As we enter into the long and challenging 3rd lockdown National lockdown in 12 months I thought I would try and be very very brave.
Last year I did something a little crazy and it resulted in the creation of The Naked Truth Calendar. The Calendar has raised £822 (to date) for Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation (BDD), my aspiration is to get to £1000. That means I only need to sell 18 more to make it, and to do so I am going to share with you my lifelong secret shame.
The calendar project came about last May, during the first lockdown, and attracted 24 amazing, extraordinary, real and wonderful people from the local area and people I know from the Monster Raving Loony Party. All 24 of us stepped out of our comfort zone to help ourselves: to raise awareness of mental health issues (particularly during this pandemic); and to support a body positive message.
Each of the 24 images in the calendar is not standalone, it comes with a paragraph or so of text about the individual ‘model’. Many share very raw and intimate information, of abuse, trauma and mental health.
My personal story, is one of a secret shame I have hidden my entire teen and adult life; whilst I went from one dermatologist to another; one period of depression/anxiety/panic to another, I was hiding the fact that the real cause of much of my dermatological issues and one symptom of my mental health struggles was, and still is, Dermatillomania.
Dermatillomania is a body focused repetitive behaviour on the OCD spectrum resulting in obsessive skin picking. Whereas some people may occasionally pick at a scab or spot; someone with Dermatillomania will constantly be scanning their skin (for me often just with my minds eye) seeking out perceived lumps/ bumps/ faults, and digging, scratching and picking at them repeatedly. The act offers a cathartic, soothing appeal whilst happening, followed by a guilt and shame.
I met the author of this book, Dr Nicole Schnackenberg at a business event held by Seetec Group (for whom I used to work) to celebrate 35 years in business; the event supported several charities. Nicole is the Secretary of the BDD Foundation and is a child, community and educational psychologist with lived experience of BDD. The book was in the goodie bags. I read it and cried. It directed me to an amazing woman called Liz Atkin, who is an artist and activist for Dermatillomania. Nicole recommended I watch this from the 2016 BDD Conference. I sobbed. She was telling my story.
I am now 52. I have been self harming with this at least since I was 13/14, on and off, and, until very recently, other than briefly with my partner, have never spoken about it out loud. A couple of times in past years I have tried to raise it with doctors, only to have it dismissed. Most of the time I’ve pretended it was purely dermatological based. Last year though, I finally came out and wrote the words down. The story of me is there on the calendar. Towards the end of last year I tried again with a different doctor and she finally heard me.
Writing my piece for the calendar was a massive deal. Receiving a box of 150 calendars that included this story and selling them to local people was terrifying. The words far more frightening than the sharing of the tasteful nude image of myself.
If you would like to buy a copy of the calendar they are £10 (all of which goes to the charity) plus £2.95 p&p … message me and pay me directly. If you wish to make a donation to show support without wanting a calendar, click here.