Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I pick me

I continually say that I welcome fear into my life. It’s a wonderful motivator with its ability to get me up, out of my comfort zone, trying things I normally wouldn't think twice about. I think it pushes me in ways very few things can

Recently, I have begun to notice the amount of power I allow fear, cleverly disguised as anxiety, to have over me.

I now realize that fear, when it is not motivating me, is busily working away at weakening me.

The raw scalp beneath my hair and the scabs along my shoulders and scattered cleverly around my jaw line and sides of my face attest to this volatile relationship that I have with fear.

My favorite place, my go to place, is right at the back of my neck just below my hairline. My hands go there almost instantaneously when I begin to feel uncomfortable. Meeting someone new, running into someone I haven't seen in years, unexpected things I can't control, waiting in a long line at the grocery store, what if's, etc. will bubble up emotions that I don’t know how to process. Even writing this post has found my hands creeping to those spots. I count 7 bumps there already, results of my anxiety towards a dentist appointment tomorrow. To list all the things that drive me to pick would make this a fairly long post. It boils down to this, I pick when I become anxious

which is often.

This condition has a name. I just found that out recently. It’s amazing what you can find out when you google “picking and anxiety”. It is called dermatillomania also known as compulsive skin picking or CSP and it is very common. There are various levels to this disorder. My case compared to the others I've read about seems pretty mild.

I have never taken this behavior very seriously always assuming it’s just something I do to combat nervousness. I never took the time to really assess how seldom my hands are at my sides or in my lap.

With a hand full of people, people that may find themselves at my mercy when over come with the urge to pick, I joke about it. I elicit their help asking for gentle reminders to "stop picking" should they see my fingers start to dig and scratch their way to a less uncomfortable state. My husband has gone as far as pulling my hands away and sometimes he will hold on to them so they can't find their way back.

I have never looked at what I do as a compulsion

but it is.

When I pick I feel better. Even when the sore is raw and my hair sticky from the blood

I. feel. better.

Those feelings of stress and anxiety are lessened by this behavior, this thing I do, this compulsion.

For me, the first step in figuring out how to conquer this compulsion and the fear behind it is writing about it. If I vow to myself to work at this and share it with what could possibly be hundreds of people I will be more likely to hold myself accountable to changing.

I don't want it to get worse.

I don't want to eventually have to rely on medication to help curb the compulsion.

I want to rely on myself.

And maybe, by writing this, I will find just one other person who says "Hey...I know exactly what this feels like."

And then maybe we can hold each other accountable.

First and foremost I need to be more aware of when I do it and where I do it. I have to create distractions, I read about a woman who would place a barrette over every scab on her head so that when she went to pick, her fingers would touch the barrette and she'd immediately refrain.

I need to watch for high stress situations and be more constructive in dealing with the anxiety that riddles me. I need to find a healthier way to combat those stressors.

By continuing to pick I am allowing fear to win.

I have to place fear in front of me. Fear that if I continue to pick, my scalp will no longer be beautiful should I some day choose to be or become bald.

I will laugh in the face of fear. Picking is just merely a habit that I’ve formed, a crutch if you will, a choice I make to avoid fear rather then face it head on.

I am not embarrassed or ashamed about picking. I see it simply as a defense mechanism that my mind created for one reason or another to counteract fear/anxiety.
But as I said before I have a mild form. For some this is a very serious condition. I feel for them, for their need to resolve their anxieties, their stress and their worries by essentially hurting themselves. Picking leaves scars that serve as reminders.  No one should have to bear those scars. No one should be okay with bearing those scars.

I am not okay with that.

I am a picker but when it comes down to fear vs. me.

I pick me.
For those interested in learning more about Dermatillomania or for those needing help please check out this site, Skinpick.

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Confessions From A Working Mom said...

I absolutely understand what you are talking about. Remember last week when I admitted one of my "quirks" is compulsively picking at my eyebrows? I do it when I get anxious too. I just read a post on a blog yesterday that said anxiety was a sin. At first, I disagreed, but after reading all that blogger had to say, I 100% agree!

Confessions From A Working Mom

Melissa said...

I appreciate your openness. I suffer from anxiety at times, as well. With help, I'm learning to identify what triggers it and how to handle it when it surfaces. It's a process that takes time, but I'm starting to feel optimistic that we're getting somewhere.

I'll be praying as you work on this! :)

Angie said...

I am a lip biter - I have awful, bleeding, peeling cracked lips because of it - only when I am feeling stressed.

I hope you are able to control your picking and do not need the meds to stop it.

Jenny said...

I definitely understand where you are coming from. All of our fears play out in different ways.

I have horrible ocd...i check things often and sometimes to the point where I am laying in bed telling myself i do not need to go and check.

I hope that you get better...sometimes we just have to tell our minds to slow will all be okay.

Melissa said...

It sounds very similar to the hair pulling anxiety-associated disorder (Trichotillomania).

A lot of people use anti-anxiety medication to help with it.

Good luck though...!

I too have obsessive compulsive tendencies. I do okay (for the moment) without medication or therapy, but I have used those tools in the past.

Again... good luck! And thanks for sharing.

MommyLovesStilettos said...

I actually used to do that in high school. I wish I could tell you what made me stop, but I'm just not sure. At the time I had no idea WHY I was doing it and I rarely ever realized that I was doing it. I did it without even thinking.

I'm thinking of you. I hope you can find some peace and find a way to curb it. *HUGS* hang in there.

Danielle said...

Hahaha. I totally have those bumps on my scalp too, and there were periods during grad school where at home I would wear a full ear covering winter hat to remind my hands to leave my head alone! (pretty effective but very silly).

I used to be a longtime nail-biter (18 years), I gave it up so that I'd have pretty nails at Prom (how lame is that looking back),, and since I work in health care my hand-sanitizing has gotten out of control and the biting has stopped,, but it was only replaced by picking... picking at my cuticles ridiculous development that I now am working to curb.

Shell said...

I pull my hair out. Literally. I run my fingers through my hair when I'm upset, but in such a way that I come away with many, many strands of hair. Enough to make a giant hairball. Gross, I know. It's why I'll tie my hair up when I'm nervous, to stop myself from being able to do it.

Thanks for sharing, love.

Angelia said...

How wonderfully open and honest of you. The first step in recovery is admitting there is a problem. I think you'll find that you are not alone. I have mild (luckily) OCD...I check the front door lock several times before bed and my alarm clock.

Aphrodite's Mortal Friend (ME) said...

I knew someone that pulled her hair- to the point where she got large bald spots and had to wear wigs ... she is seeking therapy and I do believe it is helping her ... I hope you find someone to help hold you accountable too!

Anonymous said...

When I get nervous or anxious about something I always bite the inside of my cheek.

singedwingangel said...

Trichtilommia I think is what the hair pulling is called, I have friends who do it, pull every eyebrow out, even eyelashes. I pick as well. But I use Psalm 91 to release stress and anxiety. Read it out loud when you get there.. Listen to what it says about what God does for you in moments of fear..

Stepping On Cheerios said...

Oh dear, I'm so sorry! I have anxiety too but it shows itself differently. My doctor put me on a very low dose of Celexa and it really helped. I was on it for about 9 month and just recently weaned off of it.

Hope it gets better for you:)

erica said...

i love how open and honest you are in all of your posts and all of the feedback that your followers are able to give you.. i have anxiety issues as well.. not sure if i do anything when i become anxious, but after reading this post i think that i'm going to try and pay more attention to it.. like with a lot of ppl you don't even know you're doing it, you just do.. i hope you're able to curb your anxiety and with out meds, i know i don't like being on meds either.. =)

gamommy2two said...

I'm a bit of a picker too. The only difference between you and I, it seems, is the location of our picking. I pick at my fingers...bite them....scratch them...peel the skin off them. My hands have a few really bad places that I think may never heal from my years of picking. I never even realized it was a condition until I read this post.

Kmama said...

I don't know you, but I have to say that I'm proud of you for admitting this and for having the resolve to say that you will not let fear win.

Be strong. (HUGS)