About six months ago my eldest, Lucy, started picking and biting her nails during the more stressful moments of her day (aka, ALL THE TIME). Two days ago she chose to ignore all the warning signs her body told her in the form of pain and picked & bit her nail so low she made herself bleed. She purposely and knowingly caused herself physical pain. It’s heartbreaking for me to watch, because I modeled the behavior, which was also modeled to me. That emotional DNA was passed down from my biological dad, to me, to her.
I also pick; I have for as long as I can remember. These poor cuticles… I peel back layers of flesh that want so badly to stay in-tact. It doesn’t happen very often since sobriety, but I can tell there is internal discord when I start hurting myself, when I start believing I am bad and need punishment—when I decide to ignore the feelings bubbling to my surface levels, avoiding the pains inside.
If I create the wounds on the outside, on my fingers, then I’m making some form of the internal pain REAL.
I’ve talked a lot about Ellen here, in pages past. I’ve talked about the beautiful/murderous houseguest that is cancer, especially childhood cancer. I’ve shown you a lot of the more inspirational moments. But every moment of glory was stitched to a moment of horror; from the ages of six to sixteen I had many, many, many unmet needs.
One day, I do not remember the day or the circumstances, picking stopped creating the types of wounds I felt I deserved, the types of wounds that matched and mirrored the pain of my demolished heart. And so I sliced my thigh up with my razor blade while shaving.
I’m alive, I bleed, I feel, I DO have control, here is the answer. I cut my thigh for a year before anyone found out. It’s all still blurry for me, but as I continue to make sense of my childhood and make peace with the trauma, bits do flash behind my eyes, and it’s all so heartbreaking. The same kind of heartbreak I feel looking at little Lucy’s bitten bits.
One day I cut too much, too deep, on my wrists. Lots of stitches. Lots of shame and embarrassment. Lots of people asking questions with worried eyes and hearts. Lots of art therapy and journaling. As the scars healed, so did some pieces of my heart; it hasn’t been an issue since then. The scars are big, faded now, but still big. Those pieces of flesh that wanted to so badly stay in-tact have done a good job making my wrist right.
You can tell trauma lived there though, which is probably exactly what I wanted at the time— you guys, trauma lives here, in this body, please help me feel it in a way that doesn’t make me pass out from blood loss!!
This past week I’ve been picking again. After good verbal and non-verbal processing with some friends and David and Jesus, I know why (see Triggers). It’s ridiculous for me to remind my kid to be kind to her body when I can’t do the same. So we talk. We talk about why Mama picks and what I feel like when I want to do it. Then she gets a chance to express her side of it all.
One day something will happen that causes her waaaaaay more anger and fear than a sisterly quarrel or a stressful “Strawberry Shortcake” episode. And one day, in a long time, when she is ready and when the Spirit tells me to, I can show her the remnants on my wrist. I pray, O Lord do I pray, that by the time we are dealing with real life problems she will have enough courage and safety and practice to feel as much as she needs to.
I pray that all the kiddos will trust me, or another Mama, enough to speak those tricky things, so they don’t have to wear them. I pray they feel heard and known. I pray for everything Little Claire lacked.
I pray these prayers for every human, too. Maybe we are all just wounded, not wicked? I think maybe I wasn’t really given permission to be wounded (human) while the world was constantly crashing down around my family and me. I think that’s why I created the wounds.
I think maybe a lot of us are not given permission to be wounded (human), so we create and perpetuate and project all the anger and fear we were never allowed to feel and to voice. We create the story of our own wickedness in our brains because we weren’t allowed to be wounded. We starve ourselves, stuff ourselves, cut ourselves, overwork ourselves, limit sleep, limit love, make ourselves throw-up, pick and bite ourselves, pluck too much hair, drink too much alcohol, stay in abusive relationships, and so much more.
What if you’re not wicked? What if you’re just wounded?
What if we are all wounded? What if being wounded (human) is actually a good thing? What if the more we embrace our humanity, the more we embrace our Divinity? What if the more we embrace God dwelling in ALL OF us, the better able we are to Love, Serve, and Restore?
Isn’t that the Good News, the Gospel? That we don’t have to be afraid, that it’s all already been done. That now, all we have to do is…Love?
I think we all just need lots of hugs, since I’m an honest woman. This week I’m going to diligently write down Truths to remind myself of His heart for me “I am loved, I am worthy, my worth is not determined by the cleanliness of my house or my children’s behavior or my weight…”
I’ll follow the Truths up with the Joys, because there’s just too much in my life to smile about, and that can sometimes slip my mind. “Thank You for David’s job, for fall breezes and yellow aspens, my car, warm beds and full bellies, health…”
I’ll breathe when I want to bite away at my cuticles; I’ll breathe when I see Lucy biting away at hers. I don’t deserve to hurt, I don’t want to hurt! Nobody does! I’ll pay extra attention to the scars that prove my humanity, the scars that prove my worth. I’ll pray they remind me of His, too.
Lord, please help me be okay with my humanity, so I can be okay with everyone else’s. Remind me, remind us all, that Your scars on Your wrists are proof of how deeply, wildly, and perfectly You Love us. And may they remind us to seek to love Your universe in the same way.
Love you girl…….
Claire, thank you for writing this piece. I can FULLY relate. I have dealt with skin picking, specifically on my scalp, since age 14 (I’m 32 now). Recently, motivated to stop this behavior, I’ve turned to prayer and positive thoughts, but also to a Habit Reversal Training therapist who I found on the Trichotillomania website. Happy to chat about my journey with skin picking anytime!!