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Ever since I was 6, I've been a terrible nail biter. I know that it started from a place of deep emotion and anxiety, neither of my biological parents provided a healthy environment. I remember learning about the conditions I was in when I was around 4, so it makes sense that over the years I developed a need to fixate on something to cope. Nail biting and excessive movie watching were my responses to instability (my sister would do everything she could just to get me to come outside and play with her).
Over the years, I became worse. I began to want to pick at every part of myself. I would tear up the skin on my face and back in my obsessive bid to get rid of my acne. My fingers and toes would be perpetually red with a soreness that could last for days. I would go over the hairy areas of my body to pluck and mar ingrown hairs with all kinds of needles and tweezers for long periods of time. I had a whole repertoire of tools for picking purposes, and it included the aforementioned items plus an acne extractor, fingernail clippers, sometimes paper clips, and any random items I could find to help prod against whatever I wanted to obsess over. I would hide in the bathroom and do all these things every single time I'd get stressed or worried or depressed or angry or scared and just whittle away at the flaws I felt like I could fix. I needed to feel like I was in control, that there IS something that can be done about every problem I faced. It factors into my need to either always be on the move or doing something distracting. If I sit in stillness, and allow silence to envelope me, I become very scared of the jumbled knot my thoughts and emotions become. Sometimes I feel like a tangled up ball of yarn that can't be saved.
Fast forward to the present. My nails are the healthiest they've ever been, my acne is at an all time low since I managed to reduce picking at it, and I can't remember the last time I bled from any of my routine picking areas. How did I pull this off? I had to find a habit to replace the unhealthy one, so I turned to various things to fulfill that need. I do crafty stuff. I file my nails. I use acne treatment in the shower more, and I'm remembering to apply lotion after I shower. Why is it that these simple things worked so well now as opposed to my failed attempts in the past? It's because I've had to learn that being in a rigid state of mind with no flexibility or give enables me to do terrible things to myself. It's like hugging a teddy bear cholla and refusing to let go no matter how much it damages me. Of course, I never got up the gumption to start doing things this way until I start living on my own and acquired some actual tranquility.
My desire to be closed off and unyielding to people can be similar to my dermatillomania. I don't like letting people in on what's happening in my life because it requires me to be vulnerable, and I abhor that with such a passion. All I want is to live a quiet life in peace, left alone and to my own devices. And while some alone time can be healthy, I lean on it so heavily and shut so many things/people out that I miss out on experiences that could enrich my life and open my mind. And it took me making strides against my self harm to realize that fact. Part of me still really, really, REALLY doesn't want to let go of these unhealthy desires and just open myself up, but I know that if I keep it that way then I will never reach the kind of happiness that I want going forward in my life. I'll just be forever dominated by my past, and I know that I'll eventually break myself over needs that I don't want to let others get involved with in any capacity. It's like I want to reach out, but have such an ingrained expectation of being let down that I fear risking it. Yes, this social thing that everyone else seems to have no problem partaking in is a risk to me because the world has always been a scary place and people have been famously unreliable for me. I want to allow myself to discover that there are some people who aren't like that, which is already happening with some of my friends and family. All I have to do is keep out the toxic influences, which has been the case these last few months.