I keep starting this post and deleting it. This time I’ll try and get to the end…
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an issue with damaging my own fingers deliberately. I really don’t like the phrase “skin picking” but it’s pretty accurate. It used to be just my index fingers on both hands, but I’ve noticed as my levels of anxiety increase, the amount of damage I’m doing goes up as well. So middle fingers are no longer safe. If I’m honest, I’ll have a go at any part of me that has a scab to the point where it’s permanently scarred, but most of the time it’s my fingers. Lewis would tell me off in bed at night; apparently the soft ‘thud thud thud’ of me removing skin from my digits isn’t particularly conducive to getting a good night’s sleep.
I had no idea there was a name for it until I did some idle googling one day. So now I have a name for my pain, and that is
Batman Dermatillomania . I found Xojane’s article particularly helpful for pinpointing what’s wrong (with me). I’m not sure I can accurately describe why I do it. Often, it’s not even a conscious effort. Lewis and I were meeting with a client about a year ago, and when we walked out I realised that my fingers were bloody. I’d been peeling skin off under the table without even giving it any real thought.
The NHS article on dermatillomania notes the following:
It’s typical to experience an intense urge to pick the skin, with increasing tension until they do. After picking, there is a sense of relief.
I don’t find it a relief. Quite honestly it’s right bastard painful sometimes. Yet I still do it. Even better, having arthritis in my hands seems to be giving me incredibly dry knuckles, which seem to be able to defy any and all creams I’ve bought over the years. Even my favourite – Neutrogena Deep Moisture Comfort Balm, (which saw me through years of working in restaurants) can’t breathe life back into my knuckles. It gives me another area I can badger and peel until it bleeds. I used to wear plasters on my fingers, but then it became something of a challenge for me to see if I could lift them and pick away at my fingers without dislodging the plaster. I don’t bother anymore.
Robot Hugs has an excellent web comic, which touches on this. The part that particularly chimes with me is about the fingerpad rubbing against the other finger. That’s a typical jumping point for me also… I rub, rub, rub and as my fingertip picks up the imperfections of the already torn other finger the compulsion takes over and I start to strip those annoying (healing) bumps away. Common sense tells me if I leave it alone, it will heal. But common sense took the first bus out of town.
The following (not very pleasant) photos were taken over the course of a few months, I thought if I took photos of how sore they were it might help prevent me doing it again. That didn’t really work…I wouldn’t say these are the worst they’ve ever been but they’re pretty close to what they look like on any given day. If I haven’t bitten, chewed or picked them for a few weeks they just look scarred and red at the ends. I suspect my fingerprints would look pretty odd.