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antelopes , 05 Mar 2011


I've been a picker for more than 10 years. I'm now in my late twenties. Up until the last year, I always let myself believe that my picking as a gross bad habit. I remember getting my first pimple in Grade 7, and being so ashamed. I remember picking it, and making my chin way worse, and trying to cover it up with my mom's foundation. I remember in clear, painful detail so many 'moments' about my skin. For my whole life my skin had been a very personal, emotional topic for me. I see now the picking became a way to wrestle control over breakouts (mild to severe over the years). If my skin didn't want to be perfect, then I would teach it to be. I felt like my skin was out to get me, that I was 'dirty' or 'sick' inside. Picking became my 'secret' flaw that I kept hidden from everyone, friends and family. That bathroom became my sanctuary. Even as a teenager I knew I was in denial, and that my picking had deep emotional roots. But I never was able to admit was I was doing to myself. I couldn't even say the word 'acne' or 'picking' to my friends or family. When ever someone talked about pimples or skin tone casually in conversation I would bristle and cringe. I felt raw and exposed and so ashamed. The quest for perfect skin was like my own all-emcompassing, taboo quest. Most people don't let a few pimples ruin their did pimples turn into life or death flaws for me? This past year I finally hit a wall. Something broke, or snapped. I started to have panic attacks and developed acute agoraphobia. I couldn't leave the house, and the natural light of the outdoors frightened me. I would find routes around town where nobody would see me. I was literally in hiding from the world. My picking grew more severe, I was digging deeper, and so I started wearing bandaids on my face at work ('covered' by hairdos'). I couldn't look people in the eye. I'd go home and sleep for two hours in the middle of the day. I'd get up at 3 AM and pick for hours, alone, with my heart beating. I'd come out into my dark apartment, dazed and completely 'crazed'. Then I'd crawl into bed with bandaids on my face and stay under the covers...unable to deal with what I'd done. I've lied, rescheduled countless appointment, called in sick, I'm guilty of doing all of that 'rearranging' and 'staying at home' stuff that comes with picking. What kills me the most is not the thousands of dollars I've spend on all sorts of creams and face washes, but the amount of time and energy I've spent trying to make my skin 'behave'. And the sorrow I've inflicted on myself and others. I've missed out on a lot of things because I've picked my skin, and was too scared about how I looked. I finally had to face picking for what it was. It wasn't a 'bad habit' but a very serious emotional and self-injurious compulsion. I've now spent that past 12 months on a 'healing journey' -- with regular sessions with a psychologist and anti depressants. I regained some power with allergy testing which has helped my skin a lot. I hate my doctors for prescribing boutique birth control pills instead of suggesting I cut inflammatory foods (turns out I have a severe Lactose intolerance) and see what happens. Changing has been harder than I ever thought it would be. I held onto a false belief that the day I finally told somebody what I was doing, my behaviour and impulse to pick would just fade away. In fact, it seems once decided to deal with my picking as a real problem, my compulsion and picking only grew more severe. Share it with others wasn't easy. Even after almost a full year, with the mirrors taken down, all kinds of diversion tactics (I've found that gardening and a walk around the block are ones that actually work to get your mind off a destructive one-track thought). I've 'come out' to my family and friends in wild crying fits. But I'm still fighting for control with a tiny square of mirror that I've left uncovered so I can put on makeup. I still have picking 'sessions' that leave my neck aching and hands tingling from being clenched and wrenched over to for so long. But I know I'm changing. I know I'm not the same picker I was...and I refuse to give up hope. As I write this, I'm recovering from a major slip up, and have several wounds that look wet and gross, with ointment on them to help them heal. But they're not covered up. My partner can see me and my face. This is what I look like today. And I'm not hiding. I've discovered that depression runs in the family and that my moodiness and anxiety was most certainly given an outlet in my picking. And I'm very sure that even at what I considered my worse, most disgusting skin days, my friends, partner and family never saw the monster I was sure that I was. I'm slowly gathering and seeing the evidence that people really don't care about the odd pimple, or even a bigger one. I'm determined to work through the feeling of shame and self-hatred I've let rule over me for so long, and to slowly and very timidly see what it's like to go outside without makeup. To just my skin be itself, let me be me, not matter how vulnerable. My skin problems almost feel like a self-fullfilling prophecy. Does anyone else feel that way? Looking back, it seems like acne was something I created for myself, when I deeply internalized my friends talking as teenagers about not wanting to be a 'zit face' with 'holes in their face'. It seems shortly thereafter I started standing in front of the mirror, picking, determined to be perfect -- the thrill of buying my first real 'face wash'. After more than a decade, I can't live this way anymore. One of the quotes I try to keep in mind these days is "perfection gets in the way of greatness'. I really am grateful that others out there know what this is like. In my worst moments I felt completely and utterly alone with a horrible 'secret' behaviour, that wasn't really 'serious' because it wasn't cutting myself with a razor, or burning myself. It couldn't be that bad, right?
2 Answers
March 06, 2011
I relate to a lot of what you wrote...I was always uncomfortable when people discussed acne casually because my skin is my biggest insecurity and I know I create my acne and feel other people know it too so I am ashamed. I'm a freshman in college with no one i know and I can't afford to go through days avoiding people because of this so enough is enough. I'm on day 10 and I feel like stronger as well, so I believe that if you feel a "different" picker and that you joined this forum and wrote your whole story that you already took steps to defeating this. You can do this and it helps to post as often as necessary--progress updates,questions, advice, fears, etc. We all have similar feelings and experiences.
March 07, 2011

In reply to by anonymous31894

hey, ya, i feel like i'm slowly making progress, but it's been a lot tougher than i every imagined. i remember the fear i felt (but also hope) about going to university and having to share a bathroom and mirror with a group of strangers. i thought that it would force me to stop, and in a way, it did my picking harder, but it wasn't enough to stop. on my worst days i would sneak into the bathroom and pick and then, completely inconsolable and feeling trapped (my face red and bleeding), have an 'emergency' shower and just stand under the water, crying and feeling alone, ashamed and afraid. there was one bathroom in the basement of the dorm that i would 'end up' in sometimes...and after I was done I would have to sneak back up, terrified that someone would see me. looking back, these habits were so awful and self-destructive. sometimes I would wait until late in the morning when everyone was in class to have a shower, so there'd be less chance of sharing the bathroom and feeling humiliated by my imperfect skin. sometimes i would pick a little before class, and then be paranoid all throughout the lecture that my skin was bleeding, and sometimes it was...i can't describe the panic of holding up your shirt sleeve to your face and seeing that a pimple is bleeding (especially when sitting beside your crush!). even thought i got good marks, there was so much energy wasted on thinking about my skin, instead of taking notes or catching up on reading, and feeling confident enough to travel on a field trip or an overnight trip with friends (all of which terrified me.) Actually, reading is probably one of the worst times for hands really travel to my face when I'm sitting with a book. now, i force myself to wear gloves, and wish i had when i spent all that time with my university textbooks :) it sounds like you have a pretty good understanding on what is going on and i hope that you hold your head up high on campus. looking back, i can't believe i inflicted all that craziness on myself. somehow I still managed to have an amazing four years of school.. but it wasn't without some pretty crazy ups and downs. (skin wise). I wish I'd opened up to my friends a lot sooner (I did try at school, but I found it so unbelievably embarrassing), or at least gone to the school nurse or health centre. I really did need way more emotional support than i let myself believe at the time.

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