I wrote a while ago about my skin picking thing, which is a thing that sucks. Or it was a thing that sucked.
Yes, that’s right. I have a HEALED scalp. Picking in general remains and I’ve returned to throat clearing (remove one and another pops right up) but for the first time in two years, I’m not directly hurting myself.
I went to the doctor, you see. So simple! The thing one is supposed to do when one has a health concern.
I was ashamed; this is what perpetuated the problem for those two years. Two years of hiding it even from my boyfriend. Hiding the pain from my mam every time she dyed my hair. Not writing about it, in this place where I’ve been so honest.
Shame has quite a beautiful distinction from embarrassment – remorse. It’s a valuable emotion in the human range but so often it stops us taking steps that would relieve us of it.
Mental health is surrounded by shame. If I’d talked to my boyfriend or my mam a year ago, I would have come round to the idea of going to the doctor a lot sooner. It doesn’t matter now but it could matter in the future.
You see, this isn’t the first time it’s happened: four years ago, I had a seriously bad patch behind my right ear that I endured for at least a year and didn’t tell anyone about. When it finally gave me an ear infection, I went to the doctor. Antibiotics gave it a chance to heal and I didn’t go back to it.
I didn’t think I would be taken seriously. There is a pattern of projection with me: I don’t admit a problem fully so I don’t think other people will. Back in the panic attack days, it took two emergency ECGs to convince me that my mind was powerful enough to sabotage my body. That means it’s also powerful enough to stop too.
When I finally managed to mention it to my boyfriend, I started to break the barrier that had kept me in the cycle for so long. I began to write about it here, I discussed it with my mam and in my diary. At this point, the freedom of having admitted it allowed me to explore how sad it made me and realise I needed to stop.
It seems silly but it was making me so unhappy. This hidden pain, secret shame. I was being cruel to myself about it and not allowing any exploration of a solution. I really believed the doctor would say it was nothing – I even caught myself thinking maybe I should make it worse in the days before my appointment, so he would take me seriously.
He asked to see it and I thought “He’s going to think I’m being stupid,” but he didn’t. He said I’d caused a skin condition that would need treatment. He urged me to try CBT again. He asked if Citalopram was working for me.
I left so happy. I’d been listened to, I’d been given some solutions – in a 10-minute slot at an NHS health centre.
When I got home, I showed my boyfriend for the first time. His shock shocked me and I felt so stupid that I’d just dealt with it for as long as I had. I started with the steroid ointment I’d been prescribed, and the combination of it accelerating the healing and acting as a physical reminder was just enough for me to really try to give up the habit.
And I did. It’s been two weeks since I saw the doctor and I resisted long enough for my head to totally heal. Now there’s nothing to scratch and pick at, I’m barely thinking about it.
I think I’m free.