Alone, Ashamed, Flawed

It wasn't until a few months ago I even realized I had a problem. For some reason I thought what I did was normal - that other people probably scratch and pick at their skin sometimes. I guess when I started noticing just how often I was doing it, and the amount time that would go into mutilating my skin, and the visible physical damage that it was clearly causing, I thought that maybe I had some kind of problem.

And sure enough, when I typed in skin picking into a seach engine, a ton of websites popped up, and to my surprise...it had it's own name. It was a condition. It wasn't just that I was a freak, and that I was the only one doing this. In one sense it was a relief to know that others suffered from this shameful and delibitating disorder, but on the other hand I now realized that it was way more serious than I had thought.

I read about how it's impossible to "just stop" with willpower alone (which is how I once thought I was going to solve the issue) and that there are several causes for the disorder, and sometimes it's very difficult to ever pinpoint the reason behind why you do it. Also, it is often hard to treat...something I found very discouraging.

I guess I figured since it was a recognized medical disorder, there would be all these known treatments for it and hopefully a medication that had proven success rates. But everything I read seemed so uncertain...different treatments worked for others and not for some, and I read many suggestions of different types of therapy. And while it's great that it probably really helps some sufferers, I knew it wouldn't do me any good because I was so sure I'd never be able to figure out my personal cause, even with the help of a therapist.

I have theories about what started me doing this to myself...but they are numerous, and I can't be sure about any of them.  All I know is that there are triggers for it. And I can identify the triggers. Stress, boredom, frustration, anger, etc...are all emotions that often set me off on a self-mutilation session. While knowing that these feelings often make me pick and scratch, I still do it anyway. It's like it's subconcious, and it's so routine and habitual for me at this point, that it's nearly impossible for me to realize that I even started picking at my skin. It's like a cycle. Bad feeling occurs - hands automatically gravitate toward an area of skin to pick and scratch - instant gratification and relief is felt - mind unable to reason and think due to the trance-like state I feel during scratching/picking.

Yes, it feels like I'm in a trance when I do this. Almost like self-hypnosis. I don't think. I just do. Obviously if I could think logically during, then I'd be like, "hey, look at what is happening to your skin! You are damaging it and creating wounds! Stop! You will hate yourself later for this and feel ashamed! The short-lived relief you get from this is not worth the emotional pain you'll feel later." But I don't think it. Not until after. As soon as I'm done, guilt and shame and sadness set in.

And I have a social life. And I like to go out and do things. And I have a job. I can't avoid doing these activities. I cannot withdraw even though I am terrified of anyone noticing the damage on my skin. So I obsess over hiding it and covering it up. I have my long shirts and pants which are great for hiding most of the injuries on the body. The face is always the biggest challenge for me. Luckily I am skilled with make-up application, but even so, it is hard to disguise so much damage. My face is my number one target usually, during a session. And I will spend a lot of extra money on a foundation just so I can hide it better. But when your face is just so mutilated to the point where it looks like someone used it in a science experiment gone horribly wrong, no amount of foundation can conceal it all. It helps. But there are always some areas where you just got way too carried away and now there is like a chunk of skin missing practically and it looks like craters on your face. Then you run into the problem of the foundation wearing off gradually throughout the day...but even worse, you run the risk of also picking at your face during the course of the day, and yeah, there goes the foundation, and now you've made the injury even worse. And then you have to wash your face and reapply the make-up. After, when you look in the mirror, you can still tell that the foundation is hiding major skin imperfections. But it will have to do for now.

I have tried to brainstorm recently of other ways I could hide parts of my face better. Well, ways that won't make me stand out in public. Wearing a ski mask all the time or wrapping my face is gauze bandages is kind of out of the question. I was thinking maybe I could wear a veil...I've seen women who wear veils that cover their scalp and come around their neck to cover up their mouth area. Usually they are middle-eastern or of some specific religion that requires them to do that. But there's nothing that says you can't do it if you just want to wear one. Also, who's going to know that maybe I'm not of a certain religion? It's not like I wear a sign. I very well could be. And people probably wouldn't question my wearing a veil unless it was someone I knew. In which case I'd tell them it's a fashion statement. lol. I dont know...wow, the amount of time and thought that go into every aspect of this disorder from the actual act of picking, the feelings afterward, how you're going to hide everything. omg. It's torture.

I wrote a ton. But it's because this is the first time I've ever been able to talk about this with other people so openly. It was all bottled up inside me. Thanks for reading...if you were able to get through the whole thing :)

BehindAMask BehindAMask
22-25, F
7 Responses Feb 21, 2009

Ive never felt so close to someone I have never met. Every single word you wrote is what I feel day to day. Im actually speechless right now. My wedding day is approaching and from when I was little I feared what my skin would look like in my wedding dress and its not good even after years of knowing my problem. Im ashamed but it does feel good to know I'm not alone but it still hurts so bad.

Thanks for sharing! I understand what you go through... I hate how much time it takes away from my life.

I am in your shoes.. reading your post was like expressing my feelings. I have so much to be happy for. and yet I'm still sad. I still pick.

they're right in a way. I know this post is a few months old. I hope you have tried what the other comments are saying. if you havnt tried to get professional help and its an option for you, then you should try. being aware is the first step, and its a big one to take. its hard to admit to yourself something's wrong, no matter how true it is. if you tried to get professional help and it hasnt worked, dont give up. I'm currently stuck on that boat since I'm a minor without a license and my mother doesnt agree that it needs help, but that's why I'm seeking help here. there's a few ways to try and beat it on will power alone, and there's many posts around this site that give new and creative ways to stop and success stories. they post those ideas so not only do they know whats working and whats not, but so we can learn from them... I hope you have found a way to pull yourself out of this sink whole of a problem, and if you havnt I hope that you are willing to continue on teh path for a cure.

I started crying while reading your story. This is my first time finding this website, and it is just such a relief to know that I'm not alone in this. The embarrasment is horrifying. It's gotten so bad that I will get so distracted by picking that I have almost crashed my car multiple times. All of my family has done nothing but tell me I'm crazy and that I need to "just stop." It makes me feel awful. I want to stop, so badly. I just can't. I hope that you find something that can at least alleviate your picking, as I hope that I and everybody else in this group and with this disorder find help.

You seem very self aware, which first of all I would like to congratulate you on, that will I hope be a great help to you along the way. But I do disagree with what you say about not being able to find the cause therefore not getting help, even if they cannot find the specific thing that set it off (like you I believe that is something that I will never work out) they maybe able to change some of your thinking, and help you break the cycle. There are also other therapies that might help, such as hypnotherapy and CBT. <br />
And good luck (to us all) and may we find the solutions that work for each of us.

You seem to have done a lot of research on this and have quite a bit of information on both the diseases, the causes, and possible ways to cover it up. The only thing I did not see was you trying to get some professional help for this, whether it be medical or psychological. We all get ourselves into the rut we are in with our own thinking. More of our own thinking will not get us out of it. Therefore I would recommend seeking professional help to assist you in your efforts and guide them as well. There may not be a miracle [ill or drug to resolve the problem, but like all other things, it can be managed. I wish you much good luck, but please seek professional help so that you do not have to worry so much about foundation and can learn better coping mechanisms.