Without my OCD stress relief, I knew I’d explode. Dad’s rages drove my stress level off the charts. Then he forbade dermatillomania, my only stress relief. It was torturous! And I wasn’t the only one in agony.
Once upon a time, there was a happy little family. A narcissistic Daddy who ran the show. A sweet, codependent Mommy (“Little Warden”) who did everything he said. And their sweet, obedient Little Project, the apple of their eye, who provided tons and tons of narcissistic supply. Me.
Things limped along pretty well for the first fifteen years, if you overlook Dad’s routine blackout rages. But sooner or later, the proverbial shit will hit the proverbial fan. They never told me exactly what happened, but I have my suspicions.
Suddenly, this nice normal family went from happy and peaceful to Hurricane Narcissist…overnight. Cracks and fissures appeared in the foundation of Dad and Mom’s marriage. Everyone’s stress went through the roof.
I’d always enjoyed scratching at scabs, but then again, who doesn’t!? As C. S. Lewis wrote, “…if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.” Now, I discovered pockets of “junk” in my facial pores. I was obsessed with squeezing them out, every day, multiple times a day. The rush, the stress relief, the peace it brought was addictive.
When I was picking, the real world receded from view. I entered a trance-like serene state. There was a chasm between me and my chaotic reality. I could think about everything clearly, honestly, intuitively. My parents’ mind control fell away and I was just me, thinking my own thoughts, not what I was supposed to think.
And it was addictive.
The prick of pain when a pimple or cyst popped was cathartic, like acupuncture. The successful evacuation of the “junk” in my pores gave me the illusion I was removing all the “junk” from my life. For a few blessed moments, I could relax.
Then came the knock on the bathroom door. The furious demand to “know what you’re doing in there.” My parents’ horror at the sight of my ravaged complexion. The anger, the rage, the sorrow that their Little Project didn’t look perfect anymore. Didn’t make ’em proud. Didn’t impress the neighbors and relatives.
Dad made a solemn vow, “Until you stop picking on your skin, I’ll never tell you that you’re pretty ever again.” Way to kick a 15-year-old girl when she’s down and needs you most, Daddy-O!
But it was all so hypocritical, because I wasn’t the only one.
Like a distressed cockatoo, Mother was pulling out her feathers…I mean, hair. The onset of her trichotillomania, panic attacks, anxiety and agoraphobia coincided with my dermatillomania. But that’s another story, for another day.
Her beautiful brown hair no longer hung smooth and shiny from the crown of her head. Now, there were “sprigs” sticking straight up…newly grown hair replacing the strands she’d pulled out.
How vividly I remember the day she lay in bed, alternately sobbing and yelling at me for my “acne.” How she could scream at me for my dermatillomania when she herself had trichotillomania makes my mind reel.
But they couldn’t stop me. Oh, I considered stopping. But I knew, just knew, I’d explode inside. Crack. Have some kind of break-down.
If I stopped, it wasn’t a question of if I’d crack, but when. “Accupicking” was my one and only stress relief. That…and comfort eating.
Where other distressed teens took up smoking, drugs, alcohol and sex, I squeezed the excess keratin and hardened sebum plugs out of my pores. Where other parents might be grateful their teen had such an innocuous stress relief, mine yelled all the more. Where other parents might take their child to a dermatologist, mine screamed and lectured. Took photographs of my sores.
The insanity. The lunacy. The hypocrisy of expecting me to act perfect, smile perfect and look perfect in a cray-cray family that was suddenly and inexplicably 360º off perfect.
Talk about man’s inhumanity to man.
Obedience VS Sanity
I chose sanity.
Oh, they tried everything to make me stop.
My first job out of High School was working retail. What my coworkers didn’t know was that my parents had confiscated all my cover makeup, concealer, foundation.
So they tied my hands behind my back. Dad forbade me from touching my skin with my hands. Literally. The Little Warden was ordered to do my grooming, even washing my face! Technically, I was an adult…and forbidden from performing my own ablutions. If anything needed popping, Mommy had to do it. Yeah, I know. The only thing more humiliating would be if she wiped my ass!
Luckily, the soul-killing horror didn’t last long. She simply couldn’t see close-up well enough to be my groomer. They eventually gave back my confiscated cosmetics.
Ah, L’Oreal® made thousands off me during my twenties. I became an expert at layering finishing powder over dry foundation over liquid foundation over concealer. I even tried foundation from the Ben Nye stage makeup line. Compliments on my “perfect complexion” were frequent…and mortifying. I always set the speaker straight.
Their compliments were juxtaposed against Dad’s silent campaign of shame. He chose not to make eye contact with me, instead staring at my scars, grimacing and sneering, turning away wordlessly.
In her codependent way, Mother tried to help me find more constructive uses for my hands. Embroidery. Crocheting. Playing with Silly-Putty. Nothing worked. Hell, I’m so unhandy, even opening cans and jars is entirely beyond me.
And my hands always found their way back to my face.
The problem wasn’t the OCD. That was just the result of the abuses at the hands of the narcissists. But we were oh so blind to it!
Recognizing my skills as a makeup artist, Dad sent the Little Warden to inform me I was forbidden from appearing at family dinner without my mask. My stage makeup. Well, the food sucked anyways, so I adjusted my office schedule to work later and later. He accused me of removing myself from the family.
Being driven out was more like it!
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It took my “rash” marriage and moving three hundred miles away from my loving and caring family to reclaim my natural beauty. Removed from all the stress and the need to wear heavy cover makeup 24/7, my complexion magically healed. Fewer blocked pores. No more huge cysts. No more infections. No more overwhelming need to tear at my own face. No more fears of exploding inside without my OCD crutch.
For the first time in twenty years, I can appear barefaced in public without shame.
So, I leave it up to you. Do narcissists cause OCD in their victims?
Hint: There’s only one right answer.