Storytime: The Will to Stop Picking, Popping and Prodding Pimples Friday 13 July, 2012
The day I noticed that my skin was becoming slightly pocked and pigmented after a bad round of picking my pimples, I really became shell-shocked and—yes—increasingly attuned to the fact that my face was now showing the scars of a lifelong struggle with picking. Can I find the will power to stop popping?
When I turned 27, I found my first grey hair. I’m sure it was there long before I made my discovery, but once I singled it out, 100 more raised their melanin-depleted strands right along with it. Several years later, and my greys seemingly multiply with each passing day. But that first discovery—it just seemed to come out of nowhere. And then those greys became all I could see. Isn’t it funny how once we see a flaw, we become increasingly hyper-aware of it?
The day I noticed that my skin was becoming slightly pocked and pigmented after a bad round of picking my pimples, I really became shell-shocked and—yes—increasingly attuned to the fact that my face was now showing the scars of a lifelong struggle with picking. You see, I’d been a devoted picker/popper since my youth; I could never just allow a zit to fully form and rid itself on its own terms. I’ve tried—believe me, how I’ve tried. But a week would turn into two weeks, and the sucker would still be there, a red mountain of embarrassment—no smaller, certainly larger, than the day before. As a teen I had no self-discipline. I once completely went to town on a chin zit a few days before my freshman high school yearbook photo. So horrid was the wreckage of my blemish-needling that I had a scab that measured a few centimeters in diameter—large enough to be picked up by the yearbook lensman; there was no Photoshop to be had in those down-and-dirty days of film—at least not by non-pros shooting high school yearbook photos. That image will forever be with me: A smiling girl with a self-inflicted wound.
Throughout my 20s, I went through long stretches of serious insomnia. As part of my way to burn the midnight oil, I’d mosey on into the bathroom, sidle up to the mirror, and settle in for a long session of self-imposed extractions. My nose always has blackheads; my chin and cheeks are constantly mottled by tiny, deep-seated whiteheads. I’m pretty sure most people share this same skin annoyance as I do. The little buggers are all virtually undetectable by the naked eye. But that didn’t matter. When my mind had nothing else to focus on, it zeroed in on “clearing” my skin.
There was something soothing and ritualistic about this process, something instantly gratifying about needling my two knuckles together, really putting the pressure on over and over and over again to my pores, and seeing a successful eruption of ick. With every POP!, I felt a surge of relief, a great satisfaction. I could sit and do this for an hour, leaving my face ruddy and inflamed—and much worse for the wear the next morning.
But no amount of unattractive swelling could stop me. The only thing that did put a halt to my nighttime pick fests came in the form of sleep: I started to kick my insomnia, though as I type this, it’s 1:34 a.m. and I am clearly not sleeping. It seemed my Karie-as-dermatologist midnight sessions would come to an end—and for the most part, they have. But, in the event of full disclosure, I must confess: I still pick during the day. Not as often, but I still can’t simply allow a zit to be a zit and to bid adieu when it’s good and ready. I willed myself a few weeks ago to keep my fingers away from another chin zit, and two weeks passed without any sign of the sucker waning. So I went in for the kill, even though I just read an amazing article in Allure by an author who suffers the same pick-pick-picking habit as myself, and even though I discussed this article with a friend, who told me how she rids her skin of blemishes (pressing warm-water-soaked clean washcloth against the offender plus religious application of a clearing lotion), I still popped it with unabandon. And now I have yet another scab to heal, and probably another red mark—or worse, pock mark—to leave an ugly reminder of the bloodshed my fingers wreak.
I want to stop picking; I do. But I am a self-sabotager. In many facets of my life, I know exactly what needs to be done to better the situation, and yet I won’t take the steps to do it. So we’ll see if the next pimple to take up residence on my face will be left alone. (And there will be another one; there always is. Once one heals, another, like some sick twisted form of punishment, takes up residence on my face.) Can I leave it be? Can I simply cover it with concealer, heat it with a warm compress before bed, slather it with a clearing gel, and then rid my hands of it? Can I allow it to be a squatter for several weeks on end? I don’t know. Since my battle scars seem to be multiplying, and since I am so hyper-aware of this fact, I need to find the will to stop picking. Will power, will you help me?
Do you pick your blemishes? Have you found a good way to clear up acne without using your hands?