Monthly Archives: January 2013
What do you liken your skin picking to? If at all you liken it to anything.
For me I feel my skin picking is closely related to drug addiction. I “depend” on my picking to feel a certain way. I “use” it to dissociate, calm me down, relieve anxiety, entertain me and of course when I get a good “pick”, kind of like a good “fix”, the rush I feel is indescribable. However once I “come down” off the picking “high” I feel ashamed, resentful, disgusted and phsyically ill to my stomach. I experience nausea, the shakes and suicidal thoughts.
In saying all this though; I am also a perfectionist. I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I pick compulsively. I pick to “perfect” and “fix” my skin. When I am doing it, I think (truly believe!) that I am making it better. I know it looks worse but it feels better. I like the feel of smooth skin. Picking achieves that for me. There are no bumps, there are no scabs. Unfortunately what is left in its place is raw skin – open wounds.
Then I hear picking compared to cutting… which makes me very very angry. Because for me, as a person who used to cut, I do not pick for the same reasons I used to cut. Cutting was about feeling physical pain in order to gain some release from the emotional pain I was feeling. And also at times to “bring me back to Earth” because I felt so out there. Not even in my own body; like I didn’t exist. I needed to feel something. When I pick, I don’t feel pain. I am numb to it. I admit that sometimes if I am angry my picking becomes aggresive and I do dig and tear at my skin with my nails in a way that is not focussed on perfection. It is me self-mutilating and taking my temper out on my skin instead of on others. However I only do this on rare occassions. Most of the time I pick I am not even aware I have started to do it. Then by the time I realise what I am doing, I feel like I need to keep going in order to achieve something or fix the damage I have already done.
There are multiple reasons why I pick. And there are probably multiple conditions that picking is similar to or related to. Drug addiction and OCD is something I feel my picking is similar to. Cutting is something I hear picking compared to. Whatever your reasons for doing it, it probably differs from mine. I am curious to know why people pick and what it is like for them. There definitely needs to be more research done on this condition and I hope to discover other sufferers who are open about sharing their stories with me. Together we can raise awareness and encourage further research on Dermatillomania. A silent, often misdiagnosed, and even deadly condition.
Much love to everyone reading and anyone suffering. ♥
I’m looking forward to getting a start on my new book “Pearls – meditations on recovery from hair pulling & skin picking” by Christina Sophia Pearson. As you can probably tell from the sight of my legs, I need all the help I can get at the moment. Will keep you updated on what the book is like and if it helps. Also if anyone has read any helpful books on Dermatillomania please let me know. I want to learn all that I can about this condition in the hope that knowledge = power!
I have registered to attend a Webinar (a seminar conducted over the internet) on Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours which is what skin picking falls under. It is run through the Trichotillomania Learning Center and there are still tickets available if you sign up to be a member. The non-member tickets have unfortunately already sold out. If you’re interested more information can be found here.
Once I have attended the event I will share on here my thoughts and experiences with it. Because TLC is based in the United States and I live in Australia I will have to get up nice and early at 2:55am to be a part of it. It should be worth it though! And I’m very interested to see what I learn from it and what I can take away from it.
I was thinking the other day about tweezers and how I got to using them. I’ve been trying to read up a little on Dermatillomania and have come across some information about there being a connection between Derma and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). This is most likely due to the fact that both Derma and BDD sufferers have an unnatural precoccupation with perfecting one’s image. It did not start this way for me but over the years I believe it has developed into this.
I started picking when I was four years old. Around that time we had just moved from one state to another – from a small country town in NSW with moderately cool weather conditions to a larger tropical touristy town in QLD which was often hot and humid. It was in this new town that I also met mosquitos and was constantly bitten all over by them. So there are two major things which could have contributed to the onset of my picking – the stress of the move and the itch of the mosquito bites. However it started; it soon developed into a habit. One that I could not seem to stop. Doctors did not know why I did it. Psychologists didn’t have an explanation for it. And I sure as hell copped a lot of bullying for it in school.
Then our next move came. Now I was a teenager – fourteen years old. I found it difficult to cover up my skin in QLD because of the heat and humidity but now we were in WA. A fresh start where no one knew about my picking and where the weather consisted of four seasons – which made it a lot easier for me to cover up my skin. So the heavy makeup started, as did the long sleeves and the long pants. Now I could keep my secret hidden which made the picking a LOT LOT worse! It was almost as if I could get away with it now.
At around the age of 16 – 17 I discovered tweezers. I’d only ever used them once or twice before to pick at a really difficult scab that I couldn’t get with my nails alone. Those ones where a tiny bit of white/green skin sits stubbornly amongst the deep red wound and you have to pull it out or it just stays there driving you crazy. And I felt wrong using the tweezers so I tried not to use them.
Then when I was 20, thanks to the internet, I finally discovered that my condition had a name. I also discovered that I was not the only person in the world who suffered from it, much to my surprise. For 16 years I thought I was the only person who did this to their skin. And all of a sudden I didn’t feel so alone anymore. There was a community of pickers out there. And they used tools on their skin too. So unfortunately for me, and it’s probably been the only downside to discovering other Derma sufferers, using tweezers on my skin became acceptable.
Picking was a habit. A way of releasing stress, anger, tension… happiness even. It was a way of controlling my emotions. Tweezing on the other hand was a way of “fixing”, “smoothing” and “perfecting”. I became obsessed with the wounds having to feel smooth, no excess or dry skin could be hanging from the edge of a sore. I would use my tweezers to tidy this up. To make it feel better. To make it “perfect”. And now I can’t pick without them. I do not get the same satisfaction from using my nails as I can with using tweezers. So I pick the scabs off with my nails and then “perfect” the sore with my tweezers. And this is my routine now. So I can see how Derma may sometimes be linked with BDD – tweezing has turned my Derma into an image issue whereas before picking just used to be a form of release for me.
So I’m starting to develop an infection again. It’s been a while since I’ve had one. The spot with all the cream on it was really itchy last night and I must have kept picking at it. Today it is red, sore and swollen and when I run my hand over it, it feels like there is a golf ball beneath the skin. So me and my smart thinking: I thought it would be a great idea to just attack it with tweezers. I have now put antibacterial cream on it and bandaged it up. Here’s hoping that’s enough to combat the infection. Sometimes when I get them on my legs, the pain is that bad I can hardly walk – it feels like my leg is burning and the sore will be hot to touch. Yet I refuse to see a doctor when it is like that because I hate their “I told you so” disapproving looks.
All bandaged up! I can still feel the sore throbbing as I sit here and write this though. It’s like it has a pulse of its own.
I’ve been staying at a friend’s house while I get some space from my breakup and I have noticed that while I am here I don’t pick AS much BUT after a while I start to get some major withdrawal symptoms. It feels as though I am going a little bit crazy. Ok A LOT crazy!!
The first two nights were fine, I just picked a scab or two here and there, but then tonight (night number 3) my desperate desire to pick coupled with my anxiety sent my hands into a frenzy. I always find that if I have gone without picking for a few days that the next time I do pick, it is more agressive, more rushed, more frenzied. I gouge at my skin. Rip at the flesh. Dig my nails in further. I want my skin to tear. I want it to hurt. Blood goes everywhere. It’s not as controlled. There’s no need to “perfect” when I am in that moment – it’s all about the “need to pick”.
So I’ve done that now. But still I am anxious.
So I drank a cup of tea. But still I am anxious.
So I posted on here. But still I am anxious.
Usually the picking works. Why am I still so anxious? What can I do to help ease my anxiety?
This is my forearm. The big gash started off as a tiny little scratch from brushing up against a wooden pallet at work. I knew as soon as it happened it would become something much larger. I honestly thought that tonight would be the first night I went without picking. I got home from work, unwound for a few hours and was starting to get sleepy. Before I tucked myself in for the night I decided to go to the toilet. As soon as I pulled my trousers down to sit down I picked at a scab on my upper thigh without even realising it. As soon as I noticed what I had done I became angry and disappointed with myself so I figured “what’s one more?” This gash was the second scab I picked at. Then I lost count. I entered that all too familiar “trance-like” state with tweezers in hand and went to work on myself. It’s now 3:30am in the morning. I am sore, bleeding and weeping and all the shower did was wake me up more. Now I have to try and unwind again so I can hopefully get some sleep before my son wakes up in about 4 hours time. My Dermatillomania has a negative impact on ALL aspects of my life but the one I notice the most, apart from the physical scars it leaves behind, is the interference it has on my sleep. Lack of sleep also impacts negatively on every other part of my life so I feel like I am constantly stuck in this vicious never ending cycle.
About to attempt the grocery shopping and already I can feel my anxiety levels rising. I break down and cry in shopping centres because I am that OCD about food. I NEED to get over this! I NEED to start cooking again! Food is essential to life. You can’t survive without it. I can’t. And I know my son certainly can’t. I just wish I knew how to fix this. Life was much easier when all I had to worry about was the skin-picking. This food obsession is a whole new confusing ball game.
Tonight is one of those nights where I am wallowing in self pity. It sucks. So I’m going to make the conscious decision to just “snap out of it”. I can already tell that this year is going to be the year that defines me. It is going to be full of change and full of choice and I am damn well going to make the most of it! Yeah life sucks at the moment. I’m depressed. I pick. I can’t afford to put a roof over me and my sons’ head. I am going through a hellish break up. BUT SO WHAT??? If I keep dwelling on this shit then I am going to continue to keep living in my problems instead of doing anything about them. My problems do not define me. My choices do. I’m going to get through this and at the end of it all I am going to hold my head up high and say “Fuck I am proud of the fact I got here. Look at how far I’ve come and how much I’ve achieved!”