Friday, November 4, 2011

Diaries of an Obsessive Compulsive Picker: Week 1

Remember that November holistic skincare challenge thing I posted about? Well, it's time to let the first part of the secret unveil, and to be honest, it's a rather dirty little one - and talking about it is very difficult and personal for me. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm an obsessive compulsive picker, and I hereby vow to stop picking on myself from now on - forever.

Let me explain: I'm not just your usual Mary who picks a bit of dry skin here and there or squeezes out a particularly unsightly whitehead. No... Almost every day I scratch my face, dig out any clogged pores, pick at even the smallest bumps until I look like a prisoner of war against my own body. Not only that - I pick at my cuticles, I scratch my eczema, I bite my lips until they bleed. Until a couple days ago, I lived in denial; I knew that what I'd been doing was wrong, but then my skin is pretty crappy anyways, so what difference does it make if I pick?

Then, following Fran's suggestion (I'm signed up for her newsletter, very inspirational!), I read the online book 'Stop Picking on Me' and promised myself never to do it again. If you're a fellow picker, I highly recommend it; it's eye-opening. Picking is so much more than just a bad habit, it really is an illness of the mind and the body. I've also decided to document my progress here week by week to keep myself on track, and hopefully help some of you who might be suffering from it as well. It might not be pretty, so if you're of a delicate disposition, I suggest you skip these posts altogether. Anyways... read on to find out about my struggles during the first week of not picking.

Day 1 (Oct 27): I've just started reading 'Stop Picking on Me' and, a couple pages in, decide to try to do my best and STOP. Many passages in the book ring very true to my experiences, which is making me emotional; I'm starting to realize that my picking is not so much about the acne on my face, but personal insecurities that have been impeding my happiness. I really want to start the recovery, even if it proves very difficult. I don't want to hate my body anymore, I don't want to feel the shame and the guilt, I just want to start loving myself, skin and all, a bit more.

Day 2 (Oct 28): Still reading the book; I'm now on the part where the author recounts personal stories of other pickers. It brings tears to my eyes, and I want to give a big hug to all the pickers - myself included. I've also noticed how many times a day I touch my face with my fingertips, looking for bumps and imperfections to work on - I've decided to avoid touching my face at all. I also decide to tell my husband about my habit (well, he probably knew anyhow) and my decision to stop picking, just to have someone to keep me in check so that I cannot go back. I'm proud of myself for overcoming the shame, but I lose focus for a couple minutes and voila, I just picked a cuticle.

Day 3 (Oct 29): I'm being positive that I can do this, I keep on repeating little affirmations to myself, like 'Your body is smarter than you think, it can and will heal', 'Let it be', 'You already are that unique, beautiful person, acne or no acne'. We're driving to Tacoma for a blacklight bouldering competition Mr. signed up for; I'm taking a white scarf with tassles so that my hands have something to play with on the way. The day is rather busy, luckily I have little time to obsess over my face as my hands are full taking photos.

Day 4 (Oct 30): I get into a bit of a bad mood in the morning and I'm not so sure anymore if I can do it; even if I don't go stand in front of the mirror to pick away, it's so difficult to resist touching my face or scratching at my bacne. I feel like a bad person, I hide under the blanket and bite down hard on my lip, and there's a cystic bump starting to appear on my chin. I wear cotton gloves while watching a TV show on Hulu; that's when my idle fingers usually start inching toward my face. Mr. calls me Michael Jackson. I manage to get over myself, we run a bunch of errands and also pick up a few supplements at Whole Foods; I'm feeling a tinge of hope that maybe they'll help in clearing my acne a bit as well. I do an at-home microdermabrasion at night to get rid of some of the flakies that I can no longer pick (but I still did pick a couple).

Day 5 (Oct 31): I feel a bit better and try to work on my positive thinking. I start jutting down some inspirational quotes in my agenda to reread when I'm feeling especially low. I'm also thinking about starting a craft that would keep my fingers occupied and channel that nervous energy; maybe beading or crocheting? A crochet scarf with little flowers would be super cute for the season :) I look in the mirror and see some of the old breakouts healing nicely, but the cystic bump is looking quite angry and it feels itchy, which is driving me mad... Will it really heal on its own?

Day 6 (Nov 1): After being really good for the whole day, I start picking again while doing my night-time skincare routine - the yesterday's spot has also been joined by a friend right next to it. I'm feeling pretty disappointed in myself and even want to withdraw from the whole challenge, but decide to wait until the morning. I also realize I should absolutely not lean in closer to the mirror in the bathroom; there is always going to be something I'd be tempted to pick!

Day 7 (Nov 2): Fortunately, none of the spots I picked yesterday became inflamed, so now I just have to wait until the little wounds dry up. The cystic bump of the week is slowly shrinking and going away, so I guess this answers my question, yes it does really heal without my poking around it (I left this one alone during yesterday's picking session). I forget to wear my cotton gloves, so some back scratching ensues, but not too bad overall. I've just posted about my November skincare challenge, so it's official now and there's no turning back - and have also got some awesome comments, I'm feeling very grateful for my blogging friends. Fingers crossed I can pick less (or even not at all!) next week :)

Let me know if this is of any use to you - I might just post another short update at the end of the month if this is too gross/personal/difficult to understand, or I could write in the same weekly format with more tips and tricks I'm picking up along the way. Just let me know in the comments, lovelies!


  1. Aw, thanks for sharing, love! You can do it! I pick at hangnails and cuticles and dry spots on my fingers all the time...lately it's been worse, because the cold weather makes them extra dry. The fiancé scolds me. So I need to stop, too.

    You're gorgeous, anyway, and all the little things don't matter. Be strong ;)

  2. This is a fantastic post!
    I guess you could say I am a picker as well. Each night after washing my face I will take a pimple extractor and squeeze out any clogged pores on or around my nose and forehead. My pores aren't even that large but it feels so rewarding to see things come out! I have stopped picking obsessively like I did in highschool where I almost made icepick scars but I still scratch from time to time. The one person who has really helped is my dad. He always, always scolds me when he sees me picking and I absolutely hate it when he does that so I immediately stop. Tough love worked in my case. I hope you find a more satisfying method of no more picking, good luck!!

  3. Thanks for bravely sharing this with us! I'm a picker, too. It's such a compulsive thing to do, no matter how intellectually/consciously aware of it we are. I'm glad you told your husband - it's so important to have people around you who can help. The thing I pick at the most is the "dry" skin on my lips... to the point that it looks puffy and bloody the next day. I've been doing it since kindergarten, and while I do have long stretches of time where I won't pick, I've never been able to stop completely.

    I'm really impressed by the way you've set out to change - and I'm inspired to try to do the same! Keep on fighting! xoxo

  4. Love it! well done for being so brave! I do the same thing but not to the same extent and only on my face and now my back again. so I noticed that the acne is back :(

    I can never help poking and proding at my face, and I think it has made boils (i know eww, my own doing form picking on a spot so much) worse and scar!

    write it every week! its so helpfull, im going to try to not touch my face from now on!


  5. It actually feels like reading my own diary (if I were to document my picking cycles).

    Before my discovery of lip gloss, my lips were always in a shade of brownish red (color of blood clog) because they are so dry year round and I had nothing better to do but peel them, now they are usually covered so I get to keep my hand away from it...As for face, I reckon that if I keep my skin in a reasonably good condition, there would be very little to pick so I just try to get all the basics done like moisturizing and cleansing(OK, there would be some scab and zits but a few inflamed patches doesn't hurt if I keep my hand clean when tackling them).

  6. Damn OCD's! I tell myself nevrosis is a sigh of good mental health, as I have a tendency to phobias and obsessions myself! I hope this journaling helps you and you can resist the urge!!
    The thing with those problems, though, is that they're strategies our mind develop to handle something else and so it's hard to make them disappear (or not turn into something else) without taking care of the real cause :(

  7. @Larie: I know, my hands are killing me lately, eczema ate one of my fingertips :(

    @Ashley: That's true, having someone to keep you in check, even if it's embarassing, is super important.

    @Liz: I tend to pick at my lips too, together with biting the inside of my cheeks :( Maybe we could join forces and stop together? I almost feel like there should be a 'Pickers Anonymous' group somewhere in the blogosphere!

    @sasdothat: Thanks for commenting, dear! I'll try to post weekly and share some more tips, there are things that help a bit to avoid 'picking situations' x

    @Citrine: My skin being oily, I always have something to work on, even when I'm following my skincare routine religiously :(

    @Musing on Beauty: You're so right, of course it's an anxiety-handling mechanism... I'm trying to register any thoughts that pass my head just before the impulse to pick in order to identify (and avoid) the triggers. Thanks so much for the support! x

  8. Really interesting post, I'm a picker as well. Very inspirational, I would definitely appreciate another post!

  9. Thanks for sharing something so personal. It's not easy coming clean about a bad habit and good for you that you did more research about it, made it public (to your readers and husband), and I'm sure you will be able to gradually stop this. I do agree that our habits are tied to our emotions, e.g. I used to binge-eat quite often and I think it really had to do with loneliness, boredom, and lacking motivation in other parts of my life, so I sought stimulation and comfort in food. Sorry to talk about me when this post is about you...But I really enjoyed reading something like this on a beauty blog. You can do it!!!

  10. Great post! I can definitely relate to biting my lips, and picking at blemishes. I also have eczema and have a habit of scratching myself until I bleed which always looks good :/

    Ultrabalm by lush has been a lifesaver for my lips as I've had nothing to pick at since using it (I haven't found a balm that works for me before) and I also came across someone who's expertise is around caring for eczema, so they might be able to help you:

    Good luck with trying to stop, will definitely keep checking back :) I really should start this too. You need to treat yourself when (not if) you end the picking once and for all :)
    Good luck!

    Carrie x

  11. I could actually have written this. I'm sat here now with three open sores on my chin, one on my neck and two bleeding cuticles. I have numerous others, including two on my legs. I've always picked, but its much much worse for me in times of stress. I'm off to read the book you recommend. THank you xx

  12. This is so brilliant and I really hope you keep up the diary.

    If there are levels to picking... I usually stop just short of making myself bleed. Any little bump or tiny raise from a blackhead and I cannot leave the damn thing alone until I've inflamed the crap out of it. Then I skulk away feeling very cross with myself.

    When I'm done with my skin, I usually set to work on my scalp. Definitely agree that it's something I do when I'm anxious or restless. Horrible, horrible behaviour.

    Can't wait to read how you progress and take inspiration from your words xxx

  13. Thank you for being so honest on what is a very difficult subject. I am a picker, I can't cope spots, I have a complete thing about it, having something that is dirty and almost rotting (as I see it) under my skin does my head in. And don't get me started on dry skin- my feet drive me insane. I'll be watching your posts with interest over the next few weeks to see how you get on. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!