Overcoming Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors by Dr Charles S. Mansueto

BFRBs affect 1 in 5 people. That means that someone you know is dealing with a BFRB.

5/5 stars.
ebook, 216 pages.
Read from April 7, 2020 to April 16, 2020

BFRBs affect 1 in 5 people. That means that someone you know is dealing with a BFRB. What is a BFRB you ask? BFRB stands for Body-Focused Repetitive-Behaviours and they include excessive hair pulling (trichotillomania), excessive skin picking (dermatillomania) as well as a bigger spectrum of other repetitive behaviours. If you’ve never heard of these conditions before and your first reaction is reluctance or disgust, I beg you to do some more reading as chances are that someone close to you is hiding their behaviour due to that exact fear and stigma. I can assure you that these conditions are very real and cause very real trauma for those that have to deal with it.

You don’t read a book like this unless you’re looking for help yourself. Over the last few years, I’ve made it no secret about my skin picking disorder and have been actively volunteering with an organization in Canada called the Canadian BFRB Support Network (CBSN) to help others with BFRBs as well as to aide in my own recovery. I also contributed to a book called Project Dermatillomania as well as some blog posts on BFRB Relapses and Dermatillomania Makeup Tips.

Lately, this little demon of mine has started to become a problem for me again and I’ve realized that I’ve been denying that fact. I’ve not talked about it like I used to as I’ve felt too ashamed to deal with it or acknowledge again.. My last breakthrough with dermatillomania was when I opened myself up to the BFRB community and my loved ones. It was lifechanging. I have to see again that trying to hide or acknowledge these issues again is only going to make my shame grow and is not going to help my progress.

So here I am, being as proactive and forward as I can.

Overcoming Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours is the book that BFRBers have been waiting for. When I first began my BFRB journey, skin picking wasn’t even in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Health Disorders and all three of the health professionals I spoke to didn’t have a clue about my condition (though they were still pretty helpful). BFRB awareness has come a long way and its thanks to organizations like CBSN and The TLC Foundation for BFRBs for their constant work and dedication. The author of this book as well as the contributors are health professionals and researchers that have worked closely with the TLC Foundation to help learn more about BFRBs and come up with an effective program to help combat and deal with them.

This book talks about the specifics of BFRBs, what makes them different from just a bad habit, what they do to our brains, thought processes and feelings, and how we can try and rewire our patterns of behaviour. The method that Dr Mansueto and his team have found to be effective in working with many people with BFRBs through the TLC Foundation is called the Comprehensive Behavioral Model (ComB), which combines aspects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Habit Reversal Therapy (HRT).

What makes this book exceptional is that it gives you all the tools you need to tackle your BFRB on your own. Worksheets are provided using a SCAMP model (Sensory, Cognitive, Affective, Motor, Place) to help you determine your very own pattern of behaviour when it comes to your BFRB. The book then gives you to the tools to create an action plan for all the different aspects that you’ve identified where you engage in your BFRB so that you have real tools to support you no matter how intense your urge. While I’ve always advocated for ‘habit tracking’ and have had great success with it before from Annette Pasternak’s book Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop, this particular book is so much more robust as it identifies just how rooted our BFRB behaviours are.

I’ve restarted the process of tracking my behaviour and I look forward to creating some action plans to help get me back on track. The thing with BFRBs that there is no easy fix. If you have a BFRB like I do, you’ve probably got years of practising your BFRB so it’s going to take a lot of dedication and hard work to break free from your BFRB,  but if you’re willing to put in the work you will see results with this book.

This book is now my top recommendation to anyone that is battling a BFRB. It’s concise, reassuring, easy-to-follow, supportive, progressive, with feasible accomplishments that you can track if you put the work in. If you’re fed up and ready to tackle your BFRB head-on, waste no time and pick up this book as soon as possible.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

5/5 stars.
Hardcover, 440 pages.
Read June 12, 2019 to June 17, 2019.

Well, well, well, isn’ it wonderful when the hype about a book turns out to be true? This novel had the perfect combination of things that I love in a good book. A historical-fiction plot based in WWII (one of my favourite settings), strong and dynamic female characters, great writing, and a few surprises in store at the end. If this book has been on your TBR pile, it’s time to go and pick it up!

It’s 1939 and the Nazis have started to encroach on France. Two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, are about to face the war that’s coming. Having lost their mother at a young age and with an absent father who was dealing with his own demons from WW1, the two girls each felt abandoned in their youth. Vianne, the eldest, found love and married early but always relied on her husband for the guidance, rarely making decisions for herself. Isabelle never stopped feeling angry for being abandoned by her whole family. Rebellious at heart, she was kicked out of several girls schools before the start of the war and is rash and headstrong. The two of them couldn’t be more different yet each of them must face the war and the occupation of their country. Vianne must say goodbye to her husband, the only solid foundation she has ever had in her life, as he leaves to fight in the front. Isabelle is anxious to do something to assist in the war efforts, naive to the potential costs and sacrifices. Each sister grows and finds strength through horrible circumstances and rekindles a sisterly love and forgiveness for each other before the tragic end of the war.

The depth of characters in this story is what makes this book so exceptional. Vianne grows from a meek and passive young woman to finding her own voice even through immense tragedy and suffering. Isabelle joins the Resistance and makes an impact in the war yet when she returns home she finds that she is not the only one that has suffered and comes to understand her sister’s sacrifices, as well as their father’s.  The story is both moving and inspiring and there is a particular moment with the father that nearly brought me to tears.

This book has something for everyone and combine that with the great writing it’s no wonder it’s been so popular. Unless another book comes around before the new year, this book is the top contender for my favourite book of the year.

Perfectly Hidden Depression by Margaret Robinson Rutherford

No one knows the real you because you never let them in. You’re not comfortable with the reality of you so you pretend it doesn’t exist.  If this sounds all too familiar to you, then you need this book.

5/5 stars.
ARC, ebook, 232 pages.
Read from May 29, 2019 to May 31, 2019.

You always meet your deadlines regardless of how you’re feeling, you push forward through difficult circumstances and hide behind a facade in order to keep an appearance of having it all together. All because you don’t want to be perceived as incompetent or weak, yet inside you’re constantly battling with yourself, your feelings, and your self-worth. You’ve tried to line yourself up with the standard definitions of depression yet you never fully fit it due to your heightened sense of responsibility, your inability to recognise or share your feelings, and the high sense of control you constantly try to implement in your life. No one knows the real you because you never let them in. You’re not comfortable with the reality of you so you pretend it doesn’t exist.  If this sounds all too familiar to you, then you need this book.

After some harrowing experiences with patients, the author of this book noticed a pattern and began to put together the shape of this unique type of depression that often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed. Coined by the author, Perfectly Hidden Depression (PHD) can be the result of a variety of factors such as upbringing, ingrained beliefs, and personality traits. The author states that there isn’t anything in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) on this type of depression but that this is an acknowledgement and an observation from her own professional experiences (which she details and provides resources for). The author believes PHD is a subset of depression that many practitioners miss because it doesn’t present the way the DSM has listed. The author gives this list of defining features that make up someone with PHD:

  • Are highly perfectionistic and have a constant, critical,
    and shaming inner voice
  • Demonstrate a heightened or excessive sense of
    responsibility
  • Detach from painful emotions by staying in your head
    and actively shutting them off
  • Worry and need to control yourself and your
    environment
  • Intensely focus on tasks, using accomplishment to feel
    valuable
  • Focus on the well-being of others but don’t allow them
    into your inner world
  • Discount personal hurt or sorrow and struggle with
    self-compassion
  • May have an accompanying mental health issue, such
    as an eating disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or addiction
  • Believe strongly in counting your blessings as the foundation of well-being
  • May enjoy success within a professional structure but
    struggle with emotional intimacy in relationships

Think of some of the shocking celebrity suicides that have happened recently, Anthony Bourdain, for example. Everyone thought he has this dream life and that he seemed like a generally happy and satisfied person. What if Anthony was the epitome of PHD? In that, he felt his personal value was only in his accomplishments, driven by how grateful he thought he should feel, and then feeling burdened and overwhelmed by the mask of achievement and perfection that he felt he had to wear. He also had addiction problems. If we knew more about people that presented with this perfectly masked depression we could provide them with better treatment and save them and those around them an immense amount of suffering.

“Anthony Bourdain was apparently not physically ill, not financially destitute, not concerned about getting his next meal, and not lacking in fame. In fact, he remarked he had “the greatest job in the world.”” – Toronto Sun, July 7, 2018

It’s hard not to get personal in reviewing this book as I picked it up from Netgalley out of my own personal interest. After reading The Gifts of Imperfection eight years ago I worked through my own PHD, which at the time was just learning to be vulnerable again. I started talking and writing about my issues and the condition, dermatillomania, that still plagues me, something that would have been unthinkable before. I made steep headway with Brené Brown’s book but it wasn’t enough. This book feels like the acknowledgement and the validation I need to press forward in my own personal growth and happiness in terms of the regressions I have made at this point in my life.

The author of this book is shedding light on an area of depression that requires some serious attention. Her writing is personable, concise, insightful, informative, resourceful and clinical. I have already recommended this book to at least three people I know and I anxiously await its publication as I look forward to adding this to my permanent bookshelf.  At this time, I have not done the reflections recommended in the book as I was excited and anxious to get through all the content because of how alarmingly relevant I found it. I am now looking forward to re-reading the book and diligently doing the reflections which I believe will be immensely valuable. I’ve already started recommending this book which is due to be published on November 1, 2019. I highly recommended this book to anyone who feels they fit this description, and if you do, chances are you’re reluctant to reach out for help, so start with this book, no one has to know.