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--- +Like so many other people on here, I didn't realize other people did this until two months ago when, after a particularly bad picking session, I finally typed "skin picking" into google. I was relieved to find there was a name for this and that it went right along with other tendencies I've had (such as nail biting and occasionally hair plucking). Along with this discovery came the urge to talk to these other people and to tell them how all this came about. --- +And then to resolve to stop. --- +So here it goes: --- +I was a thumbsucker and a nail-biter as a kid, but I didn't start skin picking until I was twelve. I can still remember the first time: sitting in the back seat of our old pickup truck, listening to the thousandth screaming match between my parents, I noticed a bump on my arm. It bothered me, so I squeezed it. For some reason, the sensation relieved some of the stress I was feeling; it hurt a little, but not really. --- +My parents split a few months later, and my mother, siblings, and I moved to California (something of a culture shock for a girl who had lived in Texas for nine years). That was the beginning of a very messy divorce and one of the most intensely stressful times of my life. I wasn't picking regularly then, but by the time I reached my freshman year of high school, I had small cuts up and down my arms all the time, as well as across my shoulders and chest and back, where I could reach it. I wore T-shirts that covered as much of me as possible. I would wear longsleeves if I thought I could get away with it and claim that California was too cold for my southern blood. Lies, of course. --- +I realize now, looking back, that the more intensely stressed I became from my parents' divorce, the more I picked. It's a wonder my therapist didn't notice the scabs on my arms and think to ask, except that his office was cold, and I would wear a sweatshirt in there when I could. --- +Some of these cuts were getting infected by this point and it finally peaked when I scratched so hard during my sophmore year English class that I started bleeding enough for the teacher to notice. She asked, in front of the class, if I was alright. I was very embarassed, but a little embarassment was fortunate: I stopped scratching my arms so deeply. Chest and back, though, were still easily covered. --- +My mother and friends were starting to notice. I was making all sorts of excuses: really bad acne, allergy to food/grass/laundry detergent/the air, bug bites, heat rash. I worked at a water park for a while, but even the constant exposure didn't stop me; I found a tinted sunscreen that I used on the picked spots. --- +Working at the park made me realize something helpful, though. Everyone has their skin blemishes. I stopped picking as much and started wearing clothes that exposed more of me. If I had a few scars, so what? So did everyone. --- +Just before my junior year, I got sick and several of the cuts once again got infected. My mother thought it was a Staph infection and took me to the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics. For a while, my skin was better, clearer. I still picked, but not as much. --- +Then came the stresses of senior year and I was back to being almost as bad as I had been at the beginning of high school. My mother got fed up with snapping at me to stop picking at my skin and my excuse that I had bad acne and took my to a dermatologist. He believed my acne excuse and put me on Acutane. --- +That actually did help. Not having acne to pick at meant I had to try harder to find things to pick. Unfortunately, I was an expert at doing that. But I only very rarely picked until I drew blood and stopped picking at my chest and back entirely. The bumps I left on my arms really did look like a rash. I was doing it so infrequently that that excuse worked; I used it through my first two years of college. --- +One night, while staying up very late because I was bored and could, I saw a TV program on trichotillomania. It caught my attention because the afflicted who were talking were describing feelings I was familiar with. That was the first time I thought it might be something more than a bad nervous habit. --- +I spent my third year of college "studying" myself to try to figure out when and why I picked at my arms. When? When I was intensely stressed, bored, procrastinating, avoiding something I didn't want to do, or simply didn't have enough to do. Why? Because I felt CALMER, more awake, less bored and didn't want to stop. --- +I tried to keep places I would pick at covered if I knew I was going to be idle. Unfortunately, this meant I just started to pick at the exposed places. I now pick at my forearms and legs instead of just my upper arms. I also started getting ingrown hairs, which just added fuel to the picking-fire. Once I started picking, no matter how much I silently scolded myself, I couldn't stop. --- +At least I was aware of this. --- +It is now the summer between my third and fourth years. I am currently studying in Italy. In an effort to try to stop picking, I mostly brought clothing that would not cover my arms. It has worked, somewhat, but I'll have to wear a t-shirt down to my elbows for the next couple days. You all know what that means. I didn't want to write my paper last night; I was procrastinating. --- +One of the many reasons I am writing this right now is because I have a nice summer tan right now, which makes all those white scars on my shoulders oh so visible. I have had no less than three people within the past couple days ask me what happened to my shoulders. I've told them I had a skin condition in high school; I guess that's somewhat true. I thought common courtesy dictated that people did not ask about each other's blemishes. I was apparently wrong. --- +I have two choices. I can let it shatter my confidence and go back to covering up. Or I can come here, tell my story, vow to quit picking, and walk around with my scars visible to all and hope they fade with time, which is not meant to be as sappy as it sounds. --- +I am twenty-one years old. I started picking nine years ago and haven't really stopped since. I have small, round white scars across my shoulders, chest, and back from all those times I picked until my skin was bleeding and infected. The skin on my upper arms is thick with scar tissue that is almost unnoticeable until you touch me and feel the unevenness. I also hardly notice anything but a heavy touch, because the years of picking have reduced sensation in my arms. A shame, because I am a tactile person: I touch everything because I enjoy the feel of things - and perhaps that is part of my problem. --- +I pick at my arms. I pick at my legs. I pick at the skin around my fingernails. I can't let my nails grow long, because I end up cutting myself. I pick for many reasons, but mostly because I am bored or stressed. I think sometimes I even pick in my sleep. --- +I think it's time to stop. So this is part confessional and part vow. My screenname on here, Finisco? It's Italian and can be translated as "I am finished." --- +And I am. As of today, I am no longer a skin picker. --- +I'll let you know how that works out.