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How Escaping My Comfort Zone Helped My Relationship with Dermatillomania



So I’m 26 now. A young woman in her apparent ’prime time.’ I’ve seen and done a lot when looking back on recent years. I think about the friends I’ve made, the loves I’ve had and naturally lost, and the places I’ve lived. My name is Kim and I’m from the Northeast of England, living in London for the past couple years.

When I first moved here, I really had no idea what to expect other than what I’d seen in the past as a tourist. I underestimated how the constant, non-stop-hustling mentality would affect me, and in turn, my Dermatillomania. My skin-picking disorder massively manifested during this time because of my busy commutes, the stressed-out people around me, and the fact everything is overpriced. I wasn’t earning a lot, but managed to find and move into a lovely flat with a girl that was also new to London.

For anyone that has lived in this massive city, you’ll understand how overwhelming it can be. I found it pretty difficult to make long-lasting friends too as the cycle of new people constantly replenished as others moved out in order to save and build their lives. London is for the spontaneous, but not for the long term – unless you’re rich.

My face and body looked like a battlefield. I let out all of my stress onto myself and hoped I’d start to settle in the discomfort. Dating was hard because I just didn’t seem to connect with anyone. Plus, my skin looked so horrendous that I was secretly happy no one was getting close enough to me to uncover the truth.

It wasn’t until I met my now boyfriend, that I started to see some longevity here. It really feels like I found the needle in a haystack because two years later, I’m still head over heels in love and completely in awe of his support and care.

With Dermatillomania, it’s easy to prepare your skin for close contact – as I have suffered for 13 years now, I understand that I can manipulate my picking in order to clear my skin for special occasions, before going on overdrive afterwards as a form of a ‘reward’. It took a lot of time and admittedly a lot of courage for me to step forward and tell him what I’ve been going through. After all, if this was going to work, we’d have to be transparent and I wouldn’t be able to hide the truth from him forever. I didn’t want to, either.

Fast forward and we’ve lived together for over a year, now saving in his family home to eventually purchase a first home of our own. Our flat was next to a dual carriageway with constant noise 24/7. Sleeping was as hard as the bed; the flat was terribly hot in temperature and overpriced for what it was worth. I felt so stressed and my skin reflected this.

My job in tax had been driving me insane, with a lack of passion and a lot of stress in the atmosphere. I felt broken and lost. Everywhere I looked, I felt discomfort – my job, the area, the flat. The only stability I had was in my relationship.

I started a blog to document my personal journey with Dermatillomania and my attempt to incorporate more self-love and self-care in its place. This was by far my hardest challenge to date, but my most satisfying. I used this as an outlet and a way to sidetrack my overdriven mind from the noise surrounding me.

As Dermatillomania is a condition that rarely goes noticed (due to so many dealing with it in secret), I had no idea how to put my own struggles into a spotlight and use myself as a guinea pig in hopes to feel better inside and out.

For years I searched for someone to look up to – who understood and stood out with enthusiasm, as an advocate for this debilitating mental illness. Once I turned 26 and realised my struggle has stayed with me for half of my life now, I decided I would become that person.

I didn’t want to show only pain and suffering, but I wanted to show truth with humour. I wanted to understand new techniques that could help me such as skincare, supplements and nutrition, well-being, and psychology. I read countless forums online that made me feel understood, but was doubtful that I could find a way out because so many people wish for the removal of Dermatillomania. What I wanted was to learn how to manage it and that is what I am now doing.

It’s been almost two months and I believe I have hit the ground running. My blog is still a baby but I have been able to meet countless new people from all around the world through it as well as my social media accounts – all under the same name, Kim on Skin. So many admit that they had no idea they actually have a condition stemming from OCD and that Dermatillomania isn’t a habit, but a mental condition that needs help and patience.

Looking back, I’ve struggled with Dermatillomania for many years – some of my happiest times as well as all of my lowest. One thing I’ve realised, is that my relationship with Dermatillomania is now much stronger than ever before. I am so glad that I moved to a place that challenged me and tested my comfort. That forced me to admit to my love, myself, and others of the long, secret struggle I’ve been facing. Sometimes you’ve gotta find the answers for yourself when you feel you really want to come out on the other side of something. I didn’t want to move back home, I wanted to see this journey through – living in London with a truly amazing person as I change career direction.

The blog holds me accountable to my actions and I think twice now. Sure, I’m still not fully comfortable as I juggle all of life’s necessities in my partner’s family home; however, I am just so fortunate to have this experience in the first place. To be surrounded by love both offline and now online also.

My aim is to spread awareness on Dermatillomania and to show others that life doesn’t have to be so hard, not if we don’t want it to be. Procrastination is closely linked with excessive skin picking and now day by day, I push myself harder to see through my daily and long term goals.

I can’t say that I’m ‘cured,’ but I can say that I am better than before. I can’t tell you that I don’t have bad days after 13 years of struggle, but I can say that I have far more better days than ever before. And above all, I can say that I’m no longer embarrassed or ashamed of Dermatillomania because I have now made it my niche. It is unique to me and a way for me to reconnect with my inner self as well as many others. When I want to pick, I know I need to rebalance and because of the discomfort I have faced, I’m more comfortable with myself. That’s pretty cool.

Kim Mills is a guest blogger for Picking Me Foundation. She started her own blog, Kim on Skin, to document her journey with Dermatillomania and connect with and help out other Dermatillomania sufferers in need.