The Girl with the Gloves
I am the girl who wears the gloves.
Finding your identity in high school is never easy and sadly the first thing that most people judge you on is your appearance. My entire life I have been a skin picker, but with the stress and anxiety that comes with high school the habit escalated to the point that I would soon have red angry bumpy scars on my wrist. So my solution as per usual was to cover them up, and thus I became the girl with the gloves.
Whenever someone describes my appearance they usually say, “You know, that girl who wears fingerless gloves.” Many people assume it’s a fashion statement, others the trusted few in my life know the truth. The gloves protect me from prying eyes, from making the scars worse than they are and they render me a level of comfort.
As high school wore on and I grew up, I never stopped wearing my gloves. I wear fishnet gloves in the summer, woolly gloves in the winter, lace to formal occasions and cotton whenever I feel like it. I became recognized easily by the fact I wore my fingerless gloves, and after awhile I didn’t mind. The gloves let me cope with my problems without outing myself to the entire world.
I have Dermatillomania, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Impulse Control Disorder, and Clinical Depression. Quite a recipe for disaster some would say, and for many years my condition controlled my life. I woke up with my arms and hands bloodied from picking and scratching through the night, I would be late for class because I HAD to stop and tear the dead skin off my hand or organize my locker, I’d sleep all day because I couldn’t get out of bed or I’d run petrified from the classroom because I felt like I was being watched. Those are only small examples of how my life was controlled by mental illness but with the help of my Doctor and also taking some time to get to know myself I have become stronger then I have ever been before.
Dermatillomania, OCD and ICD in my case fall in with each other in a frightful way. Dermatillomania already influences my need to pick, scratch, tear to remove anything that looks wrong. OCD makes it so it is the only thing I can think of, ICD makes it so I cannot stop. I have torn my hands, feet, face, chest and arms to ribbons before. I have scars covering the better part of my body thanks to this condition. Though the thing about living with a BFRB (Body Focused Repetitive Behavior) is that not many physicians and experts on mental illness truly know what it is yet.
I learnt about the condition thanks to a Youtuber I simply adore, Beckie0 and her vlogs about Trich and Derma opened up a wide world of knowledge for me, using some of her explanations I sat down with my doctor and discussed my symptoms with her. We did research together and my doctor even requested more information on Dermatillomania so she could advocate for me properly and treat me.
I have managed to reach out and help other sufferers in my community, the other day I was working and a woman about sixty years old asked me for help selecting a brand of bandages. While we spoke she was nervously scratching her forearm and tugging on her sleeves, after a few moments she told me why she needed bandages that would stay on her skin throughout a full workday and into the evening, rolling up her sleeves she revealed the same scars I wear on my own skin. She laughed nervously and quickly covered them up and told me she doesn’t know what’s wrong with her.
Now at work, no one is aware of my condition, I do not share that sort of information because frankly I fear discrimination. Though in this moment whilst looking into the eyes of this nervous woman I took no hesitation and peeled off my gloves showing her my own scars. “Nothing’s wrong with you,” I told her trying my best to smile warmly. I explained to her what I knew and showed her the Canadian BFRB Network website on her smartphone. By the end of our discussion she began to cry, she explained to me that she had been picking her skin since she had children in her twenties and had no idea why. She felt like a pariah, like she was cursed. She had never met someone with the same condition, until she had met me. I hugged her tightly and she left the store with a bag of bandages and a smile on her face, I swear I could see a twinkle of hope in her eye.
Opening up to a stranger, was terrifying but I never felt better for doing so. I’ve been fighting my battles with BFRB, I’ve been at war with Derma since I was a child. I understood all too well how this woman felt and being able to arm her with knowledge was liberating. While we cannot really cure something like this, we can treat it and attempt to break our bad habits, we can also get through the daily struggles by helping each other.
I pick at my skin everyday, I tear off my nails and I can still give myself a new scar, rune my clear skin etc. It depresses and upsets me but I’ve learned to live with it to the point where I know there is life outside this condition and though I am struggling it does not have to control me. Now I wont pretend, my mother is always slapping my hands out of my mouth or telling me to stop picking when she sees me scraping at my skin. My friends still catch me picking constantly or they will notice I tore a hole in my face while I got ready for school. Dermatillomania, and any other mental illnesses are terrifying but you don’t have to be afraid of them. You just need to accept the fact that these are only parts of you they are not the entire picture. It is up to you to show the world the entire picture, to clear up the shadow that is mental illness and shine the light.
“No matter how dark or scary the world is right now, there will be light.” -James Gordon (Gotham)
Nicole, is a twenty one year old college student living in the United States. Currently her dream is to be a journalist and write for a living; when she’s not writing you can usually find her reading comic books or making costumes. http://ifanyoneknew.wordpress.com