I recently posted Part 1 of a conversation between Eugene and me about BDD, dermatillomania, and a whole slew of other issues. Here is Part 2 of the conversation.
With all my love.
Veva: You recently told me that there were times during our relationship when it became very frustrating and/or difficult to be with me because of the skin picking. Can you recall one of those times?
Eugene: I think the clearest one was when you were seeing a steady improvement in your picking. You decided to stop taking the medication, but then you hit a rough patch, so you went back to the pills again.
Veva: Yeah, I remember you being pretty upset.
Eugene: And the reason I was so frustrated was because I just knew that meds weren’t the answer for you. Even when you were on them, they didn’t really help your symptoms and they’d leave you with a large number of side effects.
At the same time, I saw that when you consistently worked on the cognitive behavioral therapy, and kept track of your thoughts, you would improve, albeit with the occasional setback. Each time you relapsed you had a tendency to think that you hadn’t made any progress. It ties into what I was saying earlier. It’s not about stopping the picking cold turkey, it’s about making small improvements and really REALIZING those improvements, and taking solace in them when you do have a relapse.
Now, there are certainly people that might be very happy with taking medication and have a good quality of life with them. But for some people it might be worth it to take the long struggle, and figure out how to deal with these issues through alternative methods.
I also became frustrated when you were unwilling to share whatever was on your mind, and the reason behind your relapse or mood swings. What would help you was going, step by step, through what triggered your urges so that next time you’d be able to intercept those feelings early on. But sometimes you would just shut me out for hours at a time and not tell me anything. It was frustrating trying to break your walls down and just getting you to talk and vent, to help you relieve some of the pressure built up within you.
Veva: I think there’s a lot to address in what you said. And I’m not going to try to defend myself, but I just sort of want to give you an idea of what was going through my head…vulnerability played a big role in that shutting out business. Suddenly, here was a person whom I loved very, very much, more than any other boyfriend I’d ever had, and I needed to be perfect. And I wasn’t. I saw it as the ultimate failure.
And at that time I was trying to come to terms with this abuse that was still under my skin. I shooed it away because I hated admitting that it still had an effect on me – his words, his touch finding points to echo off of in my current life, even in you. None of me wanted to remember. In my mind, it was so long ago and I reasoned I should have moved on by now. But I’ve come to understand that healing from anything, even just verbal abuse, can take years and years. Shutting you out was my way of separating you from that part of my history. I’m glad that you have given me the room and the time to work through this facet of my life.
And then there’s the medication bit you mentioned. When I was first diagnosed, I was told, more or less, that a pill would cure me. I know now that that’s pure hogwash. But what a beautiful dream that would be! And I think it’s something I clung onto for so long because I really didn’t want to work through my thoughts and emotions. I especially didn’t want to work with my body. I had just gotten out of a sexually abusive relationship. A lot of darkness and anger lingered.
Working through my thoughts and emotions meant that I had to delve into my own personal underworld – and I know I tend to overuse that metaphor, but it’s the best one out there, and quite apt. When I began dating you, I just wanted a new life – a life without skin picking, or anger or hurt.
But no one gets a brand new start. No one (or, at least, very few people) can take a pill to demolish their demons. But now I see all these brave bloggers countering their darkest fears through writing and this social network world instead, and I think it’s great. I think the internet serves as a community tool that really connects us as human beings, simply because we don’t have to pretend to be someone we’re not. We don’t have to put on a face for the world. We can write and vent and the world will not stop and stare as much as it will empathize.
Eugene: Not to interrupt you, but the way you said, “work through my thoughts and emotions” was exactly what I was getting at before. It is really difficult to undertake a journey like that, and the easy solution that is backed by doctors and scientists and research doesn’t involve months or possibly even years of painful introspection. So it’s more appealing to people.
Veva: I agree. And to add to what you said, I definitely think emotion is missing from Western medicine. I’ve been studying healing on the soul level, as you know, and it sounds really new-age-y and silly when you put it like that – soul healing – but really, what else is there? Our bodies and emotions are fragile. We are sensitive. We break and hurt and scar. Stress raises blood pressure, forced sex caused UTI’s.
Our bodies are physical manifestations of the soul’s world. Why not treat it as such, instead of with pills? And I’m not saying pills don’t have their place. They most certainly do. I just think we need to make room for emotion, love and soul in the healthcare field. We’ve grown up believing that these concepts don’t belong in medicine, but they do.
Eugene: And I think that ties in nicely with the renewed attention to mental health in light of the recent violence across America. There needs to be just as much focus on mental/emotional health as there is on heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
Veva: Exactly. Scientists have been studying these connections for ages, but slowly I think links are finally being formed. This is quite an exciting time for the world. But I’m an optimist.
Did you ever feel hurt by my self-destructive behavior, or the repercussions it had on my mood?
Eugene: I think I would get more upset over the repercussions of your skin picking and how down and hopeless you would feel after a relapse. I had a hard time convincing you that you could get better. Sometimes you would personally attack me because you were angry at yourself about a recent relapse, and I’d get upset when you found a way to twist it around and claim that I was trying to control you, or that I was being too harsh on you.
Veva: I remember a lot of that. I still feel awful about those times. I guess I was just stressed out. All these demands I was placing on myself, and every time I failed it felt like none of them had been met. There was just so much anger, and it was easy to displace that anger on you. I’m glad we’re both at a better place now, and that things have smoothed out.
I think I’m done with my questions. Do you have anything you want to add?
Eugene: If a person truly sees value in who you are as a person, they’ll be willing to work with you and help you through whatever issues you have – as long as you’re willing to make the same commitment to them. And I think it’s important to realize that being attractive to someone does not come from being perfect, but instead from allowing your inner personality to shine through. It comes from putting your true thoughts and feelings out there as best as you can. The more you express who you are on the inside, regardless of flaws, the more “perfect” you will become for your significant other.