Severe Nail Biting and OCD

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I am a nail biter. I have always been a nail biter from what I can remember. It isn’t just an occasional thing either, it is a constant habit that I can’t control. I bite my nails until they bleed or until the nail bed is exposed. Even then, even if it causes real pain, I continue to pick at them. I chew off the skin around the nails too, including the skin on my fingertips. The end of my fingers often look scraped raw.

Yesterday I just happened to come across something online that said that this particular behavior is actually considered a disorder, a sub classification of the OCD diagnosis. There is even a fancy name for severe nail biting (onychophagia). I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, since there are other similar grooming behaviors that can lapse into obsessive compulsions (such as skin picking, hair plucking, etc.) I do have many other OCD habits and am pretty sure I have been officially diagnosed with the disorder somewhere along the line, but since I have been diagnosed with so many things it can be easy to forget the specifics.

Perhaps the oddest thing about my severe nail biting is that I have absolutely no desire to stop. I never have. Others have wanted me to stop, but I never really cared. It feels good. It is a satisfying feeling to nip and nibble at my nails. It is an especially helpful distraction during times of great stress or fear. I have never cared much what my nails looked like or worried about what other people think of them. I do get a bit self-conscious sometimes if they are bleeding in public, but other than that, I simply don’t care.

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Psychiatrist Visit Update

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First off, I want to thank all of you for your comments on yesterday’s post! I really appreciate all the support from you guys! It definitely makes me feel less alone and even a little bit loved! It can be easy to feel all alone going through all this mental health stuff, and although I do have some support in real life, knowing other people care about what happens to me matters a lot.

So the visit went ok yesterday. I was kind of anxious about it because I was worried the doctor would be upset I quit taking the Abilify because of the side effects, but he didn’t seem to be upset. Surprised maybe, but not upset. He didn’t make any huge changes to my medication regimen, but did prescribe me a daily anxiety med (Buspirone) and upped my antidepressant (Prozac) a little bit. He kept the Seroquel the same for now. I must admit I was hoping for more sweeping changes than that, but maybe it is a good thing that not everything change at once. The Seroquel does help me sleep and although I fear becoming dependent on it, being able to sleep regularly has made a huge difference.

One thing that bugs me though is that this psychiatrist says some of the exact same things the two psychologists I have seen have had to say, things I’m not sure I agree with. Every mental health professional I talk to talks about what a “survivor” I am and how they have no real fear I would ever be a danger to myself, even if my husband did die and I was left all alone. They always talk about how intelligent and strong I am, but I don’t feel that about myself. I feel like a big wimp most of the time and scared of my own shadow. How the heck are they seeing this kick-ass survivor when they look at me, when all I see is a scared little girl? The psychiatrist yesterday went so far to say if they dropped me off alone in the middle of a frozen tundra, I would find a way to survive. A huge exaggeration obviously, and so opposite my own opinion. In that case, I think I would just lay down and give up. And if my husband died, I DO think I would pose a serious threat to my own well-being, but why do they find that so hard to believe?

*Art by Maranda Russell

Bad Night

Tonight was a bad night. The pain, isolation, and despair came crashing down so hard and fast that I crawled off the couch and collapsed onto the carpet, on my side, in a loose fetal position and just wept. I gripped the beige carpet fibers in my fingers and pulled as the tears pooled below my cheek. I pinched myself. I aimlessly pummeled the floor. The anger exploded in that way it always does, boomeranging right back into myself. I considered my options. All the ways it could end. The option of reaching out for help. The feeling that grasping for that help would only inconvenience others. After all, my husband has to work tomorrow, he needs his sleep. I can’t take the car, who would bring it back to him?

Eventually, I made my way outside. Hoping the cold would numb it all. I walked on the icy, wet grass and then took a seat on the deck stairs. Soon my feet were frozen numb, and my body curled inward, instinctively seeking to conserve its heat, even as I wished that I could bear it long enough to freeze. Dark thoughts of black toes breaking off soon made hypothermia a less attractive ending. If only it were like a Jack London novel, a slow nodding off into warm, cozy whiteness.

Eventually, I found myself back where I started, on the couch, hoping to find comfort on electronic waves, here in the place where lost things seem to gather in today’s society. I soon stumbled across someone else crying and hugging a giant stuffed giraffe and it soothed the edges just a little. Now, I can only hope tomorrow is brighter.

Brutally Honest Writings from a Depressive State

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Today I thought I’d share a few excerpts and snippets from journal entries written while I was in a deeply depressive state. Often, writing these thoughts and feelings out has been healing and maybe even life saving, as it gives me a way to focus the negativity without harming myself. I hope that by sharing these very personal thoughts, that it might help others who struggle with depression to feel less alone, and give those who don’t quite understand true depression a feel for the mental suffering endured by the clinically depressed:

“I’m so anxious today. I feel that there is little hope of my brain ever letting me live in peace. I’m so exhausted by the pain, fear, and despair of existence. I wish there was a simple ‘check out’ button when you can’t deal with life. I don’t want to harm myself but I don’t want to live this way anymore either.”

“I think way too much about death – always have. Death to me always represented freedom, a way out of unbearable life circumstances.”

“I often feel (and sometimes am certain I KNOW) that I am far more mentally ill than anyone else notices. I believe I hide it well, but often feel on the edge of snapping.”

“Only my pride and fear of complete loss of control restrain me from self-annihilation in the worst of my moments.”

“I don’t want to be hospitalized, I don’t want to cross that line, but I wonder sometimes if that is what I need.”

“I am so tired of fighting these self-destructive impulses and wondering what in the hell is wrong with me that I have them in the first place.”

“Why am I tempted while riding in the car to grab the steering wheel and spin us into oncoming traffic? I cross my arms tightly just to make sure I don’t act the thought out.”

“Why do I feel such a depth of emptiness and despair that I lay in bed wanting to sink my teeth into my skin until the pain finally ebbs away?”

“Why do I fear physical pain more than anything in life, yet feel the urge to inflict it on myself?”

“There are no good options. All this rage, anger, and pain. If I inflict it on others…I hate myself. If I inflict it on myself…I hate myself. There are no good options.”

(If you like this post and would like to see more, please comment and let me know! I was thinking of maybe sharing more of these in the future if anyone finds them helpful.)