When I was diagnosed with anxiety I was also diagnosed with dermatillomania. For those of you who are lucky enough not to have the foggiest idea as to what that is, dermatillomania is an OCD behavior that causes you to pick at your skin.
You may be wondering what that means. For a long time, it meant that I picked at the skin on my fingers.
Okay, it meant that I picked at my fingers until they were permanently scarred and bled. It meant that manicurists were often horrified by the fingers I presented to them. It meant that I was embarrassed to have people notice my hands, but I couldn't stop.
And then... One day, out of the blue, I started picking at my feet.
When I say that my fingers were/are a bloody, scarred mess? They have NOTHING on my poor feet. I am aggressive with my feet in a way that I am not with my fingers because I can hide what I've done to the bottoms of my feet in a way that I can't with my hands.
However. If you were to see the bottoms of my feet, you would probably be horrified. They look like they have been flayed, repeatedly. They are a mess of scars and scabs and wounds.
I am telling you this because I recently had a conversation with a friend who has anxiety who had someone say to her, "I really think you just need to chill?" As if anxiety is a choice. As if she wouldn't opt for that if she could.
I have had people see my hands (and less frequently my feet), wince, and tell me I should stop. As though I don't want to. As though slowly peeling the skin off my feet so that I can leave bloody footprints on the carpet is awesome sand I love it sooooo much.
I would love to stop. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I have a space of good days where my fingers heal and my feet heal and I know that it would look like if I was normal (except for the scar tissue). And then I have a bad day, or several, and it builds and my brain demands an outlet and this is what I have.
I don't WANT this.
But I have it anyway.
You might be wondering why I'm writing this. I'm writing it because I know I'm not the only one. I'm writing it because I want everyone to think about the fact that the people you meet are fighting battles you can't see. And I'm writing it because I had never heard of dermatillomania, and until I understood it, I was desperately ashamed of my need to hurt myself.
If you have this? There are things that can help. Please, please talk to a doctor.
If you know someone who resembles this? Show them this post. Let them know they are not alone. Offer to go with them so they can find out what to do to help themselves.
We need to help each other.
We need to be able to rely on each other.
Let's do that.