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I am 15 right now, and have been picking since I was about 8. I mainly pick at my scalp, but sometimes I'll pick at my legs, too. When it started, I was really upset after a fight with my dad and sat in my room just squeezing my scalp as hard as I could, not really knowing why, but as soon as the pain hit me and it started bleeding, I felt like I had found a gold mine of stress relief. Before I started (and when I try to stop, for that matter), I felt helpless, as though I was a victim of my environment and there was no way to control my emotions. I had no power over what I said, did, and felt. But when I pick, I feel powerful and confident. Picking is a way for me to gain control over my actions and emotions. By picking, I can take a step back, look at my situation, and make a rational decision as opposed to spitting out the first words that pop into my head and clumsily acting on an impulse. The worst (or at the time, the best) part of it was that nobody could ever find out. I have very thick, dark hair, so nobody could find the scabs or the scars, even if they tried. If I picked a little too close to my part, I could just change the part and hide it. Usually, I feel around on my scalp to find the weakest, easiest places to pick. However, if I can get away for an hour or two, I'll stand in front of the mirror and use my eyes to search for my next target as well. For a long time, this worked great. I could quickly and easily gain control over my surroundings anywhere, anytime. But now, it's controlling me. In November of last year, a friend confessed to me that she had been cutting herself. It wasn't until then that I realized that what I had been doing was a form of self-mutilation. Up until that point, I had known it was a bad habit, but that's the worst I thought of it. It didn't even cross my mind that it could be a little more than that. A few days after this talk with my friend, I decided to quit, but after a while, things got out of hand and I broke down. See, I've wanted more than anything, for my whole life, to be a professional violinist. I didn't realize until about a year ago how competitive and stressful of a career choice this would be. There are lots of auditions, which are the bane of my existence. When I got tendonitis in my left hand in February and had to stop playing for three months, I was a wreck. Everything I ever dreamed of was falling apart around me, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I somehow managed to refrain from picking while I was healing, motivating myself with thoughts of how much happier I'll be once my hand heals. Eventually, I was able to start playing again. Instead of being happy and enthusiastic and playing all day like I used to, I could barely last ten minutes. Even during those ten minutes, I could only think about how rusty I was and how awful I sounded. This led me to the point I was at last week. For the first time in my life, I questioned my music, the only thing that I have ever wanted to do. I said, "I can't handle this. I'm not cut out for it.". I was so confused... I couldn't see myself as anything other than a violinist, but at that point, I wanted nothing to do with it. Finally, I broke down and picked at my scalp like there was no tomorrow. I even crossed a line I swore I would never cross. I was getting impatient. I couldn't do enough damage fast enough with my fingernails, so I took a sewing needle and scratched up my wrist with it. Once again, I was painfully clever: sewing needle scratches are small and heal fast. Nobody noticed them. The sickest part about it is, after doing this, I slept a full 8 hours for the first time since I stopped picking. I was scared, so I talked to my boyfriend and my parents. After speaking with them, I understood for the first time how much the picking is impacting my life. If it controls me enough to make me question my music, then it's got to be a very serious problem. Tonight, I discovered this website. I'm shocked at all the information I've gathered this evening about Dermatillomania. It's like somebody went through all my thoughts and memories and published it in a web site. Now, I'm more motivated than ever to stop this, but I don't know where to start.. My parents have agreed to get me counseling and support me however they can, which is wonderful, but I know that this is my battle, and nobody can fight it for me. That's my story. Wish me luck finding a happy ending.