My name is Becky, I’m 17 years old, I’m an intern at a nonprofit for LGBT youth, and I have dermatillomania.
My earliest memory of picking was when I was in fourth grade and would scratch at the bumps on the back of my arms. This would slowly become an obsession, and for three years I would tear up my arms. When I turned 12, my sister was diagnosed with a chronic illness. My picking got worse, spreading towards my arms and forearms. I began pulling out my arm hairs, at first with my fingers, then with tweezers. It started out in five minute sessions, usually when I got home from school, but by the time I was finishing up 8th grade I was bringing my tweezers to school, spending my lunchtime in the bathroom to tear open my skin.
As I entered high school, the picking grew exponentially. I picked between every class, my arms were red and raw all the time. I started wearing long sleeves everywhere. I started seeing my first therapist, who told me I had depression, and that’s why I picked. She told my that the picking wasn’t a big deal, and that “some people are just pickers”. I stopped going after that, and the picking got worse.
By the time I was a sophomore, I couldn’t go a day without picking. If my tweezers weren’t in my pocket I couldn’t leave the house. I was picking between every class, and during some. I moved to the back of the room so no one would see me picking, but it couldn’t stay a secret forever. People found out, and started to avoid me. I had one personal rule- I would never pick in Spanish class. It was my favorite subject, I got straight As, and was trying to get into the advanced International Baccalaureate class. Even on my worst days, I would never pick in that class.
I started off junior year with high hopes. I was taking mostly IB classes, including the Spanish one I had dreamed about. I knew I’d have to learn to control the picking. And yet, it only got worse. I was leaving blood stains on my school uniform sweater, I had started picking at my legs, and if I couldn’t immediately find my tweezers I would have an anxiety attack. But the worst part, the part that has bothered me more than anything, was the moment I knew I had lost all control- I started to pick in Spanish class and watched my grade slip from my shining A to a disappointing, unacceptable C. It wasn’t until my mom received a call from the school principal, saying that I had been hurting myself in class, that we retried therapy. My new therapist was awesome, he told me about skin picking disorder and that it was something I could fix.
We’ve been meeting weekly for almost eight months now, and I’ve been able to go up to four days without picking. I’ve had some horrible relapses and great successes, but every day, every hour, is a struggle. I now average going a few hours without picking, which might not seem like that much but has been a life saver. My arms are still red, scarred, and torn, but I use Lush’s Charity Pot lotion to keep my skin soft, and their African Paradise body conditioner when I make it to two days pick-free. Sometimes my arms still burn when I go in the shower, and sometimes I feel comfortable enough to wear a short sleeve shirt outside. Long sleeve onesies have been a life saver, and my lace cardigan has helped me survive the warm weather here! Medication has also been helpful, but that’s most likely because I take it for OCD.
To all my Derma babies who are struggling still, let me be the first to say that recovery is hard, it’s exhausting, and it’s painful. And it won’t happen overnight. You’ll make it to three days, then pick for a minute, then pick a lot the next day- it’s okay. My therapist always tells me that even if you’re taking “two steps forward, one step back”, you’re still making one step of progress. One slip-up doesn’t undo all of your clean days.
If anyone wants a recovery buddy, or just needs someone to talk to, send me (red-velvet-renegade) a message- my ask box is always open.