Category Archives: Picking
What do you do when you’ve reached the stage where your derma could pass for acne, or pimples, or bug bites or just generally shitty skin? Do you still tell people you have Dermatillomania? Welcome to my current conundrum.
I mean obviously I still have it. Enough for people to still point out the scars and the scabs… but not so bad that I can’t pass it off as something else. Something everyday. Something normal. Something that anybody could have. “Oh it’s just pimples. Oh it’s just acne. Oh my cat just scratched me. Oh bugs must really like me. Oh I just have really shitty skin. Oh I scar really easily. BLA. BLA. BLA.”
And people believe it.
And I mean there’s some truth in it.
Yes I do get pimples. Yes I do suffer from adult acne. Yes my cats do scratch me. Yes bugs think I taste delish and they help themselves to a snack whenever they fancy a feast. Yes I have shitty skin. And yes I do scar easily.
But I also pop the pimples and the acne until I create sores that last for weeks and months on end. That 1mm cat scratch… I’ll turn that into something that looks like I’ve been attacked with Captain Hook’s hand… you know the one with the hook in it. And those bug bites… I’ll itch them until I bust them open. So I do have shitty skin and after years and years upon years of doing this to myself (24 years and counting) I am really really badly scarred. White scars. Brown scars. Red scars. Purple scars. Smooth scars. Lumpy scars. You name it, I have it.
And you know what… scars kinda suck. I mean, I love scars on other people. They’re cool. They tell a story. But on me… no. What story can I possibly tell?
I do this to myself. It’s self-inflicted. But it’s not self harm.
Derma is my demon.
I may go into remission from time to time and let my demons lie but relapse is always there. Within arm’s reach. At the tip of my fingers. What’s that saying… Idle hands make devil’s work.
You see the thing is my skin has been going kinda ok lately because I’ve been batshit busy. Like crazy super busy.
I graduated uni with a double degree… YAY.
I landed my first full time job in my chosen profession… YAY (sort of).
I bought my first house… YAY.
And I’m renovating it from scratch… HELL!
And so with barely any time to pick, my skin isn’t dotted with as many wounds as it is used to. But the scars tell a different story and they remind me that I still have this thing. This demon that I want to bury. To forget about. To never talk about. Again.
Notice I’ve been quiet on here. Notice I’ve been quiet everywhere. I shut off when things get too hard. I shut off from things. I shut off from people. I shut off from life.
I’m in a dissociative state right now. I am writing this in an attempt to come back to myself.
But I still feel so detached.
Things have been hard lately.
I always assumed that when life started falling into place (degree, job, house, child, etc.) that I would fall into place. That I would start to feel normal.
But I don’t.
As the picking lessened (and not through any choice of my own)… wait is it bad that I feel sad about being too time-poor to pick… anyway where was I… Oh that’s right. As the picking lessened my anxiety sky rocketed. I mean like to infinity and beyond… Buzz Lightyear style because I haven’t really left Earth yet. But I mean WOAH. Like leaving my house is hard. Driving is hard. Shopping is hard. Breathing is hard. Thinking is hard. Being is hard. Living is hard.
Is this what always lay underneath the surface of my Dermatillomania?
Because, shit, pass me the derma and depression any day over this anxiety.
It’s so suffocating.
To the point my heart is always beating twice, almost three times, as fast as it should be. The doctor reckons it’s gotten up to 180bpm. I wore a holter monitor for 24 hours and they recorded 167bpm at its fastest.
The diagnosis… inappropriate sinus tachycardia.
I feel like dying everyday. Not as in I want to die. As in my heart beating this fast all of the time makes me feel like I’m about to die.
And of course they’ve given me medication. And of course the anxiety and OCD have kicked in about taking the medication. And so it’s just one big vicious cycle.
OCD DERMATILLOMANIA ANXIETY PANIC DISORDER DEPRESSION
I know something needs to change. I know I need to get my shit together. I know I should give the beta-blockers and antidepressants a go. I know I should probably be reassessed by my psychiatrist because I know something’s not quite right.
And I know I probably shouldn’t be writing all of this because I don’t really want anyone to be in my head right now but here I am.
I never thought I would go silent. Disappear. But I have. And I’m sorry. I shut myself off from talking about this disorder – Dermatillomania and my other basket full of mental health issues – because I just didn’t want to be that person anymore.
But I’m still her.
And I’m still here.
Thank you to everyone who still follows me. Who still request to join my Facebook group. Who still enquire about my wristbands. Who still read what I write. Who take the time to leave comments, even though I know they go unanswered (I’m truly sorry).
But most of all thank you for being you. I could not survive this shit without knowing that there are other beautiful human beings out there just like me who totally get what it’s like to be a prisoner in your own body.
I love you all and thank you for keeping me going.
For bringing me back to life.
If stress had a face this would be it…
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.
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?
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.
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.
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. ~
Self-diagnosis. We are all familiar with it and we have probably all engaged in it at least once or twice. But how does self-diagnosis impact on those who have either been diagnosed with or are clearly suffering from a mental health disorder, such as Dermatillomania? This is a topic I feel compelled to write about, it is a controversial one none the less but I feel that someone has to give this topic a voice.
As a Dermatillomania awareness advocate I come across and converse with many derma sufferers on a daily basis. Mostly what I see is upsetting – people caught in the grips of an illness that is literally tearing their lives and skin apart, then there is the occasional hopeful story – those who say they used to suffer from the illness but now have it beat (I always wish there was photographic proof for these stories though as I am a bit of a sceptic); and finally there are times when what I see confuses and deeply upsets me. By this I mean those who say they are suffering from Dermatillomania and yet I can’t see any scars or marks on them. Then I find myself wishing that my derma could be that mild [edit: as physically mild as theirs] so I too could experience what it’s like to wear tank tops, shorts, go without makeup, or even wear a bikini! In fact I don’t even own said swimwear. The last time I went swimming was 11 years ago when I was 14 years old. I lived in a very hot and humid coastal town, so avoiding the water was near impossible, it just came with a sideline of questions and bullying.
Now as a Dermatillomania sufferer I am well aware of the tips and tricks one can take advantage of to hide the damage we do to our bodies, including Photoshop, taking photographs from certain angles, experimenting with different kinds of lighting, wearing certain types of clothing and picking only in certain areas. I am also well aware that Dermatillomania is a condition similar to physical illness, in that the sufferer can go through periods of remission, a word most commonly associated with cancer but it refers to the period of time during a serious illness when the patient’s health improves. I experienced remission when I was 17 years old to the point I almost considered myself recovered, although I did still pick every day even if it was only at a handful of hidden spots. Then I went through similar incidences of remission again when I was 22 and 24 although I relapsed in both instances within a matter of months. My skin-picking also decreases during winter when I have less opportunity to pick at my skin due to the fact it is always comfortably covered by jeans, jumpers, scarves, etc. And because I am not standing out as the only person wearing pants and long sleeves (as I do in the warmer months of spring and summer) I find that I fit in to the wider community a lot more which lessens my stress, depression and anxiety which in turn decreases how often I pick. So keeping all of this in mind I understand that I may be making judgements on people who are in remission; however if this is the case then it is helpful to state that you are in remission when discussing Dermatillomania with other sufferers so they don’t feel upset or confused by how flawless your skin looks in comparison to theirs. This is something that I learnt when I was in remission interacting with other sufferers and I found myself having to explain that I really did know how it felt to have severe Dermatillomania.
When I was 19-21 years old, my Dermatillomania reached its most severe point and thankfully it hasn’t been back there since. I was that disabled by my condition that I NEVER left my house without assistance and only then it was to force myself to do the grocery shopping in order for me to feed my son. I could not even walk to my letterbox, I could not put my bins out on the verge, I could not even open my front door to put rubbish in the bin, I would not open my front door to anyone and I would not even hang the washing out in my own backyard for fear of being spotted by a neighbour. My curtains and blinds were always drawn shut – I lived in complete darkness for more months than I can count! My only regular interaction with others was with mental health professionals, social workers and family support workers. I was that disabled by Dermatillomania I needed encouragement to walk outside of my own house because I felt as though my legs were going to collapse underneath me from the anxiety of it all; and if someone did manage to convince me to leave my house I would walk with my head faced firmly down, eyes fixated on the pavement, struggling to breathe, on the brink of tears and completely lost for words. During this time of my life I would engage in 7 hour long picking sessions most nights, where I would gouge at my skin with tweezers to the point I felt physically ill. I hardly ever slept, I was constantly infected and I was inundated by suicidal thoughts. I started planning my own death and writing goodbye letters. The next day I ended up as an outpatient at my nearest mental health hospital. This is severe Dermatillomania.
In the DSM-5 it states that: “Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder is characterized by recurrent skin picking resulting in skin lesions. Individuals with excoriation disorder must have made repeated attempts to decrease or stop the skin picking, which must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must not be better explained by symptoms of another mental disorder”.
Apart from the name Excoriation Disorder, I feel that the DSM-5 has it fairly spot on so far. To be diagnosed with the condition one must have skin lesions present on their body, there must have been some desire to want to stop, it must cause clinically significant distress and/or it must cause impairment in social or occupational functioning. It also must not be better explained by symptoms of another mental disorder and I think this is the most important signifier. In some instances there seems to be a fine line between Dermatillomania and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I say this because if one has flawless skin but believes they have imperfections on their body that are not observable or appear slight to others, then this more accurately fits BDD. With Dermatillomania there is no doubt to oneself or others that the condition very much exists physically! This is backed up in the DSM-5 under the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Diagnostic Criteria which states that a BDD sufferer has a “preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance that are not observable or appear slight to others. At some point during the course of the disorder, the individual has performed repetitive behaviours (e.g., mirror checking, excessive grooming, skin picking) in response to the appearance concerns”. The DSM-5 then goes on to state under the Excoriation Disorder section that although “skin picking may occur in individuals with body dysmorphic disorder who pick their skin solely because of appearance concerns; in such cases, excoriation disorder should not be diagnosed”.
This brings me to my next point however and that is that the DSM-5 should include an assessment criterion which diagnoses Dermatillomania on a sliding scale as it does with depression. When my derma was at its worst I was also diagnosed with severe depression however I can go through stages now where my depression is quite mild. Then there are days when I am just sad. Sadness and depression are two different things as are skin picking and Dermatillomania. One has to be severe enough to negatively impact the sufferer’s mental health and/or their ability to function in social situations in order to be classed as a disorder. Hopefully with more research and more awareness into this disorder a sliding scale for derma might come into existence, one where it can be assessed as mild, moderate or severe. I feel this is important because some people only focus on one area (and it may be an area that one can hide) whereas other sufferers can’t help but pick at numerous areas and in places that can only be hidden when the sufferer takes great extents to do so (e.g. by wearing long sleeves and pants in summer). Also some derma sufferers are still able to maintain friendships, relationships and hold down employment whereas others are unable to function in any social situation. In order for no one person to feel isolated about living with a condition such as Dermatillomania, it is important that there are different ways to describe the severity of the disorder, ones that are backed up by thorough medical and psychological research.
In a world where Dermatillomania is only just starting to be recognised in the medical and psychological field, I understand that many sufferers self-diagnose because they feel that there is no other option for them. I self-diagnosed 5 years ago when I first found information online about this disorder but I then brought that information to my doctor and the psychologist I was seeing at the time in order to receive a proper documented diagnosis – albeit they have spelt Dermatillomania wrong on my file! Whilst self-diagnosis can be helpful, it is only a stepping stone in a greater journey towards clinical diagnosis, treatment and then hopefully recovery. The reason being is that when self-diagnosing ourselves with disorders or illnesses, whether they be physical or mental, we can sometimes get it wrong or be quick to label a habit something more serious than it actually is. To put this in perspective: I often pluck my eyebrows, sometimes I over pluck them in my desire to shape them perfectly, I will also pull stray hairs from my chin or upper lip, and if my hair is done up in a style and I notice some are out of place I will pull them too. I occasionally pull hair but I do not have Trichotillomania or Trich. My hair pulling is nothing out of the ordinary and does not cause me any distress or social embarrassment. Everyone picks at their skin. This is normal. Many people even take pleasure in popping pimples or satisfying an itch. This is also normal. What is not normal is when you do not know how to stop and when you keep going to a point that it causes you significant distress and/or impacts on your ability to function socially. So please keep this in mind when self-diagnosing, as a wrong diagnosis can have a detrimental effect on both yourself and those suffering from the mental health disorder in question. I don’t want Dermatillomania to be misunderstood more than it already is or to be made out less serious than it actually is – this disorder has the potential to put a sufferer in a life threatening situation and this is why I am so passionate about spreading awareness, however controversial it may be.
It was after recently reading Laura Barton’s article in the TLC newsletter that I was reminded of a fellow Dermatillomania sufferer who chose to remove herself from the online Dermatillomania awareness/support groups due to some advice she had received from her therapist. The advice went something along the lines of “making a career out of Dermatillomania will only hinder your progress and recovery”. I remember the comment well because it immediately rubbed me up the wrong way. Not because I was disagreeing with this woman’s choice, as we all have free will, but because I strongly disagreed with the therapist’s advice or at least the wording of her advice.
When I first started searching online for some clue as to what on earth it was that I was suffering from, I stumbled across maybe one or two websites that contained information regarding Dermatillomania. Obviously I was relieved to discover that what I did had a name and that apparently there were other sufferers out there too, although going back six years ago I had no means of contacting these other people. However there was a downside to discovering this new information about my disorder. My skin picking all of a sudden became sort of normalised to me and my occasional experimentation with tweezers started to become a regular occurrence for me once I read that using “picking tools” was quite common. Now I can’t have a picking session without my tweezers and will go into a state of panic if I cannot find them or if I have them taken off me.
In saying all of this though, there were also a lot of positives to discovering my disorder had a name and that there were other sufferers out there like me. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I also stopped feeling like I was going mentally insane – I actually had physical evidence (in addition to my many sores and scars) that what I did was a condition and I could print this proof out and give it to my psychologists and doctors. Then I started connecting with other sufferers online and the sense of community and the strong friendships that formed as a result of this broke my life of isolation. I was still severely depressed but I started to feel hopeful. I also started to feel for the first time in my life like I had a purpose and that there was a reason I was given this disorder. I wanted to help others! I had to help others!
I started making videos and posting them online to YouTube. A wealth of people contacted me thanking me for having the courage to shed much needed light on this condition. From there I realised that I needed to create a place where sufferers could connect with one another, share their stories and break their isolation and so my Dermatillomania Support Group on Facebook was born. Unfortunately my battle with severe depression reared its ugly head again and so I disappeared offline for a few years. Upon my return I noticed numerous groups, blogs and YouTube videos had popped up about Dermatillomania. It was so fantastic to see that the word was out and my desire to start spreading awareness came back with a vengeance.
In Australia, we are not fortunate enough to have a wonderful organisation like TLC or the newly formed CBSN running. In fact Dermatillomania, and to an extent even Trichotillomania, are still relatively unheard of here in the land down under. Doctors and psychologists are still mostly unaware that this condition has a name (or even exists) and I constantly struggle to find treatment professionals who are experienced in helping those suffering from BFRB’s. Something has to be done about this! And this is why I have chosen to start spreading as much awareness as I can. I blog, post videos and write in support groups not only to help others but to also get the word out there that we have a condition that needs much needed attention in the forms of research, education, public awareness and treatment. Too many people are suffering in silence and that is no way to live. We need to break the silence and the stigma surrounding BFRB’s, such as Dermatillomania.
I blog, vlog, create support networks, run my own website, fundraise and hope to start up a not for profit organisation here in Australia not because I want to make a career out of Dermatillomania but because I don’t want others to have to suffer in silence like I did for 16 years of my life. This is something I do because I am passionate about the cause and I am passionate about the people who are affected by this disorder. I do not get paid for the time and effort I put into spreading awareness and it also has not hindered my progress or my recovery. In fact it has helped me! Depression is often a comorbid disorder to Dermatillomania and one way of helping depression is to feel once again like there is a reason/purpose/meaning to your life. Becoming a Dermatillomania awareness advocate has made me more accountable of my actions, has decreased my skin picking and has made me a happier and more focused person.
I understand that for some living in one’s illness can be dangerous but I think it is important to distinguish the difference between being passionate about something, in this case raising awareness of Dermatillomania (not exactly making a career out of it), and living and breathing Dermatillomania. I have come across the former and the latter in regards to sufferers of mental illness. The latter will spend every minute of their free time reading books, articles and blogs on their illness, making friendships with only those who suffer from their illness, carrying on conversations only about their illness, they may also to choose to study their illness at higher education institutions and/or choose to make a career out of treating people with their illness (e.g. by becoming a psychologist). This is unhealthy because their focus is always on their condition and not on anything else. They quickly and easily become consumed by their negative state of mental health and the more one devotes attention to something the more that something usually becomes amplified – in the case of Dermatillomania, the more one focuses on skin picking the more one tends to pick.
However when talking about the former, there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn a little bit more about your condition and the reasons why you may do what you do. It is also perfectly natural to want to connect with others and share your stories. Quite a few Dermatillomania sufferers have either already written, started to write, or plan to write books of their own that document their struggles and their successes with Dermatillomania. Everything in life is about balance. Take stress for example – too little stress in your life can leave you feeling bored, lethargic and unmotivated whereas too much stress in your life can lead to nervous breakdowns and other serious health issues such as heart complications. The optimal amount of stress in your life will allow you to perform tasks without becoming overwhelmed by them. The same can be said about Dermatillomania – too much involvement in the condition may cause you to only focus on the skin picking therefore amplifying the behaviour but too little involvement or no involvement at all can leave you feeling isolated, depressed and confused. And this is why I worry about that particular therapist’s advice – what if she has turned a sufferer away from the only support network she knew? What if this sufferer had great plans for her book and it could have reached thousands of other sufferers, further breaking the stigma and silence that surrounds this disorder?
I for one don’t spend hours on end reading current research on Dermatillomania and BFRBs… I’m studying to become a teacher not a psychologist after all! Neither do I sit in front of my computer all day trolling the internet for Dermatillomania articles/blogs/websites, etc. I study full time, have a part time job and a six year old child to look after so as much as I wish I had a little more time to devote to the Derma community, I sometimes struggle to even squeeze in a bite to eat! However on the rare occasion I find myself with some spare time I always choose to contribute something towards the Derma cause (lately this has been in the form of creating awareness wristbands) because Dermatillomania is of personal interest to me and I want others to know more about it. I don’t however sit there and let it consume me, intent on making a career out of it. I simply want to let other people know that our condition needs to be taken seriously so we can get the proper psychological and medical help that we need… if that means I spend my spare time making as much noise about Dermatillomania as I can then so be it. Some people knit, others play a sport, I prefer to scream and shout! And who knows one day I might even write a book about it but I’m sure that will be in between marking papers and changing diapers!
I guess after all that the point I was trying to make was if you want to make a career out of Dermatillomania – go for it! There is nothing unhealthy about pursing something you are passionate about and if it happens to help you pay your bills on the side then that’s an added bonus. However if by focusing on Dermatillomania ALL the time by writing about it, reading about it, talking about it, you find yourself becoming consumed by Dermatillomania and this worsens your condition then this is unhealthy. This is living in one’s condition and it can hinder progress and recovery. So please if you are a therapist choose your words carefully and make sure you distinguish between “making a career out of one’s condition and/or being passionate about the cause”, compared with “living in or becoming consumed by one’s condition”; we don’t want to cut sufferers off from what may be their only lifeline. And if you have received similar advice from your therapist, take a step back, look at your situation and ask yourself honestly if your involvement with your condition has made your symptoms better or worse. Let that answer guide your future direction in relation to your condition. For example, wondering how this article will be received combined with the stress of getting the awareness wristbands up for sale has caused me to start picking at my chin and chest. In order to take care of myself I will take a step back from the cause tonight and hold off on another blog post for a while. Remember to take a step back when you need to, aim for a healthy balance, take care of yourself first and foremost and always do what’s right for you!
I decided that I am going to shout myself a ticket to Ballet Revolucion this week and so it prompted a spur of the moment try-on-every-single-dress-I-own moment at almost 1am in the morning. I originally started trying on these dresses (of course they ALL still have their tags attached) with a pair of knitted stockings and a cardigan. Then out of curiosity I wondered what they would look like without the arms and legs covered up. And you know what… it actually gave me a confidence boost! Yes my legs are scarred, scabby and covered in bandaids at the moment. But so what! I am sick and tired of hiding! I am SO OVER being this shy insecure girl when all I really want to do is go out and have FUN without a care in the world! I am done covering up! I am done making excuses! I have had enough! This Summer I WILL wear whatever the hell I like whenever the hell I feel like it. And I will go to the beach. And I will hit up the nightclubs. And if someone has a problem with the way I look… then that is THEIR problem… NOT MINE!!
I came across this quote on Facebook tonight:
“Never be ashamed of yourself. Because you are born into one skin. You can scar it, stretch it, burn it, mark it, tan it, peel it. But you are always in it, so you might as well learn to love it.”
It’s funny how such a little thing can trigger an epiphany. I only have one skin and I have been choosing to wreck it. I don’t know why. I may never understand why. But this is all I have. This is all I am ever going to have. So I bloody well better start taking care of it. I am almost 25 years old… I should be having the time of my life. I should be comfortable in my own skin. I should love who I am. And so starting now I AM going to have the time of my life, I AM going to choose to be comfortable in my choice to be comfortable and I AM going to love who I am!
I just had someone send me in a wonderful question but to keep their privacy I chose to answer privately; however in case the answer could be helpful to someone else I will include a copy of the question & answer below:
I was just wondering if you had any advice. I’m going to (destination) tomorrow with my music school, and I wanted to ask if you had any suggestions for coping with my derma while I’m there? Do you have any recommendations – distractions, coping techniques, how to hide it, especially considering that there’s a beach (meaning swimwear :/), I’ll be sharing a dorm room and I’ll be around other people 24/7?
Wow that sounds lovely 🙂 I hope you enjoy your trip!!
Ok when it comes to distractions it’s a matter of keeping your hands busy as much as possible… by the sounds of it playing an instrument would come in handy! You can also try fidget toys (beaded bracelets, bottle caps, stress balls, etc. as these are everyday items that wouldn’t really stand out); writing/drawing; wearing gloves at night (pretend you’re giving your hands a moisturising treatment if anyone asks); and perhaps try painting your nails as wet polish tends to decrease the urge to pick (so maybe apply a clear top coat every time you get a strong urge to pick).
How to hide it… Wear long pants/long sleeves if weather permits. If you’d like to go swimming but don’t want to bathe in swimwear alone you could always wear board shorts or ¾ pants over bikini bottoms and a polo shirt over bikini top. I have done this before and only had one little girl ask me why I was swimming in clothes… I just said I don’t like showing skin. Other excuses I have used for not going swimming is “it’s that time of the month” and “I don’t own a swimsuit”. As for hiding the picking… if I’m around people I try and limit my picking to when others will be asleep or a quick session in the toilet/shower. I would also wear pyjamas that covered my marks and apply makeup as soon as I woke up and after my shower or before going to bed. For peace of mind you could always carry around a little pocket mirror and a stick of concealer with you for touch-ups.
I find that when I am around people 24/7 my picking lessens quite dramatically because I become acutely aware of my actions and am more mindful than ever not to pick. Sometimes the urges do become overwhelming though and that’s why I suggested trying to limit the picking to when you are alone in the toilet or shower. I also find that having to keep makeup on also really limits my picking because I am aware that I have makeup on and so I don’t want to accidentally rub it off and I also hate the feel of it under my nails. I know wearing makeup, especially to bed, isn’t the best thing you can do for your skin but it’s a temporary solution just to get you through the trip!
Hopefully you will be enjoying yourself that much & be that distracted by all the activities on offer that you won’t think so much about the picking! I hope some of this helps… good luck!! Xx
Also for anyone that’s interested I have a page on this website titled “How to stop picking at your skin” that contains a compilation of different tips you can try straight away as well as strategies for the long term.
So apparently, according to my mum, I can just stop? I picked at my chin tonight because I am stressing out about a date this week. So yeah obviously the smart thing to do is pick at my skin because we all know that makes me look so much more attractive and makes me all the more confident ha! Anyway it’s my coping mechanism, not that it really helps, but seeing my chin like this has pissed my mum off. She became annoyed with me and said I should be able to just stop, to which I replied “If it were that easy I would have stopped already”. Of course she had an answer to this “I used to have OCD and I stopped”. Yes mum I also used to have severe OCD and I was able to control that and I’ve also managed to quit smoking but quitting picking is a whole other ball game! Well apparently she doesn’t believe that it is that hard to stop! *facepalm* hold on one second while I go and bang my head repeatedly against a brick wall … there much better!! Now where were we? Oh yeah that’s right JUST STOP!!! -_-
I have just finished reading Angela Hartlin’s book – Forever Marked: A Dermatillomania Diary. It has been a long time since I have found a book that has immediately captivated me and kept me wanting to know more. Usually I read a few pages, get bored of the content and put it on my bookshelf never to be read again; however this was not the case with Forever Marked. Right from the first chapter I became engrossed in the pages and I struggled to put it down as all I wanted to do was keep reading it. It came into the bathroom with me, I stood and read it while I waited for the kettle to boil and I even took it to the Doctor’s surgery with me and proudly displayed it in plain sight for everyone to see.
What Angela’s book does is accurately depict the daily struggles of what it is like living with Borderline Personality Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Depression, Anxiety and of course Dermatillomania. To be able to glimpse inside the mind of someone suffering with these disorders is a unique experience and for someone like me, who suffers from Dermatillomania, Depression and Anxiety with Borderline and BDD tendencies the content was all too real for me. I could feel Angela’s pain as I have been there too many times to count – that intense self-hatred and all consuming depression that can darken even the brightest of days. At times the content was difficult to read because it was so depressing and so real that you think to yourself “wow how did she survive this” and then “wow how have I survived this”. A part of me kept hoping to read about how she had gotten better and although it was made clear that she hasn’t stopped the picking, just knowing where she has come from to where she is now is hugely inspirational.
What Angela has done is put Dermatillomania on the map and given everyone who reads this book an insight into what it is like living with this debilitating, life-threatening disorder. While I still hope for a cure or a method to stop my picking it is encouraging to know that I am not alone. That I am not the only one to have felt so down about my Dermatillomania that I thought suicide was the only way out.
I recommend this book to anyone suffering with Dermatillomania or any of the other conditions mentioned above so that you can feel less alone in your struggles. It also helps to read about thoughts very similar to your own but from the position of an outsider. It adds a different dimension to our battles with these disorders when for once you can be on the outside looking in. This book is not a self-help book nor does it contain any information on how to stop picking but what it does do is REACH OUT to you. This book is one I will most definitely read again!
So it goes without saying that Angie deserves a massive shout out for being so brave about sharing her innermost thoughts and feelings about what it is like living with these conditions! Thank you Angie!
My TLC order has arrived 🙂 & look at the wealth of information I got sent!! The only thing is they didn’t send me the right bracelet I ordered but at least I’ve finally got myself a copy of Angie’s book! Can’t wait to get started!!! 😀 Oh and I love my fidgets… so excited to finally have some… playing with two of them right now instead of picking… WINNING!!
This my friends is what a combination of stress, boredom and wanting to be “perfect” does to my skin. Stressed because I have found a painful lump in my breast 😦 & as I am still on holidays I can’t get in to see a doctor yet so of course my mind is racing with “worst case” scenarios; boredom because for some reason I must find an overload of study & work more relaxing than holidays; and wanting to have my skin looking “perfect” so I wouldn’t have to hide it when my family (who I’m housesitting for) came back from their trip. Well they are back and I am having to sneak into the bathroom first thing in the morning to apply makeup before anyone sees me, quickly apply makeup after my shower so again no one sees the damage I have done to my face, and yes folks I am also having to sleep in my makeup! Talk about Derma issues!!!