I was one of those people who thought I would never be in a relationship. A lot of different things made me believe that, but one of the biggest reasons I thought that was because of my skin picking disorder. When my disorder is at its worst, I can be covered from head-to-toe in open wounds, but even just having one wound would (and still does to some extent) send me into freak out mode. I would think, “Who would want to look at this mess? No one would dare even touch my skin. What will he/she think of the bandages?” And then even if everything healed, there will always be scars.
I’m sure hair pullers can relate in their own way to this worry. “Who would want to look at bald patches? Or lack of eyebrows/eyelashes? Who could stand to look at me like this or touch my hair? And what if it doesn’t grow back quite right? What if it doesn’t grow back at all? What will he/she think about my wig/hairpiece?”
Because of all this pent up anxiety swirling around in us, we label ourselves doomed and start using the “forever alone” image, even if just to ourselves.
But then the anxieties don’t even stop there. If we do pursue a relationship, when do we tell our partner? How do we tell him/her? How will he/she react? More importantly, will we be able to handle a negative reaction?
The truth is, our anxieties are going to tell us a lot; some of it may turn out to be true, but the vast majority of it is just senseless worrying. Or maybe it would be better to say it just won’t actually end up happening, since worries sometimes seem to make perfect sense to us.
Yes, there are people who won’t be so kind with their reactions, but there are so many people who will be supportive, and do their best to help you and to understand. Relationships and BFRBs aren’t impossible. Yes, we have to work through our fears and insecurities at first, but it can be done. There are so many of us with BFRBs who are in long term relationships, who are engaged and who are even married, which just proves that there are people who see beyond the BFRB to who we really are as human beings. They still see the beauty in us. They help us see the beauty in ourselves.
What do we do when we come across those bad eggs though? I know it’s tough to think about, but they may indeed come along. My suggestion? Don’t put up with it! If anyone uses your disorder, something that is not your fault, against you in any way, that’s not right. You deserve better than their ignorance and abuse. I know, we are always inclined to give people another chance, but don’t do it to the point that you sacrifice your own well being. Giving someone a second chance is one thing, to be miserable in the process is another.
Just recently, in a peer support meeting, one of the members shared how she was both happy and sad to have just broken up with her boyfriend. Sad because it was someone she had cared for, but happy because how he treated her was unacceptable. She had shared with him about her BFRB and he did the nasty thing of using it against her. She broke up with him on the spot.
I share this story not to scare you or confirm your anxieties, but to show that we shouldn’t and don’t have to put up with any mistreatment. Not all reactions will be like this. Some will be supportive. There are even times when your partner is just waiting for you to bring it up because he/she has already seen the signs. When you tell your partner though is up to you; when you’re comfortable and when you’re ready to share. Sometimes that’s right away, sometimes that’s a long time coming. Ultimately, your partner will probably be happy that you trusted him/her with your secret.
In the end, I think BFRBs and relationships are like all relationships. Some will be bad, but there’s so much opportunity for good as well. We just have to take a chance and trust. Trust our partner, but also trust ourselves to know when we may need to back out. Most things in life involve risk, and this is just one more instance of that. Instead of focusing on the potential bad our anxieties are so keen to have us pay attention to, let’s focus on all the potential good and trust that we can handle anything that comes our way. It may take some work, but we can do it.