Hello! Thank you for returning to Good for You for the final part in the body-focused repetitive behaviors series. My time writing for Good for You is coming to a close soon as the Rubicon is beginning the transition to the 2021-22 staff, so I’m not sure if this will be my last post, but if so I want it to be special in a way. This post will be more central to my thoughts on why discussion of BFRBs is important and how it contributes to the larger culture surrounding mental health, so if you’re more interested in the cold, hard facts on BFRBs I’d advise you to check out the previous parts in this series.
I’ve expressed my disdain with mental health culture a bit on this blog. I don’t like how mental health is treated like a one-size fits-all thing, and most mental health advice seems to be by non-mentally ill people and for non-mentally ill people. One thing I don’t feel like I’ve really discussed, however, is my issue with the romanticization of mental illness.
Romanticization is essentially making something out to be beautiful or, well, romantic. When referring to mental illness, it’s recognizing the part of mental health culture that makes mental illness seem cute, unique, edgy, or desirable, when in reality mental illness is awful. Someone’s mental illness doesn’t define them, obviously, and they can use jokes about their condition to cope, but the illness itself still sucks.
Romanticization of mental illness can be found in so many places in the modern day- television and film casting the main character’s depression in a gorgeous light, dark aesthetic photos with “edgy” quotes on the Internet, and Instagram infographics with cute characters and bright colors, but a serious topic matter. There is an upside to this, however- mental health is brought into the public eye, awareness is raised, and information is spread.
However, not every mental illness can be romanticized. Some are viewed as “too gross” or “too crazy” to be pretty enough for the public eye. Misinformation grows around these mental illnesses, and harmful stereotypes fester, making life for people with these disorders much more difficult. This is how I feel that BFRBs are treated. Obviously, they’re not as severe as many of the other non-romanticizable mental illnesses, but BFRBs are never talked about. They’re more common than most people think, but because pulling out your hair or eating a scab or picking your skin until it bleeds can’t be beautified, very few people know what BFRBs are, including many people who deal with them.
I haven’t really gone into my personal experiences in much detail on this blog, but I’m going to dabble in them just a little on this post. I’ve dealt with BFRBs for most of my life, specifically cheek biting, and nail biting to a lesser extent. I always felt weird because when I was little other kids did similar things, but my behaviors didn’t go away as I got older, and it always felt like I just couldn’t help it. I didn’t know that these behaviors were called BFRBs, or that they were a symptom of my anxiety and body dysmorphia, or that I wasn’t the only one with these behaviors until just a few months ago.
It’s been really important for me to write this series on BFRBs because I really want to raise awareness, if only on a small scale. There’s nothing pretty about sores on your skin or biting your nails until they bleed, and since these behaviors can’t be beautified they’re thrown aside. I want people to feel seen, and know that there is help. It’s hard to kick a repetitive behavior, especially one you’ve been engaging in for years, but it’s possible and I’m working on that myself.
If you’re struggling with a BFRB, I want you to know that you’re not gross or crazy or immature. The behaviors aren’t your fault. You aren’t ugly, and you aren’t beyond help. You’re not invalid in your struggles because they can’t be romanticized. I believe in you and I believe that you will be okay.
That’s all I have to say for today’s post. I apologize if this is a bit of a word vomit- I have a lot of opinions that I wanted to express here today. Thank you so much for reading, and if this ends up being my last post, thank you to everyone who’s read the blog regularly for a great year. I’ve learned a lot, shared a lot, and grown a lot. Have a lovely week and, per usual, stay safe!