Although I’ve had my fair share of skin problems in the past such as hypersensitive skin, eczema as a child, and more recently cystic acne (read my post PCOS & Acne), I’ve also had to deal with another, perhaps more uncommon condition that also affects my skin. This condition however, unlike the others, is not biological but rather psychological and comes down to me. Me and my actions. Actions of which at the time feel uncontrollable…

Dermatillomania is that condition.

I started to wonder what was happening when I had a severe outbreak of hormonal, cystic acne, for which the root cause was my Poly Cystic Ovaries (…read What is PCOS? if you haven’t already). But being at such a low point in my life; having just been through a break-up, revising for exams and having high anxiety and stress levels, I would attempt to take control over my pimples by squeezing them and excessively picking away at them. This could be understandable to some extent as we all pick spots from time to time… but then it got worse .

I then started to pick at skin defects that were barely there… ‘Imaginary’ if you like. It could be the tiniest of bumps on my legs, arms, hands, or even moles and freckles, and I’d pick at them. It got to a point where I would get intense urges to pick and the tension would grow and grow until I gave in. I felt absolutely compelled to pick.

A person with dermatillomania will habitually and excessively pick, scratch, gouge or squeeze at otherwise healthy skin. It’s an impulse control disorder. NHS- Dermatillomania

After picking, I would feel a sense of relief but then I’d see what I’d done and regret it seconds after. I’d be embarrassed and try to cover up with fake tan or blot foundation on the affected areas. This made my already low self-esteem even worse and, with my cystic acne to deal with also, I felt like I had no choice but to cut my nails really short, hide my mirrors and tweezers and anything I’d normally use to help me pick, and ultimately avoid others until my picking had stopped. Easier said than done for sure… but I finally stopped.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get urges to pick now and again but with no acne to deal with and having a happier state of mind, these urges are nowhere near as intense as they were. Plus, I’ve sort of developed ‘coping mechanisms’ when they do come. Sometimes, when I catch myself fidgeting with a bump on my skin, I’ll chuck on a hoodie or throw on some joggers to cover that area up. Better yet I’ll just get up and distract myself whether that means popping downstairs to make a cuppa, tidying my room or taking the dog out.

Dermatillomania was a toughy. It’s undeniably still in my nature as I do have a little bit of OCD anyway. But I’ve taught myself how to resist picking, how to distract myself, and to keep reminding myself of the damages it can cause, both physically and mentally.

Escaping depression

As the suns warmth touches my nose and my golden retriever dances with the leaves, I think about what it is that makes me happy. I think about my jogging route. I think about what I’m doing today. I think about what I’m going to tomorrow. I think about what I’ve done. I think about last year. Thinking is definitely something I over-do. I over think everything… Especially the last year.

Heath Park Run

Break up’s are never nice. ‘Exhausting’ would probably be the most appropriate word to describe mine. Not because of why or how it happened, but what the months that followed entailed. I not only hit my lowest weight ever since high school, being 7.8stone, but I developed acne, sleep insomnia and anxiety. Sounds pretty horrible right? And it was. But now, a year and a bit later, I’ve come to believe that it may have been just what I needed. Not the spots, the weight loss or the sleep struggles but the overall feeling of being weak, both physically and mentally, to a point in which a part of me rotted away.
And I needed that to happen. I needed that part of me to disintegrate as that was the part of me that caused my relationship to do the same.

At the time, only one person knew what it was I was going through. You’d think that person would be me. But It wasn’t. It was him. I had no idea what was eating away at me. I just thought I was struggling with my degree or that my hormones were bouncing off the walls. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t until I pushed away the only person who was always there, the only person who could see what I was going through, that I could see it for myself. I think I had only come to terms with it because I no longer had someone to vent to, to cry on, to drain, to push away. I had to hit the lowest point before I could touch the bottom, push off, and slowly but surely swim up.

A lucky escape…

Some people don’t escape it as easy as I did. And I’m not saying it was easy but at least I managed to pull through without medical or psychological intervention i.e counselling. Depression ruined my relationship and, although it got very close, It didn’t ruin my life.

Mental health is something that is nowhere near talked about enough. The word ‘depression’ alone provokes some sort of awkwardness. The stigma it carries seemingly puts people off the topic. Well, with social media starting to raise a little more awareness about it, I think it’s about time bloggers do the same. It needs to be talked about. And I’m starting here.

At the end of the day, I’m running today with a head on my shoulders that motivates me to throw one foot in front of the other. It controls all that I do, all that I love and all the crap that I over-think. My mental strength is… me. It is the core of me and you. Without your mental strength, how can one possible long for and achieve physical strength?

Loving the Outdoors