“How are your hands today?”
What if that was the first thing we asked people when we greeted them? What kind of answers would we receive?
Hands tell a wordless story. My story changes every moment and the best way for someone else to tell how I’m coping with life is by looking at my hands.
I don’t know when I started having anxiety. Was it the ever present need for perfection driven by my parents and overly supervised by myself? Was it some random situation that I didn’t understand my emotions in and froze up? Was it that weird, lost feeling I’d randomly encounter as a child and sometimes still as an adult? I don’t know.
I don’t know when it will stop, either. I don’t know when it comes or when it will go. Unlike some individuals who are able to recognize triggers and avoid them– I don’t have any one-specific. The way my mind works, if I am able to figure out that trigger, I am strong enough to eliminate it. So if I am suffering, it’s because I can’t determine the root. And if I can’t determine the root, I can’t avoid, eliminate, or frankly sometimes handle my own mind.
In my early twenties I would have panic attacks. As always, I don’t know why. Wherever I was, I’d have to shut my brain and body down. Sit and close my eyes. Disappear from reality. I never understood the term “my mind went blank” until coming back from these meditative, if you’d call it that, sessions that I’d shut down into during the attacks. I often wonder how many times I’d be in that state and someone around me, unaware, interacts with me. Was I responding? I don’t know.
I learned to appreciate the times when I wasn’t going through some form of anxiety that manifested itself so conspicuously in my life. I thought I was getting better– I wasn’t having as many panic attacks. They kind of disappeared all together and only make an appearance once or twice a year now, if even that. I was mentally healing myself.
And then one day I read an article about self-mutilation.
Coming back to the beginning where I questioned asking people about their hands, I’m sure by this point you may have figured it out. If you watch my art videos on Instagram , you most likely noticed my fingers. They are not deformed. They are normal. They are just mutilated.
I didn’t want to admit that to myself. Me? Self-harm? Cringing, comparing myself to that Hollywood image of a grungy teen cutting their own wrist with a razor. That could never be me?! Or was it? Was I doing the same thing, just sans-razor? Did I enjoy the pain? Was it compulsive or impulsive? When would I do it? Was there a pattern here?
There was a pattern there. I just don’t understand it.
I haven’t done any official research on the topic but I will, eventually. To briefly describe my issue, I dig the skin around my cuticles and when they heal, I continue to pick and peel the skin. I’ll bite and peel my nails until they’re too short to anymore. It’s all disgusting and so far– I can’t help it completely myself at this point in my life.
On multiple occasions, I’ve been to nail salons where the nail tech would kinda of point out my fingers and be like “huh?” or give me a disapproving look. I’ve always wondered if I was the only weirdo they’ve ever encountered with messed up fingers. I’ve never been self conscious about my fingers, although it would probably better for me to actually care.
If you’ve read this far, please understand that it would benefit me for you to tap my hand or shoulder every time you see me do any of these things. Gain my attention. I need help. It’s such a strange thing to put out publicly. It’s not like a life threatening issue or extremely harmful but it is a journey I must conquer in this lifetime. I want to teach myself to handle things mentally without allowing them to physically manifest themselves. I have been messing with my fingers since I can remember– back to elementary.
There have been times where you could look at my hands and my skin would be perfect and natural nails long. There have been times, like now, where my nails are so short they’re useless and my thumbs look like they belong to a zombie. What changes this exactly? I don’t know.
What I do know is that each time you look at my hands you will have a much better understanding of how I am actually doing and not the facade everyone puts on when responding to the ever-so-popular question, “how are you?”
I know there is a pattern, I just don’t understand it yet, but I will.
I do know that I am not the only person in the world that suffers from anxiety and that we are all on a personal journey that needs the attention and help of friends and family, especially if we act like we don’t need it.
I know that I don’t want to have ugly fingers, but for some reason I can’t give myself that.
I know that this is weird, and can be looked down on by many. But I also know that my story can help others realize that they may be suffering or know someone who is suffering too.
I know that asking for help is hard, embarrassing, and may seem unnecessary but sometimes asking for help actually provides help to many others as well.
I know that I will make progress, I know that those of you who know me and have read this far will also make progress in your own lives, whatever it is you are dealing with. Be kind, be thoughtful, and be the light. It is everything we can do to live lives that are worth it, even if our hands are cut and calloused by our journey.
If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, there are many resources available. Please reach out to me here or on my Personal Instagram if you need help finding them.