"How did you get that scar?"
June 11, 2011 1:27 PM Subscribe
How gross is my skin picking to you? Would you date me?
posted by anonymous to human relations (47 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I have a nasty holdover habit from physical and some sexual abuse as a kid: I’m a compulsive skin picker. Others have asked about it here, but I’m interested specifically in its effects on intimacy and dating.
I am so repulsed and ashamed of it that I’ve never admitted it to anyone in my life, ever, even therapists, and I would like some honest feedback from others about what it looks like from the outside, how you would view me as a person if you knew, and how it affects relationships. I'm 36 years old (female), and have done it since I was about 12. I’m outwardly high-functioning (well-liked, good job, educated, attractive, nice social group), but have some deep intimacy issues that keep me generally isolated; I tend to have shorter-term, ‘weekender’ relationships and never get close enough to anyone romantically (like living with a boyfriend) that it would come out. It’s likely the people in my life have noticed some of the more superficial things, like fidgeting with a zit or chewing on my lips, but I’m hyper-vigilant of signs of people being grossed out at me, and I think I successfully hide the worst of it. But secretly, I’m the stranger in front of you on the train that makes you go “eeeew” when you see the scabs on their scalp, or that person at the office whose potluck dish never gets eaten because... you know. I understand it pretty well and know it is related to some lingering anxiety and shame issues I have, but on its own I worry that if I get close to someone I really like, they might reject me when they find out. I mean, what healthy guy would want anything to do with a grown woman who does this? I just can’t logically get behind that.
An extra great thing is that in private, I eat the stuff. I eat the pimple goo. I eat the bloody scalp flakes. I eat the sleepy from my eyes. I pick my nose and eat that too. Of course, every day I “try” to stop, and every day I hate myself for not being able to. I’ve tried that bitter nail polish. I’ve tried cutting my fingernails bare. I’ve tried wearing gloves. I’ve tried medications, meditation. (I don’t have access to therapy at the moment.) I have successfully overcome my lifelong compulsive overeating and even cleaned up terrible credit card debt, but this shit stays with me. But this question isn’t really about strategies.
The thing that twists me up the most about it is when I think of dating, and maybe I’m beanplating here but hear me out. I would really like to be in a healthy, committed relationship, and I’m working on learning to love and accept myself fully, but how do I accept this part? Should I even accept it, or should put all my effort into kicking it if I really want to like myself more and find an awesome (also-not-too-gross) partner? I go back and forth between these two ideas a lot, and I think cognitively deciding on one or the other course would motivate me to make some progress. I’ve also tried to get some perspective on it it by comparing it to an addiction: in theory it shouldn’t be about quitting for anyone else, it starts with you loving yourself and believing you’re worth it, but while you’re conceivably lovable in spite of your addiction (and most of us have got something), you would find healthier relationships if you weren’t addicted (yes?). I had a few dates recently with a great guy who smokes and drinks quite a bit (I don’t) - and it was pretty easy to decide I didn’t want a relationship with that. As a potential romantic partner, how would you feel about my problem? Would you see it as a ‘red flag’ and move on? If you’ve got a similar issue, how has it affected your close relationships?
Be honest, be kind. Thanks.