Monthly Archives: July 2014

If Stress Had A Face

If stress had a face this would be it…

My 'stress' face.

My ‘stress’ face.

I wish I knew a healthier way to cope with my stress. This disorder is slowly killing me from the inside out. Although of course it is quite possible that this disorder could kill me from the outside in. With every wound comes the risk of infection and I’m no stranger to infections.

The cause of my stress may also be the reason I go quiet on here again. I am back to working 4-5 nights a week, full-time uni goes back on Tuesday, my little man goes back to school on Wednesday, I have a 5 week teaching practicum coming up in mid-October and on top of all of this I am still trying to sort out my furniture and a home for my cats from my break up almost 2 years ago now. I know I have taken on too much. I always do. I have an extremely addictive personality and I get addicted to work and study just like I am addicted to picking at my skin. I don’t know how to slow down. I find keeping busy helps with my Dermatillomania but at the same time the pressure it puts on my heart and my brain and my body – sometimes it feels like I will have a nervous breakdown and never come back from it.

Fresh from tonight's picking session.

Fresh from tonight’s picking session.

I attended an OSPA (Obsessive Skin-Pickers Anonymous) meeting online about a week ago and this helped me come to the realisation that I am powerless over my skin-picking. It is an addiction and it does have a hold on me. Unfortunately unlike drugs and alcohol I can’t simply abstain from the substance for the very addiction is me. My fingers, my nails, my hands always constantly searching my skin for the next spot, the next pimple, the next blemish, the next scar to reopen. THE NEXT FIX! How can I distance myself from myself long enough to beat this thing once and for all?

Fresh from tonight's picking session.

Fresh from tonight’s picking session.

Once I came to the realisation that this disorder has more control over me than I want it to, I contacted an addiction recovery clinic here in Perth, Western Australia. I explained Dermatillomania to them and I wondered if they would be willing to take me on as a patient. Although they had never treated anyone with my specific disorder they advised me that they had successfully treated a number of patients with compulsive disorders using a drug called Naltrexone. In their words: “Naltrexone works to block the opiate receptors in the brain, but a flow on effect of this is that it reduces surges in dopamine (surges in dopamine are what gives you the pleasure and reward from doing a certain task)”. So although the drug would stop my picking from feeling good it appears that it would also stop other things from feeling good. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for my depression. However given how low my mood can currently drop I worry about how dangerously low it could get if I no longer experienced any pleasure whatsoever.

I fill shelves at a department store for a living so my hands often get cut and scratched when opening boxes or hanging things on racks. This then gives me blemishes to pick at. My hands are badly scarred from years of endless picking.

I fill shelves at a department store for a living so my hands often get cut and scratched when opening boxes or hanging things on racks. This then gives me blemishes to pick at. My hands are badly scarred from years of endless picking.

The good news is that I haven’t given up yet. I still want to beat this and I am still exploring my options. Addiction treatment and/or having my nails surgically removed are two options I am considering as last resorts. In the meantime (now that I am finally working again) I am hoping to be able to afford the regular upkeep of acrylic nails and I may even start looking for a new psychologist or hypnotherapist to work with again. This is the longest I have gone in my life without seeing a mental health professional (from the age of 8 years old I have seen one regularly). Sadly I had to finish up a 4 year relationship with my psychologist in January of this year as she was offered a job elsewhere and it was a great opportunity for her. Up until this point I have been coping but I know I’m at the stage where I need the help again.

I've even started picking at my chest again!

I’ve even started picking at my chest again!

This post was a bit ranty and maybe a bit all over the place. It’s 3:00am here and I have a splitting headache but I just needed to write and get things off my chest so that maybe just MAYBE I can sleep tonight. I have spent the last few days and nights picking sometimes until 4am in the morning and sometimes for over 3 hours straight. I know I need to start taking better care of myself but I also know I don’t have the time right now to do that. I often think of deferring uni for 6 months and really knuckling down and working on this condition but at the same time I worry that having nothing on my plate will only contribute to more picking. At the moment it seems like a lose-lose situation whichever way I turn. So for now I will leave you and myself with the serenity prayer, sometimes referred to as the AA prayer:

~ God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. ~

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Long time. No write.

So it has been a while since I have written anything on here. My apologies! Last year I found it really hard juggling full time uni, my night job, volunteer work, a teaching prac, being a single mum as well as keeping this website updated and selling the Dermatillomania Awareness Wristbands. Something had to give because we all know what happens when we suffer from this disorder and we become stressed and overwhelmed: PICK PICK PICK!!! So I decided to leave the blog for a bit and just become more active in my Dermatillomania Support Group. It turns out that this year has been just as hectic as the last (although I have learnt to manage my time a bit better) and next semester is going to be one of the most chaotic semesters I have ever undertaken so I may or may not go quiet again on here. Please understand it is not because I have stopped raising awareness of the cause or because I have no more stories to share… quite the opposite in fact! So here’s an update on how I’ve been doing:

NOT SO GREAT!!

Any surprises there?

How I have been looking lately. The sore on my forehead became infected and grew to the size of half a golf ball. It was one of the most painful wounds I have had in a while.

To be fair I was doing quite well. I managed to wear a dress to a party in January and a pair of shorts to a catch up with friends but then… that dreaded word… RELAPSE!! Made worse by the fact I am on break at the moment and when I find myself with nothing to do, well, I pick of course! Stress and boredom are two big triggers for me. Plus I suffer with depression so unless there is something motivating me to get out of bed each and every single day then chances are I will stay in bed and pick. I will also stay up all night and pick. Of course this makes me feel bad so then I pick more! But you all know this right? This vicious cycle… the never ending merry-go-round of derma, a ride we desperately want to hop off from but how?

Not only do I feel bad for myself but now I am starting to feel guilty. Guilty that this skin-picking disorder is now impacting on my son. I mean we have spent most of the school holidays inside because I am too ashamed to leave the house… I won’t even go outside to throw rubbish in the bin! Yes I am back there again! BUT if I put makeup on then I at least manage to force myself to go outside. It’s just finding the motivation to first look at my reflection in the mirror and then begin the painstaking process of trying to cover up each and every one of my self-inflicted wounds so that I at least appear somewhat ‘normal’ to the outside world. But my son brought something to my attention the other day in the roundabout innocent way that children get straight to the crux of the issue.

I was sorting laundry when I noticed certain stains on little boy’s jocks and so I teased him that boys were dirty (because let’s face it, we’ve all found those stains in grown men’s underwear too)! Little did I realise I’d get teased back!

“Ewww boys are dirty” I teased with a smile on my face.

“No you’re dirty” my little man retorted.

“How” I asked, curious as to what response he could possibly have for girls being dirty.

“You’re not clean because you have polk-a-dots” he said, pointing at my face.

SILENCE.

“Can’t you just go and put some makeup on” he added, pouring salt into my wounds.

How I looked when my son commented on my appearance.

Well what was I supposed to say to that? I did manage to mutter a “that’s not very nice mate” but at the end of the day he was just speaking the truth. And that’s the thing about kids… they’re damn honest even when you don’t want them to be! Family, friends and even partners (as nasty as they can be sometimes when it comes to this disorder) mostly try to make you feel good about yourself placating you with comments such as: “It’s not that bad” “I can barely notice it” “You still look beautiful to me” bla bla bla. But let’s face it; my seven year old nailed it! I know I look like shit. In fact I think I look like a junkie at the moment. My hair is unbrushed and all over the place, I stay dressed in my pyjamas all day and my face and hands are covered in open wounds. Luckily it’s winter at the moment so at least my legs and arms and all the rest of me are mostly covered up!

I admit I sometimes criticise people (only in my head of course) for their dress and body art choices after they’ve become a parent. Not that I have anything against people’s choices when it comes to their own appearance but sometimes becoming a parent means a bit of conservativeness wouldn’t go astray. I often wonder if these children will be embarrassed of the way their parents’ look; however never once did I stop to think how my son must feel about the way I look. I will put on clothes and makeup to cover up this disorder to everyone else (family, friends, partners, work colleagues, etc.) but not my son. Never my son. Maybe I thought because he had only ever known me this way that he wouldn’t even notice it. But he has. And I know that now. And I feel awful that he has to look at me every single day and stomach what this disorder has and still is doing to my appearance. I have a good kid! In fact I think he is fantastic and he’s usually super sensitive to other people’s feelings. But maybe just maybe I needed to hear in a roundabout way what MY disorder is doing to HIM. Part of being a good parent is protecting our children, especially from pain and suffering, but how can I do that when I keep exposing him to my own pain and suffering? This is not his battle. This is mine. It is not fair that he has to suffer because I am suffering. I have always wanted to stop picking but now I want to stop for him. I just wish I knew how…

After I had spent all the previous night and all the following day picking, this is a picture of my face last night before I got ready for work.

This is how I looked after I had put makeup on for work. Not my most precise job but my wounds were still fresh, making them really difficult to cover.

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