I am a strong believer in the fact that nothing stays the same for long. In the past year, I have moved countries, changed schools and watched every relationship in my life change. But one thing hasn’t. I remember where I was this week, last year: sitting on the cold tile floor of my kitchen and clicking through the TWLOHA blog. I found this (http://twloha.com/blog/finally-recognized) blog about dermatillomania and knew from the first sentence that this would impact me.
The description might as well have been about me, and I looked up the definition of dermatillomania right away. That was the day of my self-diagnoses. I had always bitten my nails, a childhood habit many assumed I would grow out of. When I learn to leave them alone, I started picking at my cubicles. My fingers, and sometimes my teeth, were wildly successful at destroying all of the skin around my fingernails. It was painful, but as you might know if you are familiar with the condition, that is part of it. There’s the release of pain, followed by the urge to pick more.
It went from a casual bad habit to a compulsive obsession. I would pick in the morning on the bus when I had nothing else to do, when I was anxious, or in almost any social situation. I would even pick while watching TV, for no logical reason. I didn’t always notice it, and I never had a label for it until the day I found the article.
After being “diagnosed”, I went through many stages: from thinking I was crazy to thinking I could control myself and just stop. The worst was when I was ashamed, and the best was when I reached out to my closest friends and explained it to them. They were all supportive, but I still couldn’t be honest with my parents. I didn’t know how to do anything but deal with it myself. This took the form of learning how to paint my nails so that I wouldn’t bite them, how to wear gloves whenever I could, and how to make bracelets, just to keep my hands busy. Post-it notes lined my mirrors, with little notes from my friends or even my own personal goals– to go six classes without picking, to go three days in a row, to try to withstand urges for a full week. Every day was a struggle.
From the very beginning, I have many issues with the word dermatillomania; with how I struggle to pronounce it, with how the shortened “derma” sounds too much like a casual friend. In the past year, I have come to terms with my derma, but I have also promised myself that I will beat it.
I have spent too long tasting blood, too long applying Band-Aids and hiding my hands. But there have also been days at a time that I have been stronger than the urges, that I have asked for help.
It is thanks to BFRB awareness week that I know what to name the compulsions I have lived with for years. And it is thanks for the people and online communities that I don’t feel so alone.
I am sympathetic to anyone living with derma or trich. I believe that none of you deserve this. But I know that you are strong and I can promise you one thing: nothing lasts forever.
Annabelle’s blog, http://lost-explorations.tumblr.com, features poems and prose about derma and various other things.