Note: I went a bit overboard with the length of this post. Don't let that discourage you. I am DESPERATE for help.
I've had pretty bad acne since I was about 14 (I am now 22) that comes and goes for months at a time,. From the beginning of December until about 2 weeks ago, my skin was clear and free of pretty much all pimples and blackheads. Every time I have these eras of perfect skin, I often believe THIS time is it, THIS is when the acne of my young life finally disappears and the skin of my womanhood, the skin of the rest of my adult life finally arrives.
Prior to this most recent period of clear skin, I had been on the regimen for a while but I had run out of products and I couldn't afford to purchase a new benzoyl that particular week. By the time I DID have money, I hadn't used it in a week and my skin was still clear. So I stopped using the benzoyl. I was only using Cetaphil and Olay Complete moisturizer and makeup as my daily routine and for 3 months my skin was fine.
Then came two weeks ago. I got something like 10 or so pimples all at once. Trying to dismiss it as a fluke of my menstrual cycle, I still kept my face away from any acne medications. I, of course, popped them all. As they healed, of course, more popped up. Here I am now with a face full of pimples, black heads, "healing" scabs, and fresh new pigmented scars.
Anyway, the reason for my post is that I notice I am picking a lot more than I ever have before. I usually wait until I get home in the evening or early in the morning (because of course I won't pick through my makeup and allow for the world to see the red swollen mess that my face becomes). Sometimes I look in the mirror, use sharp tweezers to break an opening into pimples that I feel have pus trapped underneath, either i press the edges of my tweezers down on both sides of the breakout to force whatever is in their out, or I use my fingers. Sometimes nothing comes out so I try harder because their is a pain (which must mean there is certainly pus somewhere in there) or the tiniest speck of white surrounded by open skin, redness, and clear ooze. Oh, if I see white, believe it is getting out. I won't stop until I KNOW that nothing else is poppable. I scratch or tweeze off scabs as well. Then I wash my face with cetaphil and since I don't have any 2.5 benzoyl at the moment (working on it), I've been using my roommate's 5% benzoyl. Sometimes, though, I don't do it so "safely." Sometimes, like now, I will be doing something (at home, never in public), and my hands go to my face to check on its state. I pop any pimple to the point of either blood or clear stuff. When it forms a scab like 10 mins later, I reach to peel that off. I have also been dragging my fingers over my skin to feel if there are any blackheads trapped in my pores. I mean, any microscopic feeling bump makes me do this. If I feel it, I press my nail into one edge of it to force it from the pores. Since I pick at blackheads that aren't even visible, I am left with even more bumps than before because of the swelling of the once blackhead-filled pores. This continues for the entire night (while I do homework, watch tv, ect,), until I am red, swollen and embarrassed to let my roommate see my face.
I've been reading other people's posts and I see a lot about picking and all of what I am finding is picking as a compulsion of OCD or as a symptom some other obsessive psychological state. While i DO suffer from pretty bad generalized and social anxiety, I have never had any OCD symptoms. I do not consider my picking to be obsessive, but I do think my way of thinking about picking is really flawed and I cannot seem to shake it. I genuinely feel as though, the only way my skin will heal is if I release all of the bacteria from my pores. Waiting will only keep my skin uglier and bumpier for longer, picking takes the situation from acne to HEALING acne. Why not skip the ugly, painful middleman? Of course I read everywhere that picking is bad and that irritation only makes acne worse, but for some reason I CANNOT allow for puss and blackheads to stay in my face if I know it is there. Sometimes I try to convince myself that people only condemn picking because it causes scaring. Then I reason that scarring will fade over time and I can cover red marks with makeup so nothing is stopping me from getting all of that evil junk out. I tell myself that the reason my acne hasn't eased up isn't because of the picking, it is because this is just how my acne has been for the last 8 years of my life. Even when I didn't pick so frequently, my acne still existed.
I guess what I want from this community is a wakeup call that picking is only making my acne worse. Keeping my hands busy isn't the issue here. As I type this, I am still searching for things to squeeze out periodically. I pick because I feel that it will lead to clear skin, not because I can't control it. Any information or experiences that will reinforce the popularly accepted idea that what I am doing WILL lead to continued breakouts, is what I need to hear. Factual stuff like- does the clear after-pus stuff spread acne bacteria? Can anyone explain HOW irritation causes more breakouts? or personal stuff like- Is there anyone out there that CAN relate to this? Has anyone experienced a significant difference after purposely choosing to stopped picking? I KNOW that not picking won't miraculously heal me, but if I have reassurance that doing it makes it worse and not better, I am much more likely to leave my face alone.