Have you ever wondered what it would be like for a film crew to follow you day in and day out, documenting your daily rituals all in an effort to create a successful film? Is your life interesting or exciting enough that a film company would want to "make a story" out of your existence?
After being approached by a local film crew four and a half years ago, I was surprised to learn that my life was. I was a 23-year-old female who had just dropped out of college and was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life while spending my downtime playing video games. Who was I to become a story that people would care to watch?
I left a few minor details out about my life that may answer these questions. By 23 I had already lived a life in seclusion and emotional confinement, keeping a seemingly unbelievable secret from everyone I possibly could out of fear of rejection, discrimination, and even institutionalization. I have a chronic condition called Dermatillomania, now known as "Excoriation Disorder" in the DSM-V which has left me scarred and disfigured on the outside, alienated and "different" on the inside.
After catching wind through a mutual friend of my desire to spread awareness about this Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB), a film crew thought my story was unique enough to share with the world.
Other than people wanting to wrap their minds around the sensationalistic horrors of how someone can tear her own skin apart daily, another reason why my journey is fascinating to a crowd is because I haven't been properly treated here in Nova Scotia, Canada. In fact, there are only two treatment providers in Canada who have the specialized training to treat people like me. So I am left to "deal" with the fact that I may never recover and had to force myself to appreciate my body how it is, despite it being heavily marked-up. It is estimated that up to 5 per cent of the population has a BFRB yet practitioners do not have the incentive here to be educated about the necessary evidence-based treatments that helps us prevent ourselves from picking at our skin to the point of irreparable damage and causing debilitating distress.
In 2011, the film crew provided me the opportunity to meet others like myself for the first time ever at the Trichotillomania Learning Center conference in San Francisco. They followed me around with cameras as I got to speak with other people with Dermatillomania for the first time. This was the experience that truly opened my eyes to the fact that there are others in the world like myself who battle with this horribly isolating condition. I also learned that there are professionals out there who have successfully treated people like me and it pains me that Canada has been resistant in learning how to help patients with BFRB's instead of simply throwing us in the Obsessive-Compulsive category and then wondering why those approaches aren't successful.
There is hope -- it just hasn't been cultivated in our country (except Toronto); how bad does my condition have to get until a professional out there cares enough to learn the groundbreaking methods being taught in the USA?
The hardest part about the filming was when I was given a camera for "diary entries." This did not leave me alone with my all-encompassing disorder and I was forced to be aware of the unfaltering lens that didn't discriminate against any detail of my behaviour. I confided in the camera to tell it about my issues concerning leaving the house, my body image, what it was like to put out a brutally honest memoir that erased my imaginary safety net of social protection, about my darkest moments, and how frustrating it is to feel misunderstood by a population who has no idea this condition exists... essentially, that I exist.
This second chapter of my awareness journey will be released April 25, 2014 and it is called Scars of Shame. This very first documentary about Dermatillomania will not only reach other sufferers, but also mental health professionals who can better learn how complex this, justifiably coined "orphan disorder," really is.
With my story being the headline of the documentary, you will get to see how the thoughts in my head manifest onto my skin, what professionals have learned about my actions, and that I'm not alone as we also capture the stories of other people struggling with BFRB's. Personally, I'm anxious about my life being publicized for anyone to access but I cannot wait until this documentary reaches the people who need it while the professionals who can learn from it through interviews with top BFRB specialists can finally get on board with properly providing adequate treatments for us worldwide.
For information on screenings and to support us, visit us on Facebook. See the trailer below: