On Not PIcking, Actively and Two-Handedly

It’s a known fact that I’ve been terrible at blogging for a while now, but that’s hopefully going to change soon.

My therapist has been trying to get me into meditation recently. I think he just wants me to calm down, but I don’t understand what that means. That phrase just does not compute. That’s like when boyfriend suggested I try listening to smooth jazz at work…I was like, nope, that’s definitely not a thing I want to do. Classical, sometimes. (Rare, but it does happen.) But definitely not smooth jazz.

Anyway, I downloaded a meditation app. It’s called “Breathe, Think…something.” I’ve opened it a whopping four times, never actually meditated, but did once read the descriptive text about mindfulness. I reported that back to my therapist, who responded that it was further than he thought I’d get, so I guess I do get at least a few mindfulness points. He laughed so hard he nearly fell out of his chair when I proudly reported that to him, as though reading a few pages somehow equated to the consistent study of meditative mindfulness.

I went to a retreat for people with BFRBs a couple weekends ago (bodily focused repetitive behaviors…skin picking, hair pulling, and such, for you noobs who don’t know what that is [I didn’t know they were called that until last week, so I’m also technically a total noob as well]), which was very intense and very wonderful, but in doing so, was reminded that journaling is a form of active meditation.

Ha! So really, I don’t have to actually try to sit still for 8-12 minutes, and can instead focus on journaling as a way to increase my mindfulness. I laughed, because even though I’m a typer – I don’t actually think when I’m writing, I just go into auto-pilot and let my fingers and brain communicate while the rest of me is elsewhere – they recommended that people do the whole journaling thing as a handwritten exercise to increase the calming, mindfulness-y benefits. I immediately raised my hand and disagreed, because for me, handwriting is a painfully slow endeavor. (I’m one of those people who types far faster than I write, so ideally, I can throw down 100+ words per minute typing and like 25 if I’m attempting to write with some semblance of legibility.) At one point, someone asked how we (as pickers or pullers) can make sure that we’re not picking or pulling while we write, and I responded that typing requires two hands on the keyboard and allows for zero hands on the skin/hair. That got a good laugh.

I was pleased to report this to my therapist, who agreed that I do need to do more active meditation. We discussed the picking, and I will discuss it more with you, dear readers, at some point in the future. It’s interesting. I know that for people who don’t have those compulsions, skin picking or hair pulling is an entirely alien concept. I’ve been at it for 15 years…in some form or another, and while I’m definitely not super hardcore about it, it’s definitely something that detracts from my life and causes self-esteem issues. (For me, it’s a perfectionism issue, which is weird, because I’m somehow trying to make my skin perfect while totally destroying it in the process. Oh the joys of being human.)

The main takeaway from the retreat was that there’s a whole wonderful supportive community of us who engage in these behaviors, and that it’s a lifelong struggle to recover from them. It was also interesting to see them reframed from a cognitive behavioral therapy standpoint, although I had many great intervention suggestions that no one else seemed to have thought of. (Trained therapists who do this for a living were curious about my exfoliating/lotion techniques, which I find to be massively successful for destruction avoidance.)

Therapist and I discussed the ADHD element. He had just read an article about skin picking in Additude magazine – it discussed the ways that impulse control issues inherent in those of us with ADHD may contribute to the gravity of the skin picking, as we are potentially less able to stop ourselves before and/or once we get going. I did agree about that. I had asked one of the therapists at the retreat about the prevalence of these disorders in the ADHD population, and he gave me a very long and inconclusive answer about it, although I would be willing to bet that among the ADHD population, the occurrence of skin picking would be at least statistically verifiably higher than the regular population.

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