What are you hiding?

by me

I peel. I peel off the skin on my cuticles. I peel off the skin around the sides of my fingers. I find an uneven spot and dig in and pull strips of skin away. Sometimes it’s little pieces at a time. Sometimes it’s a big chunk of skin. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t peel. Over the years my fingertips have lost more and more sensitivity. Most of the time it doesn’t bleed. But when it does, it’s time to stop, those are my rules. I peel when I’m stressed. I peel when I’m bored. I peel when I’m watching tv, when I’m taking a shower, when I’m in the car driving. Sometimes it’s intentional. I’m inspecting my fingers to find spots that need to be peeled. Most of the time I don’t even realize I started doing it until it starts hurting. I get in a trance. Fingers feeling a long other fingers searching for uneven surfaces. My fingers are on autopilot, alien ants working industriously with no apparent leader. I peel to try and create smoothness, which is the exact opposite result I always get. I peel to escape the present. The tactile experience is soothing, comforting. So is the pain. It’s never too painful, it’s just the right amount of soreness, a welcome sensation to focus on, to disappear from the now. Once I start, I can’t stop until I’m done. But what is done when there is always more uneven spots that need to be peeled. I find a place in my mind that is good enough, and force myself to focus on something else. I need to stop. But I don’t want to. I don’t know how to stop. I won’t let myself stop. I’ve never told any of my doctors about it. Intentionally not peeling creates an intense level of anxiety and the inability to focus on anything else. I’m not ready to stop. But I have to, I must. My child is peeling too. She learned it from me. The guilt I feel is crushing. I tell her to stop. What a hypocrite I am. But I also tell her to stop me if I’m doing it. I do my best not to do it in front of her. I’ve made that a new rule, and I’m struggling to follow it. Even just writing about this makes the urge so strong. Here I go again.