Living in Free Equilibrium – LiFE Part 1 Irritation Diagnosis

Hi all! Happy Thursday! I know this isn’t my usual blog day but I just felt like posting something today, m’kay?

There are several people that I turn to when I need help about something, and then there are those things where no one seems to be able to help and I’m all alone in combating the situation. It frustrates me, it annoys me, it vexes me, and it irritates me that no one seems to understand what I’m going through.

There are two points I’d like to cover today. They affect my self-esteem, my sense of self, and my sense of image. There are days when I can’t even look at myself in the mirror without an overwhelming sense of disgust.


Firstly, I have the bad case of dermatillomania secondary to my OCD. What is dermatillomania? Well it’s a skin picking disorder.

“The primary characteristic of Skin Picking Disorder (also known as Dermatillomania or Excoriation) is the repetitive picking at one’s own skin to the extent of causing damage. Usually, but not always, the face is the primary location for skin picking. However, Skin Picking Disorder may involve any part of the body. Individuals with Skin Picking Disorder may pick at normal skin variations such as freckles and moles, at actual pre-existing scabs, sores or acne blemishes, or at imagined skin defects that nobody else can observe. Individuals with Dermatillomania may also use their fingernails or teeth, as well as tweezers, pins or other mechanical devices. As a result, Skin Picking Disorder may cause bleeding, bruises, infections, and/or permanent disfigurement of the skin.”

OCD Center of Los Angeles

I have many scars on various parts of my body from the skin picking. Most notably my is my face. I am always seen with scabs on my face and scars from previous picking sessions. I have this problem, this urge and I feel compelled to pick at my skin till it bleeds then I get a wave of relief from it. It’s this vicious cycle, I pick at it, it bleeds, it scabs over, I pick at it again, well you get the picture. It’s not that I want to do it, it’s just, well it’s there and I HAVE to do it. It’s similar to when I do a task, it HAS TO BE done to perfection. If it’s not done to perfection, I have to restart. It’s hard to explain the feeling, the sensation. But when I skin pick I have to do it till there’s relief. Usually the sight of blood is enough to satisfy the urge, but there are times when I’ll dig deep and end up digging a hole in my skin. I’ll just keep at it till the urge is gone. I get many questions from my parents, who don’t understand this, about why I pick at my skin and why I don’t stop. And I’ve tried to explain to them but they just don’t understand. You really need to feel the sensation of being compelled to do something. To them it’s just a matter of stopping right there and now. But it’s not as simple as that. It’s like someone tickling your brain and then it gets itchy and there’s no way of scratching or accessing that itch. The more you wait, the more the itch intensifies. Anyway, that’s my spiel on my dermatillomania. I hope you guys understand this a little bit more and the next time you see me with a bunch of scars on my face, think about how they got there. How difficult it was to avoid scratching and picking. My hands shake with trepidation when I resist the urge.


Now secondly, I also have restless leg syndrome. What is restless leg syndrome?

“Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them. Symptoms occur primarily at night when a person is relaxing or at rest and can increase in severity during the night. Moving the legs relieves the discomfort. Often called paresthesias (abnormal sensations) or dysesthesias (unpleasant abnormal sensations), the sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.

The most distinctive or unusual aspect of the condition is that lying down and trying to relax activates the symptoms. Most people with RLS have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Left untreated, the condition causes exhaustion and daytime fatigue. Many people with RLS report that their job, personal relations, and activities of daily living are strongly affected as a result of their sleep deprivation. They are often unable to concentrate, have impaired memory, or fail to accomplish daily tasks. It also can make traveling difficult and can cause depression.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

It’s a really embarrassing disorder. In my culture people who shake their legs are seen as rude and are seen as arrogant and uncouth. So having grown up with that perspective, it’s easy to see how embarrassment is an issue. I am by no means an arrogant person or rude but because I have this disorder, some people may perceive things differently. For me it’s just a matter of relief. There are times when it’s more intense than usual but for the most part I probably shake my legs about a good 10-12 hours a day. Usually I’m unaware my legs are shaking and when I become aware of it, I try to stop it by getting distracted. But then I get tense and stressed about it and so it becomes worse. I’ve found that music helps a bit. I can tap to the rhythm of the music and so it’s less intense, but I’m still shaking. It can be annoying for others. Take for example when I’m sitting on a bench on the bus and I’m shaking, I know I’m shaking the whole bench and everyone else feels it, but I just can’t stop just like that. I have to ease slowly into stopping and even then it’s rarely a full stop. I shake when I am in bed trying to sleep and so it’s disruptive at times. It’s usually pretty good in the mornings and then it progressively gets worse as the day goes on. I think this is because the medications wear off. My restless leg syndrome started after starting on some medications but I need these medications so I kind of have to deal with it. Sometimes I shake my legs when I’m standing! It’s frustrating. Again my parents complain about it and they don’t seem to understand it’s not something like pressing a button and thing’s just stop. I WISH that was the case. I wish all my illness could be stopped and go away. I wish I didn’t have to take such a strict regiment of medications to control my illnesses and I wish I didn’t have to deal with the side effects. Thing’s just pile up and gets worse. So that’s the second topic I wanted to cover in this blog post.

So hopefully next time you see someone with a scarred face or arms or body, or someone who’s shaking their leg seemingly uncontrollably, you’ll understand that maybe they’re not doing it on purpose. Maybe they’re fighting a losing battle and they need support. They’re not stupid and they know what’s going on. Hopefully, I’ve been able to shed some light on these two issues. This is part 1 of a planned series of blogs within my Living in Free Equilibrium posts. I hope to continue covering different topics within my life and things affecting my life. I’ll be posting a Free Association Friday post tomorrow, so stay tuned for more!

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