Bio Moment – When pain feels better than not feeling at all

Subtitle: Sometimes, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Today may be one of those days. Carry on!

On December 5, last year, I wrote a post about anxiety. My featured photo was one of my hands, nails bitten to the quick. Soon after, I stopped biting them and had about four months of decent looking hands. I say “decent” because they’re never great. I’ve had a lifelong struggle with biting my nails and I’ve, uh, yeah… damaged the nail beds. It sounds awful and it is. You know how you read about vitamin deficiencies if you have ridges going vertically and health issues if ridges go horizontally? They don’t talk about ridges that go diagonally. Ugh.

(Also, in case there’s any do-gooder who feels the need to tell me that diagonal ridges – or any ridges for that matter – mean I have a dreaded health concern, I direct you to my post about health anxiety and remind you that it’s very real and please, just don’t.)

So, where was I? Oh yes, pain. My fingers hurt. It seems like such a simple thing to just stop doing it. What am I? Five? No, no I am not. Double ugh.

This particular compulsive habit is why I’ve been told I’m “borderline” OCD. Just throw another label in the bag with the rest. This one, I believe without reservation. I have the proof at my fingertips. Literally.

Don’t think I haven’t tried everything… from nasty tasting polish to acrylic nails to having my hands slapped right out of my mouth. I remember with fondness how the orthodontist told my parents I’d never be able to bite them when I got my braces… and back then, they were big and metal from ear-to-ear. Kids these days don’t know how lucky they are! I never see kids wearing headgear in public anymore. Why not? You haven’t lived until you face your peers looking like Hannibal Lecter. Also, I had to wear the darned things for four looooong years. My kids only wore them for two! I wonder how long kids wear them now? Six months? Twenty five minutes? But I digress.

Here’s the thing: One day, after an extremely aggressive nail biting (ripping and tearing) session, it occurred to me that nail biting is a lot like cutting and other pain-inducing things some people do. And it makes no sense. Zero. When I talked about suicide, I mentioned how it’s all about finding a way out of the pain. Just make the pain stop! But what I’m talking about here is … on the surface … exactly the opposite. Just make the pain… real. What the hell?

If you were expecting me to say something pithy here and solve the riddle, I’m sorry. I got nothin’.

To be clear, today wasn’t a bad day. Nothing bad happened. I mean, yeah, there’s stuff. There’s always stuff. For everyone.

Maybe it’s because we watched the pilot of A Million Little Things last night. After it was over, I turned to my husband and said, “We must never watch that again,” and he agreed. I think it was for different reasons, but that’s okay. For him, it was too deep and mushy. For me, it broke my heart, over and over. It hurt to watch. It hurt to think about it. It just hurt.

It hurt. I continue to hurt myself. Do I want pain, or not? It makes no sense. None of this makes any sense.

Maybe it’s as simple as this: Having mental illness is one big mind-f*ck.

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