A couple of weeks ago, I told you all that after years of coping on my own, I finally went to a doctor to talk about anxiety and weight loss. I was prescribed sertraline (Zoloft) as she diagnosed me with mild anxiety and depression that was worsening because of the pandemic. I also started phentermine which has worked great. Last month I lost six pounds! It has been a long time since I have seen the scale go down rather than up. I am very excited about it.
But I did not want to post about the good stuff today. This is going to be a hard thing for me to talk about openly. It’s very personal. Only my parents and my husband really know about it.
I want to talk about how my anxiety and depression can show itself. Maybe one of you do the same things, show the same symptoms(?). We are not alone in this.
Um… for years I had this “nervous” habit. Any bump, pimple, scab, whatever on my shoulders were picked at. A lot of time it was picked to the point of bleeding. I would also mess with the acne on my face, but not as much as it was not as easy to hide it. Before my wedding in 2016, I recruited my work wife and a couple of others to help me not pick as my wedding ballgown was sleeveless, and I did not want the sores to show up in our pictures. We mostly succeeded then, but it never completely stopped.
The past couple of years were about the same. Mainly shoulders, sometimes face, and occasionally an ingrown hair in a sensitive area. It was not ideal, but it was manageable.
This is the point where I self diagnose myself with something called dermatillomania. As my anxiety got worse this year, so did my skin picking. Shoulders, arms, face, underarms, pelvic area… any “blemish” I found was poked, squeezed, scratched, etc. And if dirt or something came out of the attacked spot (like a pimple being popped, I don’t know the nice term for the gunk), I would search harder for more to chase the satisfied feeling of toxins being expelled from my body. I am currently wearing Neosporin like an expensive lotion to try to do some damage control. It is my chest that has gotten it the worst, though. It is covered with bruises and sores. The worst part? When those areas swell up from my abuse, my mind sees another bump that needs to be taken care of. My body is not getting the time it needs to heal my skin.
So why do I think it is dermatollimania? Mental Health America.org describes it as a behavioral obsessive-compulsive disorder that can cause scarring and severe disruptions to life. When I start picking, thirty minutes can pass without me realizing it. I once started the shower to warm up the water before I got in, then I got into a skin picking session. By the time I actually got into the shower, the hot water was gone and all that was left was cold again. So, I got a cold shower and a few new bleeding spots for my troubles.
I do not even know what triggers it. And my brain will be telling me that I need to stop, but that message does not make to the muscles causing the damage. Usually it is an outside force that snaps me out of it. Taylor may check in on me. My cats may start yelling at me, or the ping of a new message or email will remind me that I am supposed to be working.
Every time I still and see the damage I did to myself, I feel ashamed, defeated, ugly, and broken.
After a particularly bad couple of days before Thanksgiving, I finally googled skin picking. That’s what led me to Mental Health America and a couple of sub-Reddits. From there, I got ideas for tools that could help me resist picking until I can talk to my doctor about it at my next phentermine check up:
- Wearing long sleeves (thankfully it is finally chilly in Florida so I can do this one)
- A fidget cube to keep at my desk (I found a cheap one on Amazon and I love it)
- Something called a Pop-It that is like endless silicone bubble wrap that I keep in the bathroom
- Alexa reminders when I shower
- Making friendship bracelets (I did a lot of this in high school and college, and I still have a lot of string)
These things will only help if I use them, but it is a start. I am also going to change my nail shape from flat/ square to more of an almond one so they will not be able to dig into my skin like shovels any more. Some people have suggested watching pimple popping videos on YouTube cause of that satisfaction feeling, but those gross me out so much. If it’s my own stuff, it’s fine. Anyone else’s is ew to the power of David. Again, I am also going to talk to my doctor about it for an official opinion. Having a game plan makes me feel a little bit better.
That’s my ugly truth. I am destroying my body, and I cannot control it.
While I am bearing my all to you, I might as well list some of my other manifestations of my mental health. I feel like these will be more common. On my low days I can get VERY disengaged with everything. All I want to so is sit on the couch and just exist at the minimum level. I also can get pretty irritable. When I get anxious, if I am not picking at my skin or playing with one of my resistance tools, I am repeatedly squeezing and rubbing the area between my thumb and pointer finger or my whole hand, clenching my jaw, or chewing on the inside of my mouth. Bubble baths and candles help, but if I can see my skin, then I will most likely start picking at it.
I hope that I can post soon that the skin picking is getting better and that I am finally healing some. At the very least, I hope the doctor can give me more coping suggestions that I can pass on. If you are also a picker, please know that you are not alone. I feel your pain. I see you. We are beautiful. I am always willing to listen (and that goes to anyone, not just my fellow skin pickers). I love you.