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slowlyhealing , 18 Aug 2012

I found hope and help: My Story

Hello Everyone. I have been on this forum a few times in the past four years, but never have I been able to truly write about success. Now, I believe I can. This is my story. I am a 19 yr old woman, and have been picking my skin since I was 14/15. But in all honestly, this problem may have started far earlier than I realize. Over the past 5 years, my most common places of attack have been my shoulders, back, chest, breasts, and face. My "picking style" has been popping. I feel or see pressure under my skin, and I get it out by picking (or popping, in my case) at it until the pressure is released, meaning, the skin, usually a clogged pore or zit, pops. Throughout my life, I have always been a nail/cuticle biter and chewer. I even used to bite my toenails as a small child (though I no longer do that.) During high school, I noticed how much of a problem my picking and popping was becoming. My acne became much worse. Friends would ask me about my arms, and why I had so many red spots. (Mosquitoes was my common excuse.) Eventually, I stopped wearing tank tops and open-back shirts, because my scars and sore were so incredibly humiliating. The sleeves on my shirts became longer and longer the more and more I picked. I tried telling my family, and they didn't really understand, blowing it off as a sort of bad habit. I developed depression and anxiety (common in my family), and saw a counselor, who also sort of blew it off. I felt helpless and hopeless. My high school boyfriends either didn't know I had this problem, thought the problem was weird, or knew and didn't encourage me to do much about it. May I add, none of these relationships lasted more than 4 months. Despite the shame and embarrassment of my problem, I still had a good time in high school. I was very good at masking the problems with makeup and wardrobe. It merely gave me the reputation of being modest, not showing my shoulders, cleavage, or my back. Little did I know that this "modest reputation" would attract a very special young man to me my freshman year of college. For the sake of anonymity, I'll call him Christian. Christian was a Junior, 21 years old. We met through a mutual friend at a getaway over labor day weekend. It wasn't love at first sight, but it was pretty close. We talked a lot that weekend, and quickly realized how great we were together. We were going steady three weeks later, and are still together to this day. Christian was such an amazing guy. I knew very early on that he was the one who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I also knew I had to be fair to him. I was hiding a very shameful yet significant part of my life from him. Even though we had been together for just a little over a month, I knew I had to tell him. If he was going to run, I wanted him to run then, before I fell more and more in love with him. We went on a walk around campus one evening, something we often enjoyed doing together. I stopped him and told him that there was something very important I needed to tell him. He said, "Alright, what is it? You can tell me." I explained, "It's very embarrassing, and I don't know how you're going to react to it."He drew me into his arms, kissed my forehead, and told me again, "You can tell me." So I did. I told him what I did. How long it's been going on. How often I've tried to stop and how I kept failing. There was a long pause. He was still holding me. I'm pretty sure I was shaking, and my heart was definitely racing. After what felt like an eternity, he said. "I love you." I WAS SHOCKED. That was the first time either of us had said that. I sure had thought it, but I wasn't going to say those three potentially complicating words for months yet, until I was certain they were true. But at that moment, I knew that I loved him. Someone, who after hearing such a troubling and frightening story, said that he loved me, was certainly going to receive it back from me. He said, "I'm very proud of you for telling me that. I understand that must have been very difficult and it was very brave of you. I will help you in whatever way that I can." He meant it. Christian encouraged me to seek counseling, so I did. I started seeing the college counselor. Throughout the year, we met either every week or every other week, and developed strategies and techniques and reasons to help me stop picking. But sadly, nothing worked. The only temporary fix was sheer willpower, which allowed me to stop for maybe 3 weeks at a time. But I wasn't dealing with the true problems beneath: The reasons I picked, the triggers that cause me to pick, and the thoughts that go through my head as I pick. I spent probably hours crying with Christian, feeling so discouraged and like a complete failure. I worried that he wouldn't want to stay with me unless I was about to end the picking problem. As if our relationship was a ticking time bomb that would go off it I couldn't stop. I hid myself from him, never showing him my worst scars and marks. One day, he convinced me to show him, so I did. It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life, but I did it. No one else had ever seen the scars on my chest and back, and I was so nervous about what he would say, but I should have known all along. He drew me in and said I was beautiful. He said the scars are like battle scars from a war that he believes that I can win. He assured me that my picking problem will never be a factor in the success or failure in our relationship as long as I'm trying. We bought the skin picking guide book from this website. My college counselor also bought a copy of the book and soon thereafter suggested a referral, believing that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, something that she was not certified or trained in, would be a great help for me. I have since begun seeing a doctor in my city, and even though I've only just begun meeting with him, I've seen drastic changes in my picking. It's much less, and It's much more manageable. I truly feel as if I have control over my life, something that up until now, I had never felt before. I got help. I found hope. I gained control. I know that I can do this. Although my picking urge may be something that I can never fully shake, and that I might have to deal with for the rest of my life, I feel like it's something that I will be able to do now. My advice for everyone. NO MORE SECRETS. Tell someone. Get help. If you're under 18, tell your parents. I did. They are now very supportive and are so happy with the progress I am making. Don't let money be an issue if you think that counseling is too expensive. It is worth EVERY PENNY. After awhile, nothing else will matter to you if you can't stop picking, so just get help! Yes, you may feel embarrassed. Yes, you may have some negative reactions from different people. Yes, it will hurt to tell such intimate aspects of your life to another person, but it's really, truly worth it. I have found love. I have found hope. I have found help. I have found my life again. I truly believe you can too. God Bless! -Slowly Healing
2 Answers
goal orientated
August 22, 2012
Congratulations. What a beautiful story. You are blessed. Care to share any tips from CBT pls?
August 22, 2012

In reply to by goal orientated

What my doctor has had me do so far is to identify: 1.) What my biggest triggers are. 2.) What is running through my mind before, during, and after I pick. 3.) To write down those feelings and thoughts. 4.) to record how long you picked for each day. I have another appointment in the morning, so I can update then too!

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