*Trigger warning: self-harm, skin picking, sexual abuse.
Self-harming is a sensitive subject that not everyone is comfortable talking about. It's more common than you know. 1 in 5 girls self-harms each year while 1 in 7 boys will self-harm each year. From cutting to burning, there's an unfortunate stigma that comes with these behaviors: "attention seeking", "weak", "crazy." It's important we don't judge others for their turmoil and coping mechanisms, even if they are harmful.
I used to self-harm and I didn't know. Since I can remember, I've always had anxiety. Constant knots in my stomach, worrying about things I had no control over. Like most young children, I was active and loved to play. I would come home with scrapes, scabs and booboos. I picked at my wounds, even when adults told me not to. This went on for years and years
I'm 25 and no longer pick at my wounds. If I had a scab/bite on my head, I would pick at it and pick at it, turning my imperfection into a bald spot. I would pick so much that mundane tasks would take a backseat. I would eventually snap out of it, and let my wound heal, until the next time I got another scab.
If it wasn't scalp wounds I was picking at, I would pick at other injuries: scabs on my legs, acne on my face, broken skin on my hands, bug bites on my body. Picking at my wounds was a weird kind of therapy for me, almost as if my anxiety melted away. I had control over something. I've struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time, as well as surviving sexual abuse. With the daily stressors of life, stress from the abuse, self-loathing, I hated having no control over anything. Skin picking was my way of control.
I've worked and studied mental health, I worked with individuals as well as friends that cut themselves. A therapist pointed out skin picking/hair pulling was a form of self-harm. I was in denial. Nope, not me. I don't have a problem. I'm painfully insecure, always struggling to love myself. From my curves, to my skin breakouts, to ugly selfies, any more flaws would be too much. Digging at my injuries would be my irrational way of trying to erase my flaws, be perfect.
My turning point came in summer of 2018. I had lost a friend to suicide, lost a job, I was constantly struggling with money, couldn't find employment, and dealing with family issues. I had developed a mysterious rash on both of my feet. At first, I thought the rashes were mosquito bites, as it was summer and I always wore flip flops. It seemed every few days the rashes got worse, as if the "bites" were multiplying. Oh great, another issue. like I had done for years, I picked at my hives. But the hives kept reappearing, spreading to my ankles. As summer slowly faded, my itchy skin continued. Couldn't have been bug bites, something else.
My allergy breakout that triggered my skin picking. July--September 2018
I was still in denial of my self-destructive behavior. It wasn't until I watched a Buzzfeed video about skin picking/hair pulling. The girl in the video, Ashly Perez, used to pick at her head scabs compulsively, giving herself bald spots. I was doing that. Was I self-harming? A quick Google search confirmed that I was.
Looking at my damaged feet, enough was enough. I've always liked my feet, taking cute pictures of them in summer, painting my toenails, I had to stop before I permanently damaged them. As a way to break my habit, I put Band-Aids on my wounds to keep myself from scratching/picking at them, washing them multiple times a day to heal them. Though I'm still unsure what caused the outbreak (some kind of allergy), I'm more proactive about taking care of my skin.
I still have scars on my feet and ankles from the allergy, which might've also been caused by picking, and I'm slowly trying to embrace them, heal them if I can, possibly tattoo over them. I've accepted I'll never be perfect, my body will never be perfect, and that's okay. Though I've had one relapse since October, I'm proud to say I haven't skin picked in nearly two months, I know I can conquer this, like I have with everything else in my life.
Self-Harm Text Hotline:
Text CONNECT to 741741 (USA)
The Buzzfeed video that gave me the realization that I was self-harming:
What You Don't Know About Ashlywww.youtube.com
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