... a blog series about the people working behind the scenes here at CBSN.
Laura Barton, Blog Writer and Coordinator
- Born July 30, 1990
- Lives in Welland, ON
- Mental health advocate
- Author/compiler of Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars
What BFRB do you have?
I’ve had dermatillomania since I was roughly 5 years old, and developed dermatophagia somewhere in my preteen/early teenage years. My dermatophagia manifests as cheek biting mostly, but can also be lip biting and finger biting.
How is life with your disorders right now?
Right now, life with dermatillomania is great. I do what I can to live in spite of the disorder and don’t let it slow me down the way it used to. I’ve been wearing shorts and t-shirts even if I’m covered in Band-Aids and scars this summer, which is something I haven’t felt comfortable doing in a long, long time. I really just got tired of hiding and being uncomfortable. Every day is different, and some days I feel more confident than others, but for the most part I’ve been tackling it no problem.
Dermatophagia has its days with me. Sometimes I bite enough that my teeth hurt and I cause deep wounds that turn into painful canker sores, but most times the cheek biting doesn’t bother me as much.
Do you have a strong support network of friends and family to help you?
Absolutely! When I was younger, I didn’t think that I did. But the more I’ve become open about my BFRB, the more people have come forward to show their love and support. I have a really supportive boyfriend and my family is also a great source of support and encouragement. Joining online support groups has been a huge factor in developing my support network too because it was the first time I was able to talk to someone else who understood what I was going through.
Do you have any advice for others struggling with BFRBs?
Reach out, even if it’s just in an online support group. It’s amazing what talking to someone else who is going through the same thing you are can do. It removes that isolation and feeling of no one understanding. Even better, if there is a support group in your area, go. In either case, meeting someone who can say “me too” is one of the most comforting and reassuring things in the world.
Why did you get involved with CBSN?
When I first heard about CBSN (at the time called CTSN) I was really excited because it was a Canadian organization, something close to home that could really make a difference in my life. I knew I wanted to be a part of that from the start, but didn’t expect to be much more than a cheerleader on the sidelines helping to spread the word through sharing links and liking posts. When Sarah offered me the opportunity to be a part of the team and help out with blogs, I was beyond thrilled and jumped at the opportunity.
What do you like most about being a part of the CBSN Team?
I love being able to spread awareness about dermatillomania and other disorders. For me, it is super important to get that information out there so that others don’t suffer like I did when I was younger, without any answers and beyond confused and alone. No one should have to feel like that and since I have the opportunity to at least begin to bring about the change we need to see in information and awareness when it comes to these disorders, I’m going to do what I can.
And on top of that, the CBSN team is made up of an amazing group of people that I’m more than happy to work with and so proud to know.
What has had the biggest impact on you since joining the CBSN team?
The thing that has affected me the most is meeting people in person who have dermatillomania, trichotillomania and other BFRBs. It was great to finally be able to sit in a room of other people who share similar experiences and emotions. The sense of community and friendship that has come from that alone has been a big part of my own journey to recovery and these people give me strength everyday, even if they don’t know it.
What changes have you seen in the community or even your own life since joining?
In the community in general, there has been so much advancement in awareness already. There are article published almost regularly about BFRBs, and in Canada there are support groups popping up all over. More and more people are learning that they are not alone and that there is help for them.
In my own life, being more open about dermatillomania has opened up so many chances to connect with other people, both those who have a BFRB and don’t. Not only that, but it has allowed me to be freer and more comfortable in my own skin.
What do you hope to see happen with CBSN in the future?
My hopes for CBSN is that we will be able to reach out to more people through support groups and online. To have CBSN be a household name in the BFRB community would be fantastic and to be able to reach out to medical professionals and team up with them would be even better. Ultimately, breaking the stigma that keeps people in shamed silence would be the best possible future.