Newest self portrait on skin picking disorders (dermotillomania).

Update: the nail polish hasn’t helped much but I also forgot to start by linking the scent to anti-picking mantras which has helped me with lotions in the past. The scent is still there. The polish hasn’t chipped and I am actually pretty impressed with the consistency, although some people have had a bad experience with it so maybe the bottles are sort of hit or miss.

September has GOT to be a big step forward for me. I don’t care about keeping “pick free” flawlessly, but something about the fresh start of a new month helps me psychologically. And I try my best every month, every day really…but right now I feel like I’m set up to do well this September. I don’t know why. I have a good feeling about it. And I’m not one to trust my intuition especially when it comes to unpredictable picking. But I just feel very strongly that I am at a point in my life that I need to move forward and leave the grips of this disorder behind. I know it will follow me my whole life. But for now, I need it to bug off. I’m going to try REALLY hard. I want it for myself and I also want to bring some hope to the community. 

Stay tuned for some new mantras I wrote in the shower. (Literally…on waterproof paper)

PS sorry I haven’t been interacting much with everyone on here…it’s the fatigue. What I wouldn’t do to not have this constant freakin fatigue.

Scented nail polish…

So. I went to the drugstore today looking for a hair product and came back with this bottle of Revlon’s Parfumerie “scented nail enamel.” I believe it was about 5 dollars.

I haven’t worn anything on my nails in awhile, and even just a basic coat of something usually keeps me more mindful of what I’m doing with my hands. But I thought this extra bit of sensory info might help keep me from slipping into a trance. Plus I love the bottle and I love smelly things.

So I got it in red because I don’t have any red polish, and red can be a good “stop sign” as well. The scent is “China Flower.” Unfortunately you can’t really test them out easily at the store because they only emit their scent when dry. This one turned out to smell like a cheap old lady perfume. Not in a bad way. But not really in a good way either. It is VERY strong right now, but I’ve read that the smell fades fairly quickly and the polish is prone to chipping. I’ll keep you updated on whether or not it helps me.

Hi there! Scalp, fingers, lips, all common hot spots. Biting at the skin around your nails is quite common too, and this is technically classified as dermatophagia. However it is in the same family of disorders (BFRBs), and all of these behaviors are related. It is not unusual for them to fluctuate and change. Starting a new medication could probably account for some of these changes, but they often occur so randomly that it’s anyone’s guess.

For the dermatophagia you could try wearing scented lotion on your hands (for example the Bath & Body Works aromatherapy eucalyptus spearmint is nice for both alertness and easing stress). When your hand gets close to your mouth, the scent can sometimes aid in becoming mindful and reversing the behavior, or buy enough time to grab a fidget or find a distraction. I’m also about to share my experience with scented nail polish, which could have the same effect. Stay tuned for that. As for the scalp, unfortunately it is difficult to find area-specific barriers. Scalp picking can be a bitch because it is tempting to do in public or around people, as it can pass for absentminded scratching. This was once a problem area for me. I wish there were a secret to stopping it. You just have to be kind to yourself and avoid negativity while still remaining realistic. Since your behaviors don’t require a mirror that you can cover, I definitely recommend getting a fidget like a tangle toy or spinner ring. And take it with you everywhere. Good luck <3

Yikes first “real” relapse today for the first time in maybe a month. The kind where you just don’t stop until there’s nothing left to do. The thing that bothers me is that I can’t figure out what triggered it. Everything’s fine. I hate that unpredictable nature of BFRBs. No rhyme or reason. Just life-ruining demons that never leave you.

I feel that I’ve become more mindful in recent months and that’s what has cut back on my picking tremendously. I haven’t fallen into a full-blown session until today. And even so, I felt the fight throughout. Me (real me) fighting to snap out of it. Normally I can do it and I can stop myself a couple times in a row and that’s all it takes. This time it was more akin to that voice in the back of your head nagging “you know this is a horrible idea you should just stop it now” but your fingers do not listen whatsoever. There were in fact many moments when I was able to do the thing where I physically stop myself, but each lasted about a second and next thing I knew my eyes and nails were trained on a new spot to pick at. And already picking. What an exhausting, ongoing battle. I felt like Gollum. This is nuts. I don’t know how we deal with this shit. Three cheers for us BFRB sufferers. We’re crazy resilient. And so is our skin, luckily. And so is mindfulness, if you let it. It comes back. Don’t lose it.

I think I will add on to my daily exercise/stretching and have a brief guided meditation session a la Youtube or whatever. Because I’ve become fairly good at meditation from all the times they make you do it in psychiatric treatment places. And maybe if I do it regularly, I’ll have more control over myself. Because it’s not an easy thing to get good at. Getting your mind to stop chattering is like getting yourself to step away from the mirror and put your hand down. I want to have that ability. I need to. 

Starting a dance class a month from today—so from now until then I’m going to be focusing on a lot of exercise, stretching, sweating, and cold showers to get in shape, stay motivated, and reduce BFRBehaviors by distracting myself and searching for a different “high.”

You know what’s really REALLY weird? I had to get a filling at the dentist the other day (about a year of reeeally neglecting personal hygiene, not taking care of myself, barely getting out of bed), and with my chin and cheek numb later I just sat there feeling my skin, and it felt so NORMAL. It felt like normal skin. I mean it always feels weird to feel the texture of your skin without that skin feeling you back. And somehow it distanced me from my skin. It felt like an organ, my shell, a part of me, but NOT me as a whole. With picking, I often feel that I AM my skin. Both in the sense that its appearance affects my self esteem, and in the sense that interacting with it constantly, picking, poking, always scanning, always feeling and sensing things THROUGH it…it gets almost too personal and familiar. I’ve always had the theory that one of that main contributors to the addictive nature of BFRBs is the fact that your skin/hair follicle/nails/lips/whatever it may be can feel you BACK. You get the release on a surface level—the pressure on your bare nails when you pick and the sudden peeling-off of the scab or the satisfying pop of the zit. But you ALSO get a hint of pain, a release of pressure, a tugging or scratching feeling, a double-awareness of exactly what process or task you are controlling, a sensation where you are sensing…

I don’t know if I’m making any sense. Somewhat sleep deprived at the moment. But this is something I think about a lot. I think it’s why it’s so impossible to replace the behavior with something equally satisfying but not harmful. Because fidgeting with a toy or picking at bottle cap liners or popping bubble wrap….it’s only 1/2 the satisfaction. I don’t know how to work around this issue or use this theory to our advantage, but I feel like there’s an idea in there somewhere.

Don’t hesitate to get help if you feel especially upset by Robin Williams’ tragic death. Suicide is more common than we think, but it seems we only hear about it when it is a major celebrity. It is unfortunate that so many people are ignorant of mental health issues and say insensitive things. I just want you guys to know that it is okay to take a moment to morn the loss of any life, regardless of knowing them personally or not.

I remember being very affected by the news of Ned Vizzini’s passing because his words had given me such hope, and the amount of pain he must have been in kept hitting me from all sides. All I can tell you is that you are resilient, you are wonderful, and you can keep living. Reach out when you feel like drawing in.