Interview with Lauren from PICKING ME Foundation – Part 2: doing the work!
This month, we are bringing you the second part of our interview with Laureen McKeaney, founder of PICKING ME and an advocate for people who struggle with skin picking. In front of you is her story about the Foundation and her work. Enjoy your reading!
For the first part of the interview go here.
What is the mission of PickingMe Foundation?
Picking Me Foundation is dedicated to dermatillomania awareness, support, resources and community, encouraging sufferers, their loved ones, and education providers alike in #PickingMe over skin picking.
People who struggle with dermatillomania can turn to Picking Me for help, understanding, and connection. We offer resources on everything from wound care to getting acrylics to working with a dermatologist to supporting a friend who suffers to how to best use fidgets and more. Check out our blog Skin Talk at pickingme.org/skintalk for a range of information to start understanding this difficult disorder.
I recommend looking into our Online Skin Picking Support Group, which meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month on Zoom (18+), for a unique experience of connecting with and learning from people just like you at pickingme.org/onlinesupportgroup. Since creating the first of its kind group online in March of 2020, we’ve hosted over 800 members while having 5 star reviews on Google and Facebook, often called life changing. This support group is something I personally highly recommend as part of what helped me most recover as well. There is so much shame and isolation around dermatillomania, that at first embracing a whole room or Zoom room of people just like you seems unfathomable. But we’re out here. We exist. And connecting with “your people” is empowering and validating and something every derma sufferer deserves to experience.
Our core initiatives at Picking Me maintain our values and mission. The #PickingMe Pledge is a compilation of over 250 members choosing themselves over the disorder that chose them. They have taken the pledge by sharing how they are taking self care, putting themselves first, all by finishing the mantra “I’m #PickingMe over skin picking because…”. Responses look like say “because I deserve to sleep tonight” or “because I’d rather spend time with family” or “because I can dim the bathroom lights and more!
We love to encourage coming together and relating over visual expressions of the disorder. To see impactful art from around the world, check out our art gallery that showcases interpretations of dermatillomania. We like to say that it can be hard to talk about it, so let’s draw about it, and our #DrawingWithDerma gallery was born. We now proudly have showcased over 300 submissions which you can explore here pickingme.org/drawingwithderma.
Read about others’ experiences from our Share your Story submissions at pickingme.org/shareyourstory and even share yours when you are ready! Sharing frees you from a bit of the control from this controlling disorder and might help someone silent suffering. When I first shared my story, I felt the most I had ever felt like me. And each time I shared, I got pieces of the identity I had chipped away back. It’s something I want all sufferers to be able to experience.
Take part in our community on social media by posting some of your skin picking experience with our hashtag #PickingMe which has been used over 6,000 times in sharing about dermatillomania. #PickingMe over Skin Picking is an online movement by @pickingmefdn encouraging individuals to choose themselves over the mental illness that chose them. It is the foundation for my nonprofit and truly our mission.
Sometimes taking small steps has the biggest impact. Start by joining our email list to keep us at your fingertips pickingme.org/emailsignup and stay in touch with all things dermatillomania.
What are your plans for the future?
Picking Me has much in store for future plans. We hope to educate at more skin care conferences, providing much needed information to that field, especially since they often see derma sufferers before mental health professionals. We make and create Derma Resource Packets that we plan to fundraise for and ship to dermatologists nationwide. Furthering our reach and connecting our network to our growing list of Derma Friendly Resources is also next for us. It’s wonderful to hear the feedback from programs like that and we hope to serve more people worldwide.
I would love to bring in more guest speakers to our virtual events and plan to reach out to key community members to do so. Hosting Zoom events support, fun and fundraising has been integral to our growth and I can’t wait to offer more to our community.
I hope to continue helping those suffering know they are not alone and in fact have a whole community behind them.
Of course, we have some super cool things in the works that you’ll have to join our journey to hear more about. And as always, if you’d like to connect, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
What do you think DSM V brought to people with Derma?
The DSM-V inclusion of skin picking disorder in 2013 made it a diagnosable mental illness. It gave us sufferers validation. A word, a term, something to point to. I remember feeling like I had a club to belong to. And me not seeing that group formed, I decided to create it, and established my nonprofit.
Even if the DSM-V’s listing of skin picking disorder gets confusing as being known as dermatillomania but is classified as Excoriation Disorder, we remain a community of and for the people and still use terms dermatillomania and skin picking disorder as they seem to be most understood. And excoriation disorder kind of sounds like devil’s work.
You can’t change what you don’t know. So how was I supposed to change my disorder (stop picking) if my disorder wasn’t known? It’s classification as a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Under the umbrella of OCD related disorders has helped give us shelter from the storm.
How important it is for you, but for people with skin picking disorder too, to have strong social support?
I think it’s pretty important to have strong social support which can come from your family, friends, work, education, media, and more.
One aspect of management in having skin picking disorder is having a great support team. This team will consist of different team members from different areas of your life, all who support you on your derma journey.
You can involve your parents or loved ones by teaching them the fidget hand off. The fidget handoff works by having the loved one not say “stop picking” when they see you picking but hand you a fidget instead. This allows them to be part of your journey towards recovery without inflicting negativity.
Involve a friend by sharing with them about the disorder. Show them our website or a fidget you use and share why you use it. Opening up on this level might feel hard and vulnerable but sharing authentically has always made me feel better.
Order our Derma Resource Packet and present about dermatillomania to your school or workspace. When you teach about something, you understand for yourself yes, but offer it to others. And with that comes impact. Your presentation may have just changed the life of someone in front of you. I think that’s the secret to life. Helping others.
Inform your dermatologist you have derma and have them connect with PIcking Me to join our Derma Friendly resources. Bring a fidget to use in the waiting room. Ask them to leave the door ajar in the room so you’re not as triggered by the large mirror and bright lights.
Explore support through social media by creating a social account dedicated to your derma journey. Follow and like accounts with similar values and awareness content that you are looking for. Follow hashtags like #PickingMe to see over 6,000 people who have shared about skin picking disorder worldwide. Sharing through social media has been crucial in cultivating our community.
Join the world's first virtual dermatillomania support group, Picking Me’s Online Skin Picking Support group, which meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month on Zoom to truly feel supported. Experience connection, validations, and support like no other, in a magical feeling Zoom room of our people. Learn more here pickingme.org/onlinesupportgroup.
What do you think, from both personal and professional experience, is important for people with derma to know about their disorder and themselves?
It’s important to understand that dermatillomania is complex and can vary in severity. I think this causes some people to go without seeking help. But if skin picking impedes your quality of life, please do seek out help.
I’d like people to know that a skin picking episode can be triggered by different factors like visually seeing a pimple come to head, feeling the rough edge of a bug bite scab, or thinking an area would be better if it were smoother. Since what triggers dermatillomania differs for different people, it takes many different strategies to take on managing the disorder.
I think of dermatillomania as a way to regulate stimuli around me. If I’m feeling too up, anxious, or excited, I might start picking. Similarly if I’m too down, tired, or zoned out, I might find myself picking. Skin picking disorder is my Goldie-Locks behavior to get me to “just right”. Now, I’ve developed strategies to manage the disorder and I like to say I have it, it doesn’t have me.
Here is what I would say to someone struggling with dermatillomania. Be gentle with yourself after a picking episode. The disorder already gets to tear you apart and it doesn’t need a minute more of your time. Choose yourself over the mental illness that chose you, #PickingMe over skin picking. Aim for progress over perfection. Set mini goals to experience mini wins, build on that progress, living in that momentum, that’s where happy happens. Know that you’re not alone and in fact have a whole community behind you at Picking Me Foundation. I validate your struggle and am sending you much love and support.
What is your message for the professionals in the filed of mental health?
I hope that professionals in the mental health field stay willing to learn, especially from those with lived experience. We at Picking Me are here to help support you in best providing help to our skin picking community.
I’d ask that they continue to listen to and validate their client’s experience as so often this disorder is considered merely a bad habit, and having a professional assure you it is more complex than that is helpful in understanding it.
If you are a mental health provider, familiarize yourself with dermatologists that are familiar with dermatillomania to connect people with. If you are a skin care prover, familiarize yourself with mental health professionals to connect people with.
For therapists, please don’t just have a bowl of fidgets and consider that enough of a therapy tool. Lay them out. Explore and discuss each one with your client. What do they do tactilely? Are they visually appealing? Is there an auditory component that is satisfying? Can we put them in one place and give them one job, one home, one purpose? All of these are great questions to ask in making fidgets workable for picking prevention.
Thank you to all professionals who care about the bfrb community and in particular the dermatillomania community. We are grateful to all those helping our family and look forward to further connecting on advocacy opportunities!