Chibi Jeebs shares her story, telling us why she picks her skin when it causes her so much distress
I pick at my skin. The slightest bump, lump, or imperfection is subject to my finger nails; I work at said imperfection until it no longer mars my skin. Unfortunately, this generally comes with a small amount of blood, which results in a scab, which protrudes from my skin and generally will receive further picking (because apparently I don’t know when to leave well enough alone, dammit).
Skin picking is formally known as dermatillomania. There are a number of different kinds of dermatillomania – skin, scalp, acne, etc – and numerous reasons why people pick at their skin: for some people it’s borne of boredom, while for others it’s more of a compulsion.
I have worried and fussed over my skin for about six years now. Every time I get a bad flare-up that sends me to the ends of the earth searching for miracle cures (which really isn’t that often), I forget that said flares eventually end and my skin goes back to (semi)normal. Until that occurs, I obsessively examine my face for new blackheads, pimples, and clogged pores. Well, let’s be honest: I’m looking for imperfections every time I look in the mirror. I try to leave well enough alone, but…
However. I’ve ended up with some wicked scabs. Scars. Hell, I actually bruised the tip of my nose after a vigorous attempt at blackhead extraction. The worst part? The only reason I even knew is because a coworker asked what was “wrong” with my nose: I hadn’t even noticed I’d bruised myself. My arms, shoulders, back, and scalp are also subject to my ever-roving fingernails – anywhere a patch of dry skin or little bump might be found. And once I find one? I’m pretty unable to keep my hands off myself.
The “secret” part lies in my… favourite (for lack of a better word) place to pick: my ears. The scabs just inside my ear aren’t easily visible, you see. People aren’t walking around peering in my ear canals. And I get away with it, for the most part. Chebbar will give me shit if he catches me, but that just means I’m more furtive about my picking, often doing it when he’s not around (in the car on the way to work seems to be a favourite).
It’s a perfection thing. I’m sure it started because I felt something that needed to be gotten rid of – I’ve seen visible blackheads in other people’s ears and it kinda squicks me out, so I was probably trying to get rid of the imperfection.
It’s a control thing. I get to choose when/where I pick. I have myself fooled into thinking I have control over whether or not I pick, and that I can stop picking whenever I want.
It’s a comfort thing. I know this will sound strange considering I’ve picked until one ear is raw and I almost always draw blood, but I think it ties into the control bit. As well, I do it when I’m anxious, stressed, or uncomfortable.
It’s rather bizarre to have a habit that feels completely out of your control. I’ll tell myself that I’m just going to SEE (okay, feel) if my ears are scabby, but the next thing I know, I’m bleeding. I’ll tell myself that I’m ONLY going to pick IF the scabs “feel loose,” but the next thing I know, I’m bleeding. I’ll tell myself that I’m NOT going to pick AT ALL today, but the next thing I know, I’m bleeding. Even as I’m picking and it’s starting to hurt and my brain is telling me to STOP, I pick until the next thing I know, I’m bleeding. Or I’ll be picking when the boss comes up to my desk and I tilt my head to hide the fact that I literally cannot stop picking even just until he goes away. It is RIDICULOUS. It makes me feel like a freak, but a secret freak unless you catch me mid-pick.
Well, until today. For some reason, I felt the need to say it out loud. Maybe so other pickers know they’re not alone? I’m not sure. I do feel a little lighter for unburdening myself, though.