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It begins with a small lump on my face, probably not perceptible to anyone but me. When I’m barely awake, first thing each morning my fingers trawl my face feeling for imperfections. I count them, I know each one. And then I start to pick. I can make a sore last for months, yet hardly bleed. It’s a precise thing, I have an absolute compulsion to make my skin feel flat, but I don’t want holes either. I want to take the surface off the scab. The anxiety I feel as I pick at and feel the edge until I can gain a purchase on it. Then I work at it, bit by bit until it lifts. How can i explain the feeling of satisfaction and intense relief? But at the same time I feel guilt and misery and self consciousness? The more anxious and depressed I am the worse the picking, but the picking makes me depressed and anxious. Vicious circle. My face looks like a pizza; I cover it in makeup to hide the redness. But wait; in the mirror I can see more flakes of skin around the scab. I’ve got to get rid of them. I find tweezers to lift it. Got it, a gentle pull and oh no! I’ve torn the surrounding skin and made it worse, it’s bleeding now. I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want to go out, I’m so self conscious, and I try to not look at people directly. I’m driving home, I’ve picked everything off my face and now I start with my fingers. I gnaw at the dead skin around my nails, I pick at the hangnails, I chew and I pick, it’s slightly frantic. I get home and put bandaids on my bleeding sore fingers. They hurt for days. Now I’m watching TV and subconsciously picking, in a trance like state, not even aware I’m doing it. My husband slaps my hand. “What are you doing, leave it alone, and just let it heal!” I sit next to him and the pressure builds and builds. The compulsion is overwhelming. The sore I was working on, the scab has half lifted. I go to the bathroom and lock the door. Pick Pick Pick. I know what I do is irrational. I know it is an illness. I tell myself if I could just leave it for a few days it would heal. I am a 39 year old woman and have done this to various degrees since my early teens. It’s time to stop. Writing this is an admission and also to help me realize just how weird and compulsive my behaviour is. It’s not “just a bad habit” as my husband tells me.