Stigma Fighters Teen

A place where voices are heard

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Don’t Let Dermatillomamia Rule You: Had Hope Amy

My head is almost always in pain. This is due to picking at my scalp – and occasionally my lips. If I were to pinpoint when I started to pick I would say it started when I was 13. At this point in my life I moved from living with my abusive mother who neglected me, my little brother and my Mum’s boyfriend. I was shipped off to my Dads home where he stayed with his wife and other children. This also involved moving from a practical city to a middle-of-nowhere countryside, no rules to many boundaries and my own room to a partly shared one.
By the time I was 15 my picking was almost constant. My hand was constantly on my head even when I was walking. My step mum would say “Hand down Amy” before I had even realised what I was doing. My head would also occasionally bleed. At this point my step mum decided to reveal that when I would visit my Dads house as a child (roughly 1 and 2 years old) I would pull my hair out.
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I realised my bad habit had a name. Dermatillomania. Dermatillomania is the repetitive and compulsive picking of the skin resulting in tissue damage. It is also said to be a form of self-injury which relieves anxiety. You can find dermatillomania on some OCD related pages as it was deemed a separate form of OCD. However, not everyone  agrees with that statement. The condition usually arises during teenage years or early 20’s and the condition is dominated by females.
It was almost a relief to see that my bad habit wasn’t just a bad habit and that I wasn’t suffering alone. I kept quiet about my discovery for a few months then eventually tried to reach out to my parents about seeking medical advice. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds due to living in a house with many other siblings and all of my attempts to reach out failed. For reasons that need not be included I was then shipped off, again, to live with my Grandparents where I eventually spoke out. A doctor’s appointment was booked.
There are many treatments for dermatillomania which include both behavioural treatments and pharmacological intervention. Online statistics show that very few people have managed to stop picking their skin themselves. I was pleased to be assigned therapy. I would have an hour of therapy every 2-3 weeks where the therapist would help me discover causes for my skin picking. We discussed alternatives such as wearing gloves and hats and she also had me keep a log of every time I picked.
The log was a huge eye opener to me. Without the use of the diary I would never have realised how much I pick or how my mind works in relation to my dermatillomania. The diary allowed me to see that I would pick for a few seconds every minute or so. If there was a time where I couldn’t pick for 10 minutes then the picking time would increase to a few minutes. Finally, if I didn’t pick for a few hours then, right before bed, I would pick for an agonisingly long time. This could range from 30 minutes to two hours!
There are many causes for dermatillomania and I still have many causes which I have not yet realised. Fortunately, through being self aware and due to hep from my therapist I can name a few of my causes. A common one I have that I have also seen online is that dermatillomania is a coping mechanism for stress and turmoil.  I experience turmoil in regard to not fully understanding why I have been unsupported and left by so many family members. Yet another, which comes from a psychological perspective, is that dermatillomania is a result of repressed rage due to authoritarian parents.  My Dad and Stepmum had many rules that I didn’t ever get used to and I disliked the seclusion of the countryside.
A stigma I have faced by the select few I have told about my condition is that I only pick at my skin because I get bored. While it is true that being very busy reduces the urge to pick it is not something that occurs due to boredom. Boredom is a feeling I can cope with without the help of picking.
I also suffer from depression and anxiety. I have found that picking, when I am not otherwise engaged, distracts my mind from the many sad thoughts I experience on a daily basis and thus keeps me somewhat happy; or, at least, above suicidal level.
At this point in time, at 17 years old, I have no family support. My therapist lost touch with me and despite going to the doctors again they were very unhelpful. My dermatillomania is still something I suffer from on a daily basis which frustrates me as I don’t want to do this to my own skin yet feel powerless towards the condition. The support I do have comes from my fiancé who tries to help me stop picking at my skin whenever he can.
As I grow older I do learn to cope with it better. When I first started therapy I would sleep all of my time away as sleeping is one of the few times where I don’t pick.  I now cope in a number of ways. When my hair is wet I don’t pick so I avoid using a hair dryer after washing my hair when I can. My dermatillomania is a coping mechanism for the depression I have and so I try to induce happiness whenever I can. This usually takes the form of reading and being with my fiancé. As I mentioned earlier, staying busy is also a good solution, since I love writing my blog which I recently started has also been a tremendous help.
Amy is a 17 year old who works full time in an office from 9 until 5. She is also trying to gain another administration qualification. Her hobbies include reading, acting, learning, volunteering and writing. In her spare time she writes whenever she can and runs a blog.

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Benjy A. – Suffering with Social Struggles in a Jewish High School

While depression is a life-long battle, there are bright moments. The moments that make you question what reason there was to give up; moments that make you glad for past sadnesses, so the bright spots seem ever brighter. I didn’t have those any of those moments until I was 18.
Prior, I had the polar opposite in spades. I was not well-liked. I was something of a town monster, since I drew comics indoors during recess and couldn’t understand the Hebrew terminology of a Jewish setting. Also I had minimal grooming habits which didn’t do me any favors. But I persevered throughout, and found myself past Eighth and Ninth grades and waltzing into Tenth.
To this day, that year is my second hell.
First, they were working on a new building for the nursery and elementary school. The whole dynamic of my alma mater is that you can start in nursery and end after high school or continue into further Hebrew studies. I got the heck out when June of Twelfth Grade rolled around. The building of the schools meant that students from the higher grades had to be the bigger men and move from their classrooms to new areas.
Some were moved to nicer areas in the building; others to nicer areas out of town. My class never had such luxuries. In fact, our first location was my own Synagogue. I was in heaven; I walked home sometimes. Of course, the class was too loud, so another class complained and we were moved. Then their Rabbi took his class out of my Synagogue shortly after because they didn’t like it. Fun fact: Unlike this fact, he was not fun. I took him the following semester; he was a nightmare. But when I saw him again a few years later, I told him how I felt and he apologized. I felt validated.
We were moved to a trailer on campus. Interestingly, being moved to a trailer on campus does not make a person feel very good. They feel like the scenery visible from the windows: like garbage. And I mentioned how I already didn’t groom (other than sad baths or being forced to cut my nails once a month). But as bad as I looked outside, I felt worse inside.
I didn’t take the changes well. I did enjoy drawing in the trailer more than our old class, but I also preferred constant supervision from a teacher with 25 students in September than one with 11 by January. The next year, he wasn’t a teacher, and he had less respect from the class than I did. Wow. I got sad from writing that. As nice as he was, trying to engage the students, he only confused them and drove them off. So it’s no surprise that when I broke down, he wasn’t really involved.
The breakdown. I broke down from a result of impossible communication on my end. I didn’t like sports, they thought my comics were pornography. I hated the Hebrew and English spliced into a single sentence, they thought that good, healthy bochurim could use a bissel bilinguistic skills. This caused a riff and, admittedly, I could have been better during interactions. I exaggerated situations and burst into unwarranted anger, but they didn’t stop… laughing, I hated their laughter.
They laughed at how I acted. How I spoke. My interests. One kid got a custodian to point and laugh (he didn’t know why, but he did). When I was at my wit’s end, one kid called me his friend, but I just walked away. I figured he would just laugh. My best friend came over, but I only sat in my dark room in the fetal position. He played video games in another room with my brother and his friends.
That was the night of no sleep. I never had a sleepless night before, and I didn’t want one then. I was fully awake. No subconsciousness sneaking up; no Sandman to bring me a dream. I didn’t breakdown in public with a flow of unleashed agony, but with a whimper through the night. My mother let me stay home, but after an hour of tossing and turning, I actually went.
When I walked into the cubby room, I was approached with soft language and human emotions, the kind unprecedented until age eighteen. I had no clue what had happened, but I was glad it did. Later I found out my parents spoke to the faculty who spoke to the class. I have no idea what they said; certainly more than “no bullying or you’re suspended;” because students in high school can fake cruelty, but I don’t think they could fake kindness. Not that kindness.
Even in my lousy 11th grade I was able to push on from there, because I had the other students now to support me. And I’m glad they were, because 12th grade was my best year of high school. Sometimes all it takes is a great parent or two and a sleepless night.
About Benjy:
Benjy Fighter
Benjy A. was last seen as a teen in 2011 and he never looked back. While he does not follow the strict regimen of his alma mater, he may have cut off ties with many classmates, but he never cut off the strings of his undershirt. His biggest aspiration at the moment is getting those damn kids off of his yard.

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Sarah Fader: One Bad Ass Mental Health Advocate

Introducing Sarah Fader, the amazing founder of Stigma Fighters! Her story is such an encouragement to me, and many others. And I want her story to encourage and touch all of you the way it has me!

Sarah has suffered from panic since she was a teen. She says, ” I knew that there was something wrong with me when I was 15. My heart would race uncontrollably. I was afraid of dying. Every day my senior year of high school I would wake up and vomit bile. I was afraid I would never be able to take care of myself when I became an adult because of my mental illness.”

I asked her what a defining moment in her life was when it came to mental illness, because I feel everyone has one. But I also wanted to know what made her want to share her story.

She says, “When I had my children, it was a life defining moment. Suddenly, I had to take care of myself and two other humans. It was time to tell the truth about my mental illness. That’s when I told my story on the Huffington Post.

Statistically it is very common to have mental illness. Therefore, someone that might children know or possibly one of my children may develop a mental illness later in life. And that is nothing to be ashamed of. I want to change the way that the world sees human beings living with mental illness.”

Her children being part of her motivation really touches my heart, because she’s such an amazing mother. Sarah is a single mom, and it’s never easy to be a single parent. But how well she manages her mental illness while also being a single mom of two, makes her a super hero in my eyes!

Mental illness has a grasp on every part of people’s lives, and I wondered how it affected her being a mother. But her response nearly brought me to tears, ” With regard to anxiety it is difficult to parent sometimes. There are plenty of times that I have to remind myself to take a deep breath when I’m feeling stressed with my children. Ultimately, I know that I am a good mother.  And I talk to my children when I am feeling anxious. I explain to them what that means in an age-appropriate way that they can understand. The most important thing for my children is that they feel loved.”

I love how she handles it, and I hope to handle it the same way when I one day have kids.

I know that my family isn’t all supportive of me and my mental illnesses, but I wondered how her family felt about hers, because I’ve seen a lot of people with supportive family and a lot with very unsupportive.

” My family knows that I struggle with a variety of mental illnesses. I am very candid and open with them about that and they are very supportive.” I was really happy to know that she does get supoort, because support is so important.

She shared her story on the Huffington Post, her inspiration being her kids, but I wondered how sharing her story affected her negatively or positively.

” The best part of sharing my story was I felt free. A weight was lifted from my heart.The only negative side to sharing my story was the fear that I experienced while writing it. When a caterpillar changes into a butterfly is not a pleasant experience.  However, when you come out from the cocoon you are free,” she told me.

This made me wonder how she got the idea of starting Stigma Fighters, to which she said, ” When I shared my story about living with mental illness on the Huffington post I received an outpouring of support.  Readers told me that I was brave. They confessed about their own mental illnesses. I realize that there was nowhere for them to tell their stories. So I created a place for them to do that. That place is Stigma Fighters.”

However, she was 15 when she knew something was wrong, which made me wonder if she, like me and so many others, was scared to share it when she was younger.

She told me, ” I was very scared to be vocal about living with mental onus when I was younger. I overcame that fear when I was in my 30s. What made it possible for me to talk about mental illness was that I noticed that more and more people were telling their stories online. Society was beginning to recognize mental illness as somethin real. I am so glad that people are speaking up and being brave and telling their stories.”

Now that she has become such a powerful mental health advocate, I wondered what where the positive things that came from it, and if any negate things, what they were.

“The most difficult part of being a mental health advocate is the lack of understanding in our society about what mental illness is. Unfortunately, there are still people believe that mental illness does not exist. We need to change this.The best part of being a mental health advocate is meeting like-minded people. Another wonderful part of being a mental health advocate is changing the world.”

And the one thing she wants all of you to know, is you aren’t alone. FB_IMG_1420212959341