The corner of my left middle finger throbs. I have torn the cuticle again, and the flesh adjacent to the nail has become hot and swollen. Nevertheless, I can’t help touching it, digging my other nails into the soft bed of the cuticle every two minutes or so, rubbing them along the slightly jagged nail. Sometimes I poke my fingers in my mouth and explore the cuticle edges with my tongue and tear a bit more with my teeth. My fingers continually worry at my nails, fiddling at them, bending them and sometimes tearing them.
If I leave my nails alone, I start on my hair. My fingers tug and pull at the dark long tendril, feeling the rough and sometime knotty ends. I bring the ends close to my eyes, spying out split ends, which I then pull out. I pull the locks of hair above my temples so much that by the end of the day, I have a nasty little headache there, but I can’t stop.
Then I start on my lips. I suck my lips against my teeth, and worry away at the soft inner flesh of my mouth, chewing and gnawing like a simpleton. I have caught sight of myself in the mirror when I do this, and I look so awful that I consciously try to make sure I do it in private, when no-one is watching me.
I have this burning nervous restless energy in me which drives me to these ceaseless little acts of self-destruction. I try to control myself- I colour colouring pages, or knit, or paint my finger nails when I sit on the couch to watch something, or else I would bloody all my nails and tear out all my hair during a twenty-minute show. I tie up my hair in a ball when I try to study, nevertheless, my laptop and books becomes covered with hair. Little conversations, faces and scenes from the past flow through my brain even though I don’t want them to, even though they involve people who have dropped out of my life for a long time, months or years, and who never occupied much space even when they were there.
I would like to concentrate on my books and things, but I seem unable to do so. I would like to cultivate inner peace and calm, which would stop me from tearing and gnawing at my nails and lips and hair. Yoga seems to tense me up even more, and I can’t meditate. I slip my thumbnail under the nail of my index finger, and tug at the flesh beneath. Then my fingers wander across my face and starts pulling at the tendrils of hair which have escaped from my bun and grow around my ears. It is time to put the children to bed.