the nasty things kids say. I don’t need to repeat them.
The point is. I don’t feel beautiful enough to let someone see me in my own skin. In the bare flesh with not a trace of makeup on. I don’t feel worthy enough of a partner. I don’t feel pretty enough to be someone’s ‘arm candy’. So I hide away. I am imperfect but I desperately long to be perfect. It’s why I have been attacking my skin for so long because I just want to be perfect. Makes no sense right? Yeah, it’s a skin picker thing. But I am so badly damaged now that I could never be perfect.
So this is me. It takes a lot to love me. It takes a strong person. Maybe you’ve met me at an ok part in my skin picking journey, because I certainly wouldn’t let anyone in otherwise, but there’s always the chance that I will slip up again. And I will look like I did in all of my old photos. The ones where I am so badly wounded and sore and broken that death felt like paradise to me.
And even though I know when I compare photos of myself now to ones of me even just a couple of years ago, I don’t look like that person anymore; I still feel like that person, and that is the person that I still see in the mirror each and every single day.
So if you’re still reading, perhaps you’re curious, perhaps you genuinely care and understand, perhaps you’re still interested.
Now you know a small part of my story and a large part of what makes me who I am. I’m open to talking about this with you. I want to talk about this with you. Especially if you’ve stumbled across this blog without me sharing this condition with you first.
I don’t need anyone to fix me. I don’t need anyone to help me. I don’t need anyone to judge me. I don’t need anyone to criticise me. If you think you will do any of those things, then please walk away now. Because all I need is someone to understand and love me for who I am.
This is me. You don’t have to like me, hell I don’t even have to like me. But I can’t change me. I’ve learned to accept me for me (and I’m working on the loving part). All I ask is that if you stick around, you do the same… accept me, and all my imperfections, that is.