Posted by: Marie | November 17, 2009

(186) So close to home

Post #186
[Private journal entry written on Friday, July 17, 2009]

This week, I watched an episode of A&E’s TV show “Obsessed” that featured a woman (“Vanessa”) struggling with skin picking. She showed up on-camera with band-aids on her face – and I was watching the show with several post-picking band-aids on my face – talk about hitting close to home . . . .

The Flower by Martin Chen

The Flower by Martin Chen

In the context of therapy, she came to realize that picking was the ultimate distraction for her. Each time she gets “stuff” to pop out of a pore or a zit, it is a huge victory for her. Picking allows her to experience a multitude of clear-cut successes in a life with no other form of success. When she picks, time stops for her. Her “real world” ceases to exist, along with all of her worries.

Aaaaarrrrrrrgggggg . . . so close to home.

I was mesmerized by the episode . . . a rare occurrence, to be sure, since TV doesn’t do much for me in general.

In my case . . . when I feel overwhelmed, I can slide onto my very familiar spot on the bathroom counter and put my face within a couple of inches of the mirror – close enough that I can see every single pore – and every single white head and black head and zit that is contaminating those pores. Time stops for me. My entire world becomes the size of one pore. All I have to do is “fix” those pores . . . clean them up . . . remove the dirtiness . . . remove the badness . . .

My focus on that one imperfect bump – that one clogged pore, that one prickly hair stub – becomes so intense that there is no room in my mind for any other thought – or any emotion. I am entirely consumed with plunging the straight pin into the bulls-eye of the pimple so I can see the junk explode outward. I experience the biggest rush when the explosion is violent enough to splat the junk onto the mirror . . . . . or when I finally snag that stubborn hair stub that has been at the heart of a persistent zit – and yank it out at the root . . . congratulating myself on my expert fishing technique . . .

I’m trying to think of a comparison to which a wider audience could relate . . . I can imagine a similar escape from reality occurs when people play challenging video games for hours on end . . . I don’t know from experience since video games have never appealed to me . . . but I can imagine the similarities . . . and that method of escape is usually socially acceptable . . . not considered disgusting and abhorrent . .

Anyway, maybe . . . as I’m picking, I could ask myself what emotion or feeling or thought or situation I’m avoiding . . . I could multi-task . . . picking and feeling, at the same time . . . . I wonder if it would help anything?

Quotes 097


Responses

  1. Hats off to you for realizing the similarities with the movie! I never had zits but I often pull the dry skin from my lips. It gets obsessive. I could never figure out why I would do that…

    • Hey, Ivory –

      It is rather strange to be in the middle of “doing it” and want to stop but to not be able to stop . . . it’s like my body is on autopilot and I’m not in charge. It is very frustrating.

      I imagine that pulling skin from your lips probably has the same underlying expression as skin picking . . .

      – Marie

  2. Hi, this is a great post (all of yours posts are great actually). This situation is my life, my face, my arms, my back, my body. I never realize I am doing it until it is too late. Maybe this is just the insight I need to try and stop. Thank you.

    • Hi, Kristie –

      Thank you for the kind words! I hope my writing helps others along the way . . .

      Ya’ know, I have found that the harder I try to stop any compulsive behavior, the more insanely I do it. I can stop for short periods of time through the “white knuckle” method, but the tension builds and then I go on a compulsive behavior binge that is ten times worse than if I had just allowed myself that relief.

      So, it is my belief that I must heal the underlying pain first — and that the cessation of the compulsive behaviors will come around slowly and naturally as a byproduct of the tension dissipating.

      I know that is a long-term project, but it is the best solution I have found so far. The quicker methods don’t work for me long term.

      My thoughts are with you . . . I’m glad you stopped by!

      – Marie

  3. Viktor Frankl had an idea called Paradoxical Intention: when trying to stop a behaviour makes it worse (eg blushing) then try doing it deliberately.

    I think compulsions can often go by the name ‘hobby’ – I think these are often places where people can focus exclusively on one thing.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post.

    • Hi, Evan –

      Hmmm, I wonder how one would define the difference between a healthy hobby and an unhealthy diversion . . . ??

      – Marie

  4. Maybe that explains why I’m an obsessive-compulsive zit-picker. It drives me crazy because once I start, I can’t stop. And the pain… it’s almost addicting and feels good to me.

    All these things keep popping up and making me realize how much the abuse I suffered has affected me in all kinds of little ways. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    • Hi, Tamra –

      I think the zit picking is a pretty common manifestation of anxiety in relation to self-image . . . and that people with a history of abuse usually have issues with self-image . . . it makes sense that many of us pick for relief . . .

      So, welcome to the club!

      – Marie

  5. Hi Marie,
    I am so amazed with the way we (myself included, an meaning all trauma survival) try to cope with the “badness”. For me is a truly compulsion…there are times when I eat excessively, drink, excersise, work, pick at my face or scrach by back…all excessively.What work for me is to not think about it and work on what is underneath which is my own cognitions of me as causing the trauma (issue, problem, attack).
    Marie to light up your day V.Frankl,”Happiness is like a butterfly. If you pursue it
    directly, it will only fly away from you. But if you strive to live a meaningful life, then happiness will come and land upon you.”

    • Hi, Atabex –

      I hear what you are saying about how obsessive we can be about our obsessions. To me, it feels like I’m going to explode and die if I don’t find relief from the pressure inside of me — that is why I act out obsessively.

      I like your Frankl quote . . very relevant!

      Great input!

      – Marie

  6. :)


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