Community Spotlight: Kelsey: A Renaissance Woman, who just so happens to have Trichotillomania

YOU DESERVE TO BE

Meet Kelsey, she's a Keen family member, a volunteer for TLC Foundation for Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) and an advocate for BFRB awareness. I met Kelsey through a mutual friend at the 2016 TLC conference. A year later, Kelsey gave a speech to share her journey and trichotillomania solution.

  “I hope that my story can bring hope to anyone who’s struggling with a BFRB.”

“I hope that my story can bring hope to anyone who’s struggling with a BFRB.”

In her speech Kelsey shared how she started hair pulling when she was 15, spending 8 hours a day pulling out hair, and sharing how she had “bald spots all over and eventually ruined my eyesight from looking too closely at my hair in front of a mirror.”

Like many of us, Kelsey’s hair pulling disorder was misunderstood: “I was deemed crazy, and just went with it.”

 

At her second BFRB Conference, Kelsey decided to stop going with it. Instead she decided to take charge of this ugly disorder, trichotillomania and vowed to stop hair pulling that day.

Today, Kelsey manages to stay in control of her hair pulling disorder by wetting her hair and wearing a hat everyday, in addition to using Keen.

HAIR PULLING INSPIRES A "RENAISSANCE REVIVAL"

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Kelsey has a background in scientific research/chemistry, but has spent the last 5 years pursuing her love of music & education as a piano instructor in Berkeley, CA.

Taking a leap of faith to pursue a new phase of her professional career, Kelsey applied to the Wright Institute to study Clinical Psychology. Though unsure if the school would accept her, Kelsey was keen to make this career switch because of her mission to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health.

This is surely a renaissance moment for Kelsey as she strives to absorb new knowledge and gain new talents in the world of psychology, talents beyond her existing skills of research, music and teaching. It's her "great revival" as she pursues a path of personal fulfillment, one I hope you realize you can achieve too!

I find Kelsey inspiring on so many levels:

  • Even though Kelsey knew she'd be up against more experienced undergraduates who studied psychology, she didn't let fear or doubt stop her from trying.

  • Like many of us in the BFRB community, Kelsey is dedicating her time to bettering herself so that she can give back to people suffering from excessive hair pulling, skin picking and nail biting.

  • Kelsey openly shared her BFRB journey with the university application committee to shed light on how detrimental hair pulling disorder, skin picking and other BFRBs can be and to explain why she wanted to return to school.  

What follows is an edited version of this application essay - and Kelsey's story of renaissance and revival:

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“With a piano in tow, I made the 2,000-mile journey from Texas to California. I was in pursuit of a new career and a way of life far different from what I had known. This five-year renaissance period transformed me from a research scientist into an artist, self-starter and leader in the mental health arena. 

After a decade of pulling at my hair, I attended my first trichotillomania conference, alone. I didn’t realize how much it would shape my life. Three intensive days of workshops, support groups and speakers later, I found myself imbued with the sense that I had to do my part to reduce the stigma of mental health disorders, especially those involving body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). My first essential task when I arrived back home was to organize a support group on the West Coast for both those affected by these impulses and their loved-ones. We met weekly to discuss the relevant literature and treatment techniques I learned about at the conference, and created a strong network of support. The absolute joy that resulted from these meetings led me to attend my second conference as a dedicated volunteer. My goal was to learn as much as possible to ultimately defeat my own habits and eventually assist others with the same seemingly impossible task. 

 

As I stared out the window on my flight back home, I made the important decision to stop pulling out my hair. For two uncomfortable and painful weeks I felt the withdrawal of the reinforced dopamine rush that used to accompany every pull. But with my newly discovered support network and reduced feeling of shame, I was able to completely enter recovery and live a pull-free life. Soon after, I progressed to the volunteer coordinator position with the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC) and started playing an even larger role in organizing and coordinating the largest conference for BFRBs. The most rewarding (and terrifying) part was when I began speaking on panels about my experience and recovery from trichotillomania.

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I would like to transfer my passion for this underrepresented population to a more clinical and therapeutic setting. Through the PsyD program at the Wright Institute, I hope to learn more about how to help this community.

Alongside my volunteer work, my six-year stint as a research chemist helped me to foster a creative and analytical mindset for solving problems. I became versatile in many fields, such as catalysis, biofuels, therapeutic biomimetics and nanotechnology. Yet despite having gained these skills, I started to feel stuck. I started to feel a lack of satisfaction in my day-to-day work that grew from not being able to see the direct result of my work in people’s lives.

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With this awareness, and my need for more human interaction, I started teaching piano after my long days in the lab. The immediate response my students gave from their own joy of learning was worth pursuing, so I left the world of chemistry in search of more of this kind of personal fulfillment.

Luckily, the music industry welcomed me from the start. I quickly grew from substitute teacher to a highly requested full-time instructor. Shortly after, I took on the responsibilities of a project manager for an innovative music school, where I developed the business and entrepreneurial skills to start my own independent studio. My students consisted mainly of adults, all looking for some form of release from the stresses of everyday life. And as I guided them through the anxieties of starting a new instrument, and their apprehensions about playing in front of others, I realized the potential therapeutic effect of art, especially music. My lessons weren’t simply a place to learn the notes on the staff; they were a time dedicated to self-expression, building confidence, improving mood and accomplishing goals. It was then that I realized that I wanted to learn how to enhance these same abilities within a wider array of people and settings.

My ultimate goal is to treat and bring awareness to stigmatized disorders and be a strong advocate in the mental health field. I hope to incorporate my compassion and mentoring skills with my familiarity in research to accelerate recovery in all areas of health.”


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Kelsey, your drive to get "unstuck" is an inspiration. thank you for sharing your story & all you do as a TLC BFRB Volunteer. I hope others will see from your story that achieving fulfillment & happiness is a journey it itself and not an end goal.

wishing you love & awareness,


About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


How to stop what you're doing and think about what you're being.

YOU DESERVE TO BE

Yesterday’s “To Do” list was so never-ending that I never got around to writing to you! Lists are my thing – they keep me organized and productive. They also keep me a little over-busy, anxious and exhausted. Which got me thinking about all the “doing” I’m doing and wondering if it’s helping me be me. 

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I wanted to share with you all the things I believe I deserve “To Be.” This list is something I created years ago and now recite every night to my two sons. Last night, as my younger son cried in his crib, I rubbed his belly and whispered these words of being, softly. He immediately quieted and his eyes drooped to dreamland. It was magic, which means I was being magical!    

OK, here goes, my TO BE list:

  • Happy, Healthy, Kind
  • Loved & Loving
  • Fun, Friendly, Funny
  • Peaceful, Grateful, Giving
  • Ambitious, Focused, Favored
  • Faithful

Tell me, what’s on your “To Be” List!

FROM “TO BE” LIST TO “BUCKET” LIST

Since we’re talking about lists, The Heart & Soul Academy Annual BFRB Retreat is a Bucket List must for any BFRB'er ready to recover. More than a meet up, Christina Pearson’s love, light & leadership will help you become whole again.



“Who is Christina?” you may be wondering.
She is our voice. She is our ambassador. 28 years ago, Christina founded the Trichotillomania Learning Center, which is now BFRB.org – the nonprofit pioneering research for a cure, educating treatment professionals and bringing our community together. The movement to our BFRB recoverystarted because Christina wanted more than to check off a To Do list each day - She wanted to bring life to life by BEING.
 

 

“What is the BFRB retreat?” you may be wondering. 
 

I usually end wishing you love & awareness,
but today, as Christina does, I hope you will "Be Well & Be Loved,"


About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


Guest Post: Tapping Your Way to Freedom from Nail Biting

Here at HabitAware, we are big believers in healthy choices. Our smart bracelet, Keen, helps you manage nail biting, hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking (dermatillomania), and other unwanted Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors by notifying you of when the (usually) automatic gestures are happening.

Once you’re aware, you can make a new choice, and move your hand away to a different, healthier activity such as a replacement strategy. One of these activities could be EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques. Our bloggerverse friend, Angela Agranoff shares her thoughts on how EFT can help prevent nail biting. While Angela’s focus is on nail biting, the tips here can easily help you take control of skin picking, hair pulling and other behaviors.

Thanks, Angela for this quick primer on EFT!

love + awareness,

Aneela and the HabitAware team

Can EFT Help Prevent Nail Biting?

By Angela Agranoff

It is hard to think a lifelong “habit” can simply be redirected by a calming tool.

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I write on my blog, My Refreshed Soul, about a journey I am on with my readers to better health and weight loss through EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Emotional eating is a repetitive behavior. When one is an emotional eater, the thoughts of eating can be overwhelming and consuming. Writing this post for the HabitAware team has helped me look at any old issues I haven’t addressed, including nail biting.

EFT is a powerful tool that can be used any time, anywhere, to help with negative emotions and repetitive behaviors.

What is EFT?

EFT, also known as tapping, is a gentle and non-invasive way to redirect negative emotions, old memories, or trauma that keep us stuck in old patterns.

It’s these old patterns that can keep us stuck in our repetitive behaviors.

With EFT, we tap on specific points on the body. These are acupuncture points connected to what Chinese medicine calls our body’s meridian. When we tap, it is like emotional acupuncture.

We all have past memories, thoughts, maybe even trauma, that may cause emotional blocks in our bodies. By tapping, signals are sent to the brain to give a calming feeling and take us out of our “fight or flight” mode.

Old thoughts can be repetitive behaviors, even self-destructive thoughts, that aren’t serving us. When we use tapping, our emotions are redirected, and we can create new thoughts.

EFT and Tapping Basics

Here are the basics you need to know to get started with EFT, the emotional freedom technique, also known as tapping.

EFT for Nail Biting and Anxiety

Nail biting is a common distraction when it comes to soothing anxiety. In order to understand what the triggers are when you begin to bite your nails, think about what you were doing at the time you started.

·       What thoughts did you have?

·       Where were you sitting?

·       What were you working on?

When you have a clearer idea of the anxiety that causes the impulse to bite your nails, you will be able to create a new plan to change that old habit.

Stop Your Nail Biting Behavior

I can completely empathize with the habit of biting nails. I can’t remember when I started biting my nails; I’m sure pretty young. It was probably a distraction or a comfort from stress.

Along with having tools handy like nail polish and a nail file to keep my nails in healthy condition, I can use tapping to calm any stress and redirect my thoughts.

There are many great tools to help with curbing the desire to bite nails and increasing your awareness, including:

·       Being conscious of your hands’ location with HabitAware’s Keen bracelet

·       Keeping nails filed and painted

·       Using these Emotional Freedom Technique anytime

Using EFT can help get to the issue and uncover the causes of anxiety that fuel the habit. Tapping can also become another tool in your toolkit of replacement strategies for nail biting.

After you have become familiar with the routine of tapping, following the scripts below will help you uncover why you bite your nails and how you can create a new habit that will keep your nails strong and beautiful!

EFT / Tapping Scripts

Before you start, you should learn the basics of how tapping works, and tapping points locations. Also try to become familiar with rating your emotions which is super helpful to see your progress.

Setup Statement

Your starting point is to create a statement that embraces what your struggle, negative emotion, or anxiety is.

·       Think of a time when you were triggered and started biting your nails.

·       Feel the emotions and see the situation in your mind very clearly.

·       With this picture in your mind, you’re ready to tap and release this memory.

·       Using this memory, we will come up with a statement that will be repeated three times on the first tapping point.

Tapping Tips

·       Gently tap on each point with the tips of your fingers.

·       There is no wrong way to do it.

·       Don’t worry about your setup statement being perfect.

·       Rate your emotions before and after each round using the scale above of 0-10

READY?!

Tapping for Nail Biting

Do you have the habit of biting your nails? Using EFT, the emotional freedom technique, also called tapping, can be a simple and calming solution to help with nail biting. This technique can also be applied to hair pulling and skin picking.

Get a visual picture in your mind of the last time you were biting your nails. What were you thinking and feeling if you can remember?

Rate Emotions:

0 = I have control of my nail biting

10 = I can’t stop biting my nails and control it

The Karate Chop Point Statements:

  • "Even though I enjoy biting my nails, I deeply love and accept myself."

  • "Even though I don’t know how I will break this habit, I deeply love and accept myself."

  • "Even though it feels hopeless that I will ever stop biting my nails, I deeply love and accept myself and who I am."

ROUND 1 Statements:

Eyebrow: It is unreal how long I have been doing this

Side of Eye: I can’t believe I don’t use self control

Under Eye: I wish I understood the thoughts that go through my mind

Under Nose: When I want to bite my nails

Chin: It is embarrassing to have my nails look like an animal chewed on them

Collar Bone: It seems like something so easy to quit doing

Under arm: But I feel like I can’t stop

 

ROUND 2 Statements:

Eyebrow: I would love to be more aware of my hands

Side of Eye: So I could tell myself to stop biting

Under Eye: I want to discern why I bite my nails

Under Nose: To understand the reasons that I want to do this habit

Chin: Then create a new way of thinking and handling the stress

Collar Bone: Being able to handle the anxiety

Under Arm: Handling the stress and anxious thoughts in a new way

Top of Head: By addressing my thoughts and being more aware, I can heal.

 

ROUND 3 Statements:

Eye Brow: This tapping seems to be calming

Side of Eye: It feels good to talk about my thoughts while I tap

Under Eye: I could tap instead of biting my nails

Under Nose: It feels good to see a new way of dealing with stress

Chin: A calming way to work through anxiety

Collar Bone: A non-destructive way to work through difficult thoughts

Under Arm: I feel empowered and am looking forward to pretty, healthy nails

Top of Head: I’m excited about a healthy new habit!

 

- Take a deep breath.

- Check your rating again. Where are you on the 0-10 scale?

- Think about the feeling you had before you tapped, maybe the stress that triggered your nail biting.

- Do you feel more hopeful or are you still feeling doubtful about changing? If your number hasn’t changed, or only went down a couple numbers, do another round. You can change the words, and check your rating again.

- You can continue rounds until you feel this isn't an issue for you anymore. This may take some time, so don’t get discouraged if it isn’t completely addressed in one sitting.

The key is to be consistent, and keep tapping!

~ Coach Angela

 

 
 

About Angela Agranoff

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Angela Agranoff started My Refreshed Soul to help herself and others use EFT to find better health and weight loss. Free of these burdens, Angela has found a passion for home organization and now focuses on her blog and business, The Uncluttered Angel. Here, Angela shares lots of ideas to declutter and get organized around the home -- which, let's face it, has many benefits on the mind as well!

Angela also uses EFT for organizing issues with her readers and clients. Angela will be incorporating tapping videos on her home organization YouTube channel and Facebook support group, along with her daily uncluttering challenges, organizing tips and tools.  

(Header Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash)


About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


Community Spotlight: Alison Dotson: Showing Up for OCD Awareness

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Alison Dotson is a mental health advocate & a new friend! Though Alison & I both live in the Twin Cities, it took Mental Health friends across the globe to make our introduction happen! I met Alison through Stuart Ralph, a Brit whom I met virtually via Liz Atkin & in person at the 2017 International OCD Foundation Conference.

Stuart has devoted his podcast to sharing The OCD Stories & I was lucky enough to be a guest a few months ago to share my BFRB journey with his audience, because OCD & BFRBs are like evil cousins.

When Stuart realized I was in Minneapolis, he said, "Have you met, Alison?" I hadn't so he made the connection and Alison and I met for coffee. Soon after, I asked her to join me for an "art therapy & advocacy" event where we both fell in love with the ever-cathartic #BlackOutPoetry.

Alison is author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life, a nonfiction book for teens and young adults with OCD that shares her story as well as coping strategies. She is also the president of OCD Twin Cities, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation, and the 2016 recipient of the International OCD Foundation Hero Award.

I want to share her story of taking control of her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) because there are so many parallels with Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). Both steal our joy and our control over our mind. Some of us may even have both. In fact, it's taken me this HabitAware journey to unpack all my layers of mental un-healthiness. But the more I've learned, the more aware I've become, the easier it has been to show up and make a plan of action to take back control.

SO, WHAT IS OCD?

OCD has very little to do with keeping things neat & organized. That is a huge misconception! OCD can cause life disrupting anxiety. Everyone has intrusive thoughts sometimes, but when you have OCD it is invasive and won't go away. Examples include excessive concerns with right and wrong, fear of harming others, perfectionism, and contamination. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors of thoughts used to get rid of an obsession. The more you engage in a compulsion, the worse and stronger the obsession gets. People with OCD feel the need to engage in compulsions in order to get rid of the obsessive thoughts and the accompanying paralyzing and life disrupting anxiety they're experiencing. Examples of compulsions include mental reviewing, seeking assurance, and checking behaviors - like hand washing, locking the door or turning off the stove.

HOW ALISON IS SHOWING UP FOR OCD AWARENESS

As Alison shares on her blog, "My hope is that writing about OCD will shed some light on the disorder and encourage people to get the help they need. Since I reached out to an OCD specialist several years ago, I’ve been doing well. I’m armed with great resources and coping techniques, so even when obsessions do pop up I know how to deal with them."

Here's my interview with Alison on why and how she is speaking out on the misconceptions about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and helping others.

Aneela: What's your story, morning glory?

Alison: Hi! My name is Alison Dotson. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with my husband and our two dogs. Pretty much everything I do, whether it's related to work or play, stems from my love of reading and writing. I work as a copy editor and brand voice advisor at a marketing company, and in my free time I read lots of fiction, write blog posts and book drafts, and volunteer my editorial skills for a nonprofit called A2A Alliance. Of course, I also do just plain fun things like watch TV, go to movies, and meet friends for dinner, and I work on little home improvement projects when I can. 

Since I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and suffered for so long due to misconceptions about what it really is, I now work to spread awareness of the disorder. I wrote a book for teens with OCD, called Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life, and I run a local nonprofit called OCD Twin Cities, which is an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. Although public speaking terrified my for years, I overcame that fear so I could help others, and I've spoken at several conferences and support groups. I get nervous every time, but it always turns out okay in the end!

Aneela: Why do you show up & speak about mental health? 

There’s no reason people with OCD need to suffer endlessly.

Alison: I speak about OCD so others don't have to suffer as long as I did, and to let them know they're not alone. It's such an isolating disorder, and it can cause so much shame. There are still misconceptions about OCD--i.e., that it's all about being organized or having a germ phobia--so I can't stop talking about it just yet. Before I was diagnosed with OCD I felt incredibly alone and really hopeless. I was afraid I'd never get better or be happy again. There's no reason people with OCD need to suffer endlessly. Showing up and speaking about mental health disorders is my way of paying it forward.
 

Aneela: Have you ever felt personally stigmatized? 

Alison: Not stigmatized as much as misunderstood, which is frustrating. I've gotten better at standing up for myself and others with OCD, but there are definitely times I let my feelings get the better of me and I'm perhaps not as gracious as I could be with people who don't get it yet.
 

Aneela: How did your friends / family react when you shared your issue with them? 

Alison: As soon as I was diagnosed, I called my then boyfriend (now husband of 10 years) and said, "Your girlfriend has OCD." He said, "Sounds about right." Then I think he asked what I wanted for dinner. It was very normalizing. My mom was supportive but also felt really guilty that she hadn't known what was going on. However, I assured her that she did in fact notice when I was depressed, but I lied to her and told her nothing was wrong or that it was a stomach-ache or something. I kept it all to myself out of shame. 

Aneela: What is one thing you would tell someone who might be struggling in silence?  

Alison: If you have OCD, you're not alone! There are so many of us getting braver and braver about showing up and sharing our stories. Not all obsessions and compulsions are alike, but we share a diagnosis nonetheless and can support each other. We've all thought we're the only person on the face of the earth who's had the scary intrusive thoughts we've had, but it's not the case. And I've never met a person with OCD who hasn't doubted their diagnosis and feared it was actually something worse. 

Aneela: What is one of your favorite strategies that have helped you take control of your disorder/issue/mental health? 

Telling my story, whether in a presentation, an article, or a social media post, has empowered me.

Alison: I kept my "secrets" to myself for nearly two decades. I've cracked that silence wide open and allowed myself to be vulnerable. Telling my story, whether in a presentation, an article, or a social media post, has empowered me. Each time I think, "This may be the one-time people judge me and attack me," and it never is. It's made me stronger--and a huge part of tackling OCD - or BFRBs - is facing our fears head-on. 

 

Thank you, Alison for taking time to show up, meet me & share your story. Proud to call you a friend and to work with you on this mental health equity battle!

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Love + awareness,

Aneela & the HabitAware team


About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


Conquering with Keen: Victoria's Story

Victoria is 21 years old and lives in Louisiana.  She’s had Dermatillomania for six years. This is how she’s Conquering with Keen Awareness, in her own words.

From Pimple Popping to Skin Picking Woes

I've struggled with Dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking) since high school. I didn't know there was a name for it of course, because just like everyone else struggling with it, it started off small.  At first I would just pick at blemishes a little while taking off makeup. Everyone knows it's bad to pick but most people secretly get some form of relief from it.

As my life became more stressful I noticed I spent more and more time looking for that relief. I was lucky enough to not really struggle with teenage acne so most of the time it was only one or two pimples.  But when those were gone I kept looking for more. I continued this pattern not really thinking it was a problem until my freshman year of college.  That's when things got bad.

The stress of college was getting to me and I began to spend hours in front of the mirror trying to get everything I could possibly get out of any pore.  I even began looking in other places when I had run out of space on my face. I would move to my shoulders, then my arms, then my chest, then my legs. It never ended.  Where there was nothing, healthy skin became sores. My mission to get rid of blemishes was actually creating more by my constant skin picking, but by that time it didn't matter. At that point it wasn't about getting rid of pimples anymore, it was about escaping from the rest of the world.  I wasn't even aware I was doing it.

“I was in a trance and couldn’t snap myself out of it”
  Victoria, before "Keen" awareness

Victoria, before "Keen" awareness

What is Dermatillomania? … A Thief!

I lost out on so many things over the years because of Dermatillomania.  After I would have an "episode" I would isolate myself for up to a week until I had at least healed enough to cover it somewhat with makeup.  I missed countless classes and my GPA dropped. The emotional toll it took was even worse. I had absolutely no confidence because of my secret.  

“I lost out on so many things over the years”

The worst part was how alone I felt, I couldn't really tell anyone because most people don't understand why I would purposely do this to myself.  What they didn't get was that I wasn't purposely doing it to myself. In fact, I put more energy into trying to stop than anything else in my life.  It was a coping mechanism. Any time things became too much for me I immediately went to the mirror and didn't even realize I was doing it. It was like a reflex.  If someone trips and falls it's instinct to put your hands out to catch yourself. That's what this was for me. You don't think about it, it just happens.

Finding Hope with the Awareness Bracelet

Once I put a name to it I could finally look for a solution.  I researched everything I could find on how to treat Dermatillomania. The problem is that it's not a well known disorder. Very few people even know it exists, much less how to treat it.  I found a counselor who specialized in impulse control disorders and called her to explain my situation. I couldn't find anyone who was experienced in the disorder, but she was pretty close.

Before our first appointment, the counselor did her research and tried to help.  It helped me in many other aspects of my life but I didn't find it very helpful with Dermatillomania.  Since all she knew was what she read online she didn't really understand why I couldn't "just stop" either.  When I was alone and vulnerable I didn't have her there to stop me which was really the only thing I could see working.

After a really bad episode one night I’d had enough and dove deep online for help, which was how I stumbled upon Keen.  It was exactly what I needed: something monitoring me 24/7 to basically just snap me out of it if I started picking. This was my savior, for the first time ever I finally saw hope.  Once I got it I trained Keen for just my face at first until I became accustomed to it, then I gradually added other body areas. I would only wear it when I was home since that was the only time I would have episodes.

Learning About Myself To Stop My Skin Picking

Within a week I immediately noticed a difference: I was becoming more aware of how much I actually "scanned" for bumps and blemishes.  I thought it only happened when I was in front of a mirror, but I was constantly raising my hands to my face without even knowing. Within just one week I had learned something about myself that I didn't even realize was one of the biggest causes of this six year struggle.

I Took My Life Back from Skin Picking

While I am not fully recovered since I've only been using Keen for about one month, I am so much farther along than I ever dreamed I'd be.  I really thought I was a lost cause. Keen changed my life. Not only is my skin clearer than it has been in years, but I feel confident when I'm in public.  Instead of hiding in the back of the room hoping nobody notices me, I actually go up to people and introduce myself now.

I really thought I was a lost cause. Keen changed my life.
 Victoria, after a few weeks with HabitAware's Keen bracelet

Victoria, after a few weeks with HabitAware's Keen bracelet

This week I did something that I literally never dreamed I'd be able to do my entire life: I left my apartment without any makeup on!  This is a feeling better than I could even try to describe. I'm now able to work towards healing my scars because I don't have broken skin everywhere to worry about.  I didn't see a point in trying to heal them before since I figured that at some point I'd ruin all those spots again. Keen has given me my life back. I can't explain how truly grateful I am to the creators of Keen for giving me a second chance to actually experience my life while I'm still young instead of having to constantly hide away from the rest of the world.

You Are Not Alone & You Can Stop Skin Picking

 Victoria's progress = success!

Victoria's progress = success!

I would recommend this product in a heartbeat to anyone even slightly struggling with any kind of subconscious behavior, whether it's skin picking, nail biting, or hair pulling. There is hope and you're not alone!  There's an entire community out there that understands what you're going through.

 

Some advice for when you start using Keen is to follow the guidelines provided with the bracelet of course, but there are some additional things I've learned from using it.  

My quick tip for training the Keen bracelet:

When you start, turn both the sensitivity of your motion and body location all the way up. You will more than likely find that this is too much and from there you can slowly lower each setting as you find best for you.  I was able to figure out my preferences within one day. Make sure you test it while doing other activities like writing or eating while you're figuring out the adjustments. While one setting may work perfectly for you when you're playing around with it, the sensitivity may be too high for daily activities.  Starting higher is better than starting lower because too many reminders won't cause nearly as many problems as too few.

By wearing my Keen bracelet it reminds me that there are enough people out there going through what I am for people to get together and develop a product specifically for Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). It reminds me that I'm not alone in this and I'm part of a community with the same goal as me.

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Victoria, wow. Just wow. Our heartfelt thanks for sharing your story to inspire hope and courage for others. To know that we've done our part to help you "get a second chance at life", well, it makes my eyes water with joy. You’re definitely not alone and as part of the Keen family, we are here to support you every step of the way.  Your story is a reminder that we BFRBers no longer have to "hide away from the rest of the world." 

Wishing you love, strength & “keen” awareness,

 

About Keen by HabitAware

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HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

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Header photo credit: Autumn Look by Artur Rutkowski