How to React with Compassion and What to do When People Don’t
In reading forums lately, I came across two posts that struck me as requiring comment. The first comment is for people who do not struggle with skin picking disorder, and my second comment is for people who do.
To people without skin picking disorder
Our behaviors and the way we interact with people profoundly impact others. While this statement might seem like common sense, magnify that by several hundred percents when it comes to people who struggle with mental health disorders. Then, think about the magnified levels of fear and anxiety someone experiences when they struggle not only with a mental health disorder, but a mental health disorder perceived by the rest of society as undesirable and unattractive. Therefore, any small amount of attitude or judgment you carry about people who are different in any way will be received as if heard by a loudspeaker.
Keep this in mind. No one knows what someone else goes through. Instead of trying to figure someone out by looking at them and making assumptions, turn on your compassion. Maybe that person could use a word of encouragement or someone to say hello without a pained expression and concerned tone. Maybe that person just wants to be seen and not just seen as someone with scars.
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To people with skin picking disorder
You are not your disorder. You are a unique and special person who happens to struggle with something that happens to you. You never deserve to be judged or treated poorly. When people judge you or treat you poorly, be courageous, and call them on it. Let people know that you do not appreciate their judgment, condescension, or rudeness. Set your boundaries and maintain them.
In my private therapy practice, I was often horrified at the treatment my clients described receiving. Sometimes this came from peers or strangers, but what horrified me the most was when it came from healthcare providers and therapists. While we expect that those in positions of power know better and assume that therapists know how to treat clients and families with respect, the sad thing is it does not always happen that way. But it doesn’t matter who it is, call them on it. You may be the first person they encounter with skin picking disorder, so you have a chance to educate them about it and about what is not ok.
You also have the right to ask for another provider or change providers. You have the right to bring a supportive other with you to lift you up and act as a gatekeeper if you need that. I had one client with a severe history of trauma who struggled to go to new places and events that were required for school. She asked for and received permission for her older sister to accompany her. The sister spoke for her when she felt she could not and helped her get out of situations she did not feel comfortable with but was too afraid to leave. After having her sister with her on a few occasions, she eventually was ok to go alone.