Coping with life using self harm ISN’T coping

When a kid develops a habit that helps them cope with the obviously insurmountable daily stresses that inevitably come from being a child, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? It’s not necessarily a bad thing when adults discover something to help them cope with daily life…

Naturally, there are exceptions. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Popping pills. You know – anything covered in the D.A.R.E. curriculum – that kind of thing. My babies have followed my example by developing negative coping skills. (I’m not addicted to drugs or alcohol, btw – just thought I’d clarify that.) K, for example, uses her fingers to peel the skin off of her lips; Q, on the other hand, sucks on her pointer and middle fingers on her left hand (fortunately we’ve mostly managed to steer her away from that and replaced her fingers with a pacifier after she got a staph infection late last year).

I’m not sure how to stop K from peeling her lip (any tips would be welcome), mostly because I think she got the idea from me. She’s always been observant, and a born mimic, like many other kids her age, so when a kid watches her very obsessive-compulsive mom indulge her own mesotelencephalic dopamine reward system (possibly my husband’s favorite $20 phrase) multiple times every day (some days more than others), it’s a hard lesson to teach.

Here’s where I start to feel like I’m naked in the middle of Times Square and out myself as a total freak: Ever since I was little, I’ve compulsively peeled the skin off of my fingers. Pause for reaction, since everyone has one.

Does it hurt? You should stop! Why haven’t you stopped? You should try harder. Have you tried using lotion? What about gloves?

I know people have good intentions. Nobody likes to see someone self-harming, especially all day, every day, in private or public. Like any mental health issue, people are curious, but they don’t really want to know the dirty parts, the nitty gritty about living with something like this day in and day out. They don’t want to hear that it’s affected friendships, jobs, and other parts of daily life, not to mention dirty looks and people not wanting to shake your hand, for example.

It’s a vicious cycle – I pick because I’m anxious, and I’m anxious because I pick; I honestly don’t know which came first.

So what’s the point of this post? I suppose it’s just an attempt at being honest and open. To solicit help, if anyone has any revolutionary (or not revolutionary) ideas, because now that both of my precious babies have caught some form of my compulsion, I’m more desperate than ever to stop for good. I don’t want my babies caught in this same trap!

1 thought on “Coping with life using self harm ISN’T coping”

  1. For K, maybe get her lip gloss and say she can’t pick at her lips with it on because it’ll ruin it or something like that? She could feel all pretty and cute and it would teach her to not touch her lips, maybe?

    I struggle with hand picking too, but only around my nails. If I put my hands on my hips when I feel awkward or cross my arms and then sway my hips and it helps. The down side is some people find it rude…if I’m sitting I hold my hands like I’m praying and put them on my lap. Then I bounce my feet to put that energy elsewhere.

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