My issue of skin-picking is getting pretty old now. I’ve meekly apologised for it for far too long now and I’ve done just about everything to quit from therapy and journaling to snapping a rubber band and even removing all tweezers and safety pins from home, but nothing works for a significant amount of time.
I have just come to accept that I’ll have a good few weeks, my skin will heal but I’m never going to be rid of this habit for good. I will always be one mark or a stray hair away from scrupulous hours picking over every freckle on my body. It is ugly and consumes so much time, and I don’t know what to do besides I hope I grow out of it as I did with nail-biting.
But one thing I hadn’t even considered until the opportunity fell on my lap was hypnosis. I knew the swinging watch thing was a myth, but besides that, I had no idea what to expect.
We started by going back to when it first started around thirteen years of age. We talked about when my skin-picking was at its worst (school) and what was happening around me at that time. In the past, I’ve always said things like ‘oh, hormones, puberty, friends-the typical teenage things’ and move on, but this time I wasn’t allowed to just brush it aside. I was pushed gently to look deeper and before long some buried events and behaviour patterns emerged.
One of the most insightful things that came out of hypnotherapy was that I used the word ‘perfect’ a lot without even realising it. Perfect skin, perfect body, perfect life. I was asked what perfection meant to me, how did I define perfectionism, what happened if I wasn’t perfect?
I hadn’t thought of myself as a perfectionist.
In my mind, a perfectionist is someone who freaks if they don’t get an A, have one of those detailed organisers, have spotless homes and everything is lined up neatly. I got a spontaneous tattoo, I drink, I sleep in late, my organiser is something to be questioned and I leave dishes all over the kitchen.
Yet, my appearance is something I am obsessed with controlling. Until that moment, I had never connected my nose job, anti-ageing routine and dermo facials with picking, but it was obvious. I wanted perfect skin-porcelain, smooth and hair-free, free of lumps and bumps. In my logical mind, I know this isn’t possible without the likes of photoshop, but it doesn’t stop me from trying my hardest. You might be able to see a stray hair, pluck it and move on, but I can’t. I zone in on the smallest of black dots, those ones where the hair will take a few more weeks to grow before you can see it, and I’ll spend hours cutting it out.
In my attempts to control myself externally, I’ve spent over a decade losing what’s on the inside, I had to be ready to let go of both control over my appearance and mind which is why I found myself with a hypnotherapist. How is that for a breakthrough?
We hadn’t even gotten to the hypnotherapy first, this was just the initial consultation. The lights were lowered, the white noise was turned on, I was asked to sit back, relax and close my eyes. I’d had a long day, I was tired so this wasn’t hard, I was in from the start. I was spoken to calmly, urged to be in the moment, to be aware, notice the weight of my arms and legs, and to focus on what I wanted.
Acknowledge what we are doing here today, the goal. Have freedom from old behaviour, your old mechanism. In the past, it worked for you but it doesn’t anymore. Know that you will gain strength over the next few days. Their soothing voice took me to a place where I wasn’t asleep, but I wasn’t fully awake. It’s hard to remember a time when I’d felt that relaxed and at ease.
The only time her cadence changed was when she used the words ‘don’t and ‘no’. What will happen when you don’t revert to the habit when you say no? She said these words sharply, like a snap. I was told after that session that my leg had kicked out involuntarily as a sign of protest.
When I was brought back to full consciousness, I felt optimistic for the first time about my skin-picking. I went in thinking I was stuck with this habit but now I can see a point where it won’t be.
Since my last session, I’ve almost stopped skin-picking completely. I had a small slip-up on my forehead. Recently I went out without any concealer on for the first time in years. Since that moment, I have been diligent about practices that keep me from doing it like laser hair removal.
So, did I arrive at this point solely from hypnosis? No. But it kick-started something and that optimism hasn’t diminished, in fact, I feel more hopeful than ever.
For now, I don’t feel I need more sessions but I intend to have a few per year. I will also lie back and listen to the recording she gave me.