Last year I wrote about my experience with dermatillomania, also known as compulsive skin picking. It’s part of the OCD spectrum of behaviors, where I have the compulsion to pick at the skin on my fingertips and lips, often until they’re bleeding or scarred. It’s worse when I’m nervous or stressed because I oddly find it soothing, but I’ll also do it absent-mindedly. If you want to learn more, check out my original post.

So why am I talking about it again? Well for one thing, people often ask me about it. I’ve had so many people coming out of the woodwork saying “Holy crap, I do that too!” Mental illness has so much stigma that it helps to remind people that “Hey, I’m not totally right in the head…but that’s perfectly fine.”

But I also want to mention it because someone (who also suffers from dermatillomania) knew I was seeking treatment, and they asked me if it was effective. Honestly…not really. That doesn’t mean no treatment for dermatillomania is effective. I was going to my university health center, which doesn’t specialize in this particular disorder. I really liked the therapist I ended up meeting with over the summer, but she had never tried to treat someone with my condition before. I’d likely have better luck controlling my compulsion if I went to a specialist, but honestly my problem isn’t bad enough to shell out the money.

Talking to a therapist about my dermatillomania did help me out in one important way: I no longer feel guilty about what I do. And the guilt was one of the worst things about it. I felt terrible trying to explain my scarred fingertips to someone who happened to see. I felt ugly and unattractive after chewing on my lips too much. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t control my own behavior.

But talking to a therapist reminded me that it was okay to not be in control sometimes. People with cystic fibrosis or nearsightedness don’t get told that they should just control themselves better. We accept that they have health problems that they didn’t choose to have. I’ve now accepted that I didn’t choose this mental health disorder, and it’s okay if I have a hard time dealing with it.

This is post 26 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.