I still don’t even know if I’ll post this when I’m done writing it, to be honest. That’s how embarrassing this is.
It is something I’ve dealt with my entire life.
It is also something I’ve hidden (to the best of my ability) for my entire life.
It’s disgusting to look at and I feel like it’s even grosser to watch in progress.
Let me tell you how it started.
I’m being honest, because why the fuck wouldn’t I be?
Aside from a fear of being judged, but I’m really trying to let that go. If someone judges me because of something that I’m opening up about struggling with, the thing I probably hate most about myself… maybe they don’t deserve my friendship?
Just thinking out loud.
But I’m 99% sure this started with nose-picking when I was a child. It was a feeling of satisfaction that I was unable to get any other way in stressful situations.
Of course, teachers and parents and friends steered me away from that.
Picking dried glue from my palms or the little pencil tray in my desks worked for a while too, but that involved prep, which I wasn’t always, um, prepared for.
But once my desk was discovered to be a mess or the snow from the peeled glue was pointed out by a peer a few times too many, I put that to a stop.
So what was next?
Peeling my mother-fucking nails and split ends. Y’all I actually didn’t realize how all these pieces of the things I was embarrassed about tied together until just this second as I am writing it all out like this.
In late elementary and middle school, my favorite hobbies including bending my nails back and forth until they split and peeking at the ends of my hair through the light to locate split ends.
I remember feeling so much shame at that last one because the popular girls always made fun of my classmate for having split ends, but only when she was out of earshot. I automatically assumed that the instant I walked away, they started whispering about mine.
So, I split them. It required great skill and focus, but in times of great stress I could do it for hours. It was far more satisfying than the nail peeling.
And no one talks about how good it feels when you’re doing it… especially if you reach whatever imaginary goal it is that your brain has set for you. Like, the “thing” you have to do before you can stop picking or peeling or searching.
But then the guilt and shame immediately follow when you’re greeted with the aftermath.
This is me from this morning- no makeup, no filter, no thought given to angle or quality of light. The spots aren’t angry in this shot because my brain hasn’t had a chance to spin itself up yet. My planner told me today is “World Mental Health Day” so I knew I wanted to talk about this.
When puberty hit, so did the pimples and they were all I ever needed again. And everyone else had messy faces at that time so I didn’t feel so out of place.
Until my best friend started calling me pizza face because their brother thought it was funny. Sure, I laughed along with at the time, but it really hurt. I realize now what a disservice that is.
So I did what I could to keep my hands off my face.
The natural progression was my chest for some reason. I would spend hours in front of the mirror picking at minuscule imperfections until my whole chest was a mess of red lumps.
And this wasn’t constant. It came in waves, whenever I felt most out of control or stressed. The car was one of my favorite places to do it. Hmm, wonder why, lol.
When I got married, I was in the middle of an up wave of skin picking, which should have been a red flag to my brain, but I wasn’t as good at recognizing patterns back then.
I distinctly remember all of the times he told me to “just stop it” and couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t stop. I have a dress that I love very much to this day that I can’t wear without being sad because I remember what he said when I put it on, “You’re gonna wear that?! Ugh, please no, I can’t look at that. Put on something that covers up your chest!”
I had been so careful leading up to the wedding because I was hyperaware of this and wanted it to be healed as much as possible so I looked presentable.
I was embarrassed that I couldn’t stop. It’s a dumb thing to do and I don’t want to do it, so why couldn’t I stop? I didn’t want to let him down.
So I got crafty and started searching for spots on my scalp and, when watching TV at night, plucking the hairs from my legs.
That last one was my favorite. And it was great for a long time, because it didn’t show any damage… until the ingrown hairs started happening and I, of course, had to dig them out.
I love tallsox for a reason, y’all.
The scalp and legs are still my current go to spots. The face and chest have slowed considerably when I didn’t have drive any longer.
This past few days, however, have been a wee bit more stressful than normal, so I’ve noticed my hands wandering more often and my eyes seeking out my tweezers.
One last thing – talking about this has been hard, but there is zero chance I would have been nearly this frank with you all with out the help of a friend.
She knows who she is. She was open and upfront with me about similar struggles and simply having someone else who understood this complex shame made it easier to deal with.