After a triumphant first post, I was overwhelmed yesterday with the strongest desire to pick.
There's a spot on my arm that isn't healing so fast. When I run my finger over it I swear I can feel the tiniest of lumps inside and I am desperate to get it out. Just the idea of extricating it sets the rest of my skin tingling, soon crawling with the idea that there are bumps and lumps everywhere I must scratch away.
Luckily (although infuriating in the moment) my nails are so short they can do no good, only reddening the area before I get enough control to pull my hand away. But yesterday I broke my pact in the most pathetic of ways: in the absence of nails I reached for the closest tool I could find, and was soon poking savagely at the swollen spot with a paper clip.
A moment of horror flashed when I saw the first pull of blood and I threw the paper clip across the room. and sat on my hands. I sat still, berated myself for awhile and then regrouped. A successful recovery doesn't happen without the occasional set back. I was getting too confident with progress and letting anxiety sneak in.
Getting angry with myself serves no purpose. The whole point of this is to learn to love myself more. I must understand that my mind is not always working to my benefit. The only way I can achieve my goal (and the gorgeously clean skin I think I deserve) is to fight for it. Even if I'm fighting against my thoughts.
So. I took a hot hot shower and slathered lotions all over. I put band-aids on any spot I could find that seemed likely to tempt me.
I made it the rest of the day (in the company of other people, which always discourages me from creating an awkward situation of my arms stretching back behind me, or facing a seemingly inexplicable circle of blood on my arm).
But there again I was a night, sitting in bed, feeling the skin on my shoulder- which has dramatically improved just to the touch from the oils- tracing the skin like an alcoholic swirling a glass of whiskey. I carried on until my fingers met a band-aid, and they withdrew. Jogging my memory and reserve I shoved my hands under the covers and finally fell asleep.
Surveying the territory this morning I still see some clusters of newer red pimples, though they are dramatically more mellow than the kind of breakouts I've been used to. A weaker me would have scraped away every last one and started the day with splotches of blood and inflamed skin. I have been starting my days like that for so many years. Instead I slathered it with some extra BP, got dressed and went on my way.
This stretch is the hardest part. This is the 10 pounds lost point where you celebrate with ice cream. It's the seven year itch. It's all or nothing from here on out.
I trust my resolve. But I've hidden all the paper-clips, just in case.
I found myself nearly in tears two weeks ago, having picked every last bump from my back and arms, covered in bright red spots like chicken pox. I had dabbled before in regimes for clearing the acne that plagued my back. But the horror of staring at my swollen and spotted skin pushed me over the edge. Something must be done.
There were two problems as I saw it:
The picking and the acne. (And a third, which was the result of the first two: the scars)
Stopping the picking was up to me. It was mental. I grabbed a pair of mittens and secured them to my hands with rubber bands. If I couldn't mentally stop myself, I'd need to out-wit my anxious fingers. The picking itself was about much more than the act. It was self soothing, cleansing, exerting control. But the damage far outweighed the sick seconds of pleasure I got from it.
Agreeing to stop was the first step. I put it down on paper. "I refuse to tear at my skin any longer. I will not enable this behavior any more. Today it ends."
Then came the hard work. Each time the urge came up on me to scratch, I balled my hand into a first and held it away from me. I clipped my nails to the nib. I the wore mittens. I flicked my fingers and tapped things around me. Anything else was fair game. Skin, off limits.
The next step was to heal the damage and the acne beneath. With my doctors advice, and much internet research I set out to create a treatment plan. Typical over the counter SA washes had never worked, neither had the Duac gel I had been prescribed (admittedly, I never applied it on a regular basis)
I began with Hibi-Clens wash, used in the shower at least once a day. That was followed with an AH moisturizer (CVS brand, Alpha-Hydroxy Lotion). After a few days I added CVS Skin Treatment Oil, which contained vitamins A & E and healing calendula extract for the picked places and scars. For good measure, I also used BP gel to spot treat the worst breakouts.
The oil helped immediately in healing the scabbing spots (particularly those on my arms), and in a week I was nearly back to an even-toned slate. It took every inch of determination not to pick the flaking scabs. For the worst places I got hyrdocolloid band-aids to heal and protect (they were amazing).
In two weeks, the acne on my back was reduced by almost 50%. My lower back was almost entirely clear of new breakouts. Discolored spots still remained. To amp up the process I started taking Epsom salt hot baths before bed time, applying the lotion and oil after. Another 20% improvement was had. Almost all the swollen or inflamed pimples had subsided.
Which is where I find myself now.
The picked at places on my back have not all entirely healed yet, the newest are still red, though smooth. Scattered among them are older scars in shades of brown. Going forward it remains to be seen if the breakouts are really gone for good, and if something can be done for these spots.
I have begun taking flax seed oil, vitamin d, and a multi-vitamin daily. I have gotten Arnica Gel to also aid in the healing.
So from here, the schedule (not including face)
Shower with hibi-clens
Shampoo that is sodium laureth sulfate free
No conditioner, or very careful use to avoid contact with skin
Spot neosporin on still red areas
Hot bath with 1 cup epsom salts (if time permits)
BA spot gel
Vitamin Oil and/or Arnica gel
Neosporin + Hydrocolloid bandaid on few places still red.
White t-shirt to prevent bleaching.
Under consideration: Mederma for scars, turmeric, vinegar, additional vitamins.
And most important of all: clean short nails, a strong will, and patience.
Here's hoping for continued improvement.