Letter to the stranger staring at my daughter's scars
It is one of the hardest things to be a parent with a child with an illness. As parents we want to protect our children from harm and shield them from all the pain in the world. So when your child is sufferring, it can cause so much emotional anguish as you feel like you have failed them and like you have lost control over your ability to protect them. We tend to see our roles as parents reflected in the image of a mum kissing her child's hurt knee after having put a plaster on, or the dad hugging his daughter after she had fallen off her bike. But the reality is that there are some hurts that cannot be fixed with a simple bandage or a hug. Sometimes the battles our children face are are far deeper and far more challenging to overcome. In particular when these battles are related to mental health.
When your child picks his or her own skin
All children develop bad habits. Some children pick their noses, bite their nails or fiddle with their hair. In puberty most teenagers develop the habit of picking at their acne. However for some children these behaviors develop into more than just bad habits. For some children these behaviors become so bad that it negatively impacts on every aspect of the child's ife, from the way they feel about themselves, to their ability to engage in meaningful occupations, their school work may suffer, or even sometimes cause visible physical damage to their appearance. What do you do? How do you get your child to stop?! As much as we want to be the protectors and the fixers, it is first and foremost important to recognize that it is not a battle for you to win for your child, but rather it is a battle that you face TOGETHER, as a family.
Dealing with the perceptions of others
There is still a very negative stigma around mental disorders. As a society we tend to feel ashamed and want to hide away the evidence of our internal pain. We are not as open to talk about issues of mental illness as we are about physical illness or disability. It is particularly so when the mental issues being dealth with leads to self harm or damage to one's self. Although dermatillomania or excoriation disorder is not the same as self harm, the physical evidence of both disorders are often plain for the world to see. For many skin pickers, the shame and embarrassement from the scars left fom picking the skin is far more debilitating that the act of picking itself. Many skin pickers find themselves avoiding places or situations where their scars will be seen by others, particularly so in teenagers. This means that they then often avoid activities they might normally enjoy or even become socially isolated from their peers due to avoidance. One mom a a teen who was battling with self-injurous behavior, with the permission of her courageous daughter shared this heartfelt letter on her personal blog to a stranger on a train who she noticed was staring at her daughter's self-harm scars. We are republishing here with the permission of the blogger Tanya Van Dalen from "It's a Dog's Life" blog:
Dear Stranger on the Waterloo Train,
The Mother of the Bravest Girl on the Waterloo Train