I was, a chronic nail biter, skin biter and occasional skin picker. I also, used to eat my own hair. I haven’t bitten my nails for eighteen months, after biting my nails for twenty one years.
I have only recently discovered that the correct terms are Onychophagia and Dermatophagia are considered obsessive compulsive/anxiety disorders. I have bitten my nails since I could clearly remember, but my Mum has told me that it coincided with then I began preschool. As I have always been a extreme introvert, and a terrible worrier and quite an anxious sort. I suspect the nail/finger biting was a physical manifestation of all that was going on in my three year old brain. I also used to eat my nails after biting them off … perhaps I have mild Pica?
Over the years I have tried repeatedly to stop. I’ve had my fingers dipped in aftershave, mustard and that bitter varnish, which achieves nothing. As eventually I get used to the taste and just continued. So on i went, munching and crunching my way through my fingers and hair.
In 1999 a Girl died after surgery to remove a hairball, of her own hair from her stomach. This absolutely petrified me, watching it on the news and I almost instantly stopped hair eating, taking the occasional nibble for a few more months until I stopped. I didn’t want a hairball! I remember Mum saying, “Is it going to take someone dying from having a ball of their own nails to stop you nail biting?” I can’t remember if I agreed or not and continued to chomp.
Over the years I had a few successes in growing one or two nails, before gnawing them and the attached fingers to bloodied stumps. I was at my most down at University and just chewed and chewed and chewed, the chewing also spread to biting the insides of my mouth and lips.
I was, eventually getting to a point where, not only where my hands in a lot of pain, but i was also embarrassed at the state of my fingers. For nine years i had a number of catering jobs, and it looks awful when you have to serve a plate holding a tea towel to hide the fact your fingers are bleeding, because you chewed the nail to short waiting up in the kitchen for service. Fingers are also a place that like to bleed! So on occasion, after covering myself with sticking plasters, there would still be blood leaking down my fingers and hands.
Being stressed at work (I waitressed in a hotel for two years and it was hell!) I decided to make a change. That it how I ended up working at an animal rescue center at weekends . I stopped biting my mouth, and I stopped picking my fingers. The job gave me a real sense of satisfaction and I really loved it. The only issue which cropped up again was the biting. Firstly I was fully aware how unhygienic it was. Cleaning cages, touching animals, doing gardening, and then popping my fingers into my mouth. I was also aware at how terrible it must have appear to potential pet adopters when the woman holding the guinea pig was getting her own blood over the poor animal, as well as herself, and a customer should she pass it over to them to hold.
Eighteen months ago I started work at the rescue full time, I was cleaning out some rabbits, went to have a finger nibble, and ended up with a mouthfull of urine soaked dirt, and possibly a bit of poo. I decided then It would be in every ones best interests to just stop. So I stopped. If i broke a nail, i would literally be crying with the amount of will power it took to cut it rather than just rip it off with my teeth. I had a slight relapse in September, which lasted to December, after My cat got hit by a car, and then I had some work issues, but I managed to just cut my nails with clippers and pick a little at the skin. Which was a miracle to me.
Not bitten again since Christmas, I’ve picked a little at my index fingers, but I am really proud of myself. It’s a hard, hard habit to break, more so because it is not something you ever consciously do … you just do it. I don’t think i’ll ever stop picking the skin completely, but only time will tell.
Also It now means i can paint them pretty colours!
Other posts from todays prompt!