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annmarie

the beginning of the real road to stop picking

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I was a relentless, relentless, relentless, relentless - have I said relentless enough, skin picker. I picked my skin since I was about 18 til I was about 30.

I have only been a member of this forum for a very short time and am sometimes overwhelmed with honour at being able to share the level of honesty and vunerability that people are able to go to. You are all amazing. I picked my skin from a young age until I was about 30.

Years later after enough therapy to sink the titanic and now, as a fully qualified somatic psycotherapist I know why I did it. Somatic psychotherapists believe that the mind and body are one - not one above, over, or better than the other. Ill try and explain and share the only example that sold me hook line and sinker.

I used to pass urine about 60 times a day for years since I was young. When I was 18 after my parents died I went to see a GP. He told me I required an operation to stretch my bladder and that it was not such an uncommon thing and that it would help. I went on a waiting list for the opertion. By a chance that literally changed my life I took part in a personal development weekend course. There was some exercises involving the release of anger. I finished the course. I stopped urinating so much. I noticed it. I wondered what happened. Weeks passed and then it came back - up to 60 times a day again. I was afraid, alone, confused and didn't know what to do.

I remembered what happened - I was maybe 8 years old and my mother was in the toilet urinating. My father and I were outside but within the limits to hear. My father said something to me, some derogatory thing like "sounds like an elephant". As a normal child wanting to please my father, I felt ashamed and my brain instantly recorded the information. Without even noticing anything different I began from then on to urinate more and more frequently until it became like normal for me. You see the human being is perfectly wired for environmental cues that will help us better adjust to the world we live in. The brain is not a moral judge - it just says no problem ann-marie, I have recorded the fact that you never want to make the heavy sound of urinating and have immediately wired the system to make sure it never happens as of pretty much now. I have made it so your bladder will feel like it is full when it is in fact not. As such, you will never hold a sufficient amount of urine to ever have to go to the toilet like that and never make that sound ("that sounds like an elephant") that is obviously not an acceptable thing to do in the world you live in. Ok. Perfect. I went to the toilet lots so it never made that sound just a few drops 60 times a day.

Its not the mind or body being separate - they make a great team.

I learnt alot - that it was not a fault of the human organism at all but an amazing adaptation.

My picking was the same - IT IS NOT A FAULT but an adaptation to a situation that was at first unbearable.

The idea is that we have the feeling first (before the thought) and that we are first and foremost emotional beings. The emotion is recorded i.e. the tone of disgust in my father's voice, the feeling of shame is transferred and then the system tries its best to rectify the situation - as a whole unit.

Biting nails, taking drugs, picking skin, sores, - all compulsivities, inclusive of any and every addiction are all ways for the organism to regulate emotion - the very core of who we are.

Instead of looking at the addiction or compulsivity as a defence (old school of psychology and psychiatry) it is now seen as an incredible adaptation - WITH SELF HARMING AT THE TOP OF THE LIST AS ONE OF THE MOST SOPHISTICATED METHODS TO REGULATE THE EMOTION OF THE ORGANISM.

As a fully qualified drug and alcohol clinician working in a medical detox centre I think I can professionally state that in my opinion - all drugs and alcohol and other addictions/compulsivities allow the person to alter their state from one of unbearable pain to numb disassociation as a way to escape the true reality of tangible pain. I have never met anyone and am open to all feedback that claim otherwise. I've heard it all, from I came from a good family, to its all my fault. When people get off drugs they have to be in their own skin and that is what is unbearable for differing lengths of time for each individual - not the craving for the drug although it seems that way - its actually the need to disassociate from being in the skin that was not good enough as a child, teenager or whenever. Hence the need to dissociate and get out of our skin to some extent.

Drugs usually successfully alter the state (until tolerance levels rise and we become unwell) but when you can't get them like say as a child - self harming is the ultimate answer. It allows control and power to be somewhat regained by the organism and instantly alters the state. Sometimes the pain of self harming (picking) makes us feel the pain of our plight more. I know that I used to hurt my skin terribly and when it was bad enough I would be nice to it and try and get some cream or gel or new product and then try and help it. It was a relentless merry go round. The frightening levels of pain I inflicted until I would help it.

Ok enough already - how to get better. We need help but maybe not the help you think. We need to stop people telling us - to stop biting their nails or picking their skin. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to stop doing it. If you are picking your skin right now, make a little space for the fact, yes actual fact, that you are doing the very best that you can and you need to do it or you would be doing something else. Every single human being is actually doing the very best that they can in every single moment (yes inclusive of my violent abusive parents and all axe weilding murderers) and if they could do better they would but they can't.

We say no I could have done better - well prove it to me. Why can't we?? No-body does anything without a reason. Needs are met and need to be from having an affair to whatever. I'm not saying that my parents were right (their behaviour was dreadful) but I know that they lived a terrible miserable life and that it was the best that they could do given the upbringing they also had.

Picking my skin helped regulate my emotions in a violent world and it wasn't my fault even that I continued it long after they were gone. I learnt to do it as a child and I needed to to survive it. If I didn't use drugs to disassociate from low self worth and pain I might not be here today. Everything has two sides a positive and a negative. Nothing is all good or all bad. I'm a perfectionist and yes, its shame based. But then on the day of your cancer removing operation who do you want to operate?the guy that says she'll be right mate or the perfectionist who won't be able to help him/her self going for two hours longer after the nurse wanted to close yesturday- because they want to get every bit and want to make sure. I know who I would want. So being a perfectionist has a good side as well as its downside.

I dont think much of trying to do something else instead, putting on gloves, etc etc etc. I know people are desperately trying to help. The end of picking started when I found people who understood, heard my pain and did not judge me. Picking my skin has left me with horrible scars - that has taken many years to heal - but people like us, more often than not end up becoming incredibly sensitive, understanding and more compassionate people - that are the best of the best people to help others. This forum has an incredible amount of learned understanding and compassionate people involved with it.

One last note- even when you find yourself in the toilet at work picking your skin after being hurt by someone at work - no-one should judge and say thats not enough pain to warrant the need to self harm because it obviously is. People can be incredibly hurtful - especially due to their uncomfortability with our skin. Its actually more often than not their shame and not ours at all.

Try, when it is time, to plant a seed and nurture it in your heart. Maybe when you go to bed tonight you could try and remember the perfect child that we all once were and tell yourself the truth - that it wasn't your fault and still isn't. Sometimes my boyfriend compulsively cleans until it looks like it hurts and I try to say - is there any thing that I can do that would help? maybe a back massage anything at all. A cup of coffee. Sometimes he needs to be left alone and I try to respect that. We need people around us who won't make us feel ashamed of what we do. We are trying not to do it but we can't stop yet. We are emotional social beings and I dont believe we can do alot alone. I went to a therapist that understood what I did without judgement. My brother picks the skin on his hands and pulls out his eyelashes - and I dont try and stop him. It just pushes people to do it somewhere else in a dark corner, often all alone and ashamed. I try and sit with it and just be calm and talk if he wants. If he doesn't I just try and sit with that too. My anxiety triggered my skin picking due to the high level of trauma in my family. It took a couple of years of therapy before it really stopped. I honestly think we need people to accept us prior to change and that is what creates the opportunity for change. Real change. It doesn't have to be therapy - being with just one other human being who can listen and really hear whats going on for us really really helps.

Hope all this helps.

Ann-marie.

Edited by annmarie

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Hi Annmarie,

Just wanted to say thank you for your honesty.

"If you are picking your skin right now, make a little space for the fact, yes actual fact, that you are doing the very best that you can and you need to do it or you would be doing something else."

Out of everything you said that hit home.

I'm 27 and started compulsive skin picking (CSP) when I was a kid, younger than 10. And as I'm sure, you can relate, I was punished and shamed for this habit that I could never explain. Finally, I've decided to see a therapist and learn some better coping skills, so I can do something else, as you put it.

I'm new to this forum, too. I've never spoken to someone before in the same situation. Thanks!

Good luck with management. Less is better, right?

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Hi Annmarie,

Just wanted to say thank you for your honesty.

"If you are picking your skin right now, make a little space for the fact, yes actual fact, that you are doing the very best that you can and you need to do it or you would be doing something else."

Out of everything you said that hit home.

I'm 27 and started compulsive skin picking (CSP) when I was a kid, younger than 10. And as I'm sure, you can relate, I was punished and shamed for this habit that I could never explain. Finally, I've decided to see a therapist and learn some better coping skills, so I can do something else, as you put it.

I'm new to this forum, too. I've never spoken to someone before in the same situation. Thanks!

Good luck with management. Less is better, right?

Thanks Mel, I was a bit scared no-one would reply.

Kindest regards Ann-marie

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Thank you so much for this post. It made me realize where my picking began. When I was 11 or 12 and started getting acne, my mom would sit me down quite often and pick at my skin and tell me i couldnt be walking around with a pimply face.

I began to feel incredibly ashamed of my skin because I internalized what she did and said and now I have this skin picking compulsion.

Reading your post today inspired me to write a letter to my mom explaining all the pain and shame and hurt she has caused...and then forgiving her. At the time she was just trying to help. She didnt want me to have to suffer through acne so she was trying to help me get rid of it--she was just misguided and didnt know that would make my acne worse or mess with my head.

Hopefully if I can really truly forgive her I can rewrite my body's strategy for dealing with my skin and i will be ready to change my behaviors

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