Self Mutilation

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Leona

Learning
Just wondering if anyone else here has ever engaged in any form of self mutilation? For a long time, before my diagnosis of PTSD, I considered this my most prominent symptom of whatever it was that made me "different". I started compulsively picking my skin when I was 13. I found it comforting, and it allowed me to zone. I would get into a sort of trance where time just stood still. I could be doing it for 5 minutes or 45 minutes, and I couldn't tell the difference. There's a term for it....dermatillomania.
I started realizing there was a name for it, and began to research it. It seems most people who develop this compulsion have a background of sexual abuse.
My skin picking worsened with time. It reached it's worst point at the height of my abuse....during the four years I lived with my abuser. After one of his ritualistic sexual assaults, I'd go into the bathroom, lock the door, sit on the counter, and pick at my arms, legs, back, face, breasts....pretty much anywhere I could reach. I don't know how long I would do this for. I'd literally "snap out of it" after a while, not knowing how much time had passed. My skin all over my body would be riddled with freshly bleeding and erupted sores. I'd run my fingers along my skin, and anything that wasn't perfectly smooth would get excavated. Eventually my skin became covered with little white scars. I'd wear long sleeves in the summer, because if I wore short sleeves, it looked like I had a rash on my arms. I never exposed my back. Obviously, some parts of my skin where I'd picked would be exposed in warmer weather, and I always felt the shame of having done this to myself. I think it made me feel unattractive and ugly, and therefore, safer. It was also a way of taking control of my body, as odd as it sounds. I think it served multiple purposes.
I've continued doing this at some level from the time I was 13 until the present. I left my last marriage a year ago, and funny thing.....I've stopped the picking (almost entirely), and my skin has never looked better. I can actually wear my hair up and my face is clear with no red marks from picking. This is the first time in my life I've been totally alone....no boyfriend, no husband, no NOTHING. Not even dating, and I finally am able to stop picking my skin. I still do it a little, but it's so much better than it's been for say, the past 30 years. It's amazing my skin isn't just all scars. The body has amazing healing ability. In the winter I can still see that there are tiny white spots on my skin, especially my arms, but in the summer I can let my skin get a little tanned and it looks very good.
Now, I'm afraid if I ever get into a relationship again, that it'll start up again. I think it's related to the sexual anxiety. It's almost like if I make myself ugly enough, I'll be left alone.
I wanted to share this, because for so many years I thought I was the only person on earth who did this. It was a source of extreme shame for me. I learned about ten years ago that it had a name, and that there were others out there that did this. There's also trichotillomania, which is people who compulsively pull out their hair. I've never done this, but I understand it's driven by the same sort of dysfunction. I'm posting this because I want anyone on this forum who might be doing this to know it's a condition, and you aren't alone, and it's most commonly found among sexual abuse survivors. Just one more lovely "gift" our abusers bestowed upon us.
Most of my life I thought I'd never stop doing this, and I'm very grateful that the compulsion has almost all but gone away. What little bit of picking I do now is fairly benign. So, I guess what I'm saying is, there is hope even when you think it's hopeless. I should keep reminding myself of that, too. Lately I've been feeling like my ptsd is hopeless.
 

Marie E.

MyPTSD Pro
I used to cut myself as a teen when my Mother treated me like cr*p. I felt so unloved.

Later I started picking after a few years of leaving my abuser. It got so bad on my face and legs. I stopped rather sooner on picking my face and than it was so hard not to pick my legs.

I still do pick at my legs, but nothing that is what it used to be. I too would zone out on the time. It could be hours.
 

Claire

MyPTSD Pro
I cut myself severely for 10 years, I now have scars on my arms, legs, stomach and breasts. At first I felt so ugly I could barely bare to look at myself, but now I have come to accept my scars and no longer hide them. I'm glad to hear your SM has mostly stopped, it is a unbelievably addictive and desperate behaviour and I'm glad you've been able to get to this point. In the past I have started harming again when I have entered a relationship. I stopped dating for two years, making absolutely sure I knew exactely who and what I wanted, and now I am engaged and have never gone so long without cutting.
With the right person and the right support, you can absolutely have a happy healthy relationship.
Thankyou for sharing, its always nice to know you aren't alone.
Take care of yourself honey,
-Claire
 

cherryblossom

MyPTSD Pro
I'm glad to hear that you now have a happy and healthy relationship - success stories are always great to hear, because they give us all hope and strength. Thanks for sharing your previous battles with SM.
 

Leona

Learning
I had trouble with the link to this forum for a few days, so couldn't get in. I'm thankful for the responses. I did the skin picking pretty bad for many, many years. It's a relief to finally have it going away. It's so obvious it is related to the sexual issues and the ptsd triggers that come up for me when I have a man in my life. I've been totally single for a year now. No dates or anything. I don't really think I'm going to be ready for a relationship for a while. It's encouraging to hear that others have successfully gotten into relationships again without the SM coming back.
 

Leona

Learning
It was just that I'd saved it in my favorites, and my favorites link didn't work anymore. I just had to delete it and save it again. No big hassle
 

Tirnanog

Learning
I used to pick at myself, mostly at my arms, legs and feet. I have some embarassing scars on my arms from all of my picking. I don't really pick at all anymore. I also have punched myself when I am angry/upset. I usually punch my thighs to the point of bruising them. I don't do this that often though and can't quite explain why I do it other than to say I do it when I am very upset or angry with myself and so I try to "punish" myself. I am glad to hear that your battle with picking and SM is under control. =)
 

Hlost

MyPTSD Pro
"SM" I'm not familiar with that term, sorry. If it falls under EDs and is self-induced vomiting then I catch ya! I understand that I have a long list of symptoms. I just never realized (pre-internet) that there were others that did these things and there was a reason for them. In my home everything was ignore and what was real was an altered reality. The same with SI, I too, bare 65% body scars, so my heart is with. It can get very warm most of the year whereI live and I tend to just let them be what they are. I flash them like I owe them, what else can I do??

I'm glad to read you have a handle on your picking and SM. Never easy but always something to feel very very good about :)

Peace and good thoughts with you.
 

Leona

Learning
"SM" I'm not familiar with that term, sorry. If it falls under EDs and is self-induced vomiting then I catch ya! I understand that I have a long list of symptoms. I just never realized (pre-internet) that there were others that did these things and there was a reason for them. In my home everything was ignore and what was real was an altered reality. The same with SI, I too, bare 65% body scars, so my heart is with. It can get very warm most of the year whereI live and I tend to just let them be what they are. I flash them like I owe them, what else can I do??

I'm glad to read you have a handle on your picking and SM. Never easy but always something to feel very very good about :)

Peace and good thoughts with you.

Yes, pre-internet it was much harder, actually impossible, to find out that there were others out there. I was in high school in the early 80's. I felt like I was the only one on earth who did this to myself. I was really ashamed of the scars. I think it was about 2002 when I finally discovered this is a condition, and that I wasn't the lone "freak" in the world who picked their skin. It's also nice to finally have a handle on it. I can look in the bathroom mirror at my back and see clear skin, not just a war zone of red marks and scabs.
 
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