a body focused repetitive behaviour. an anxiety and/or panic disorder. onychofagia, a word i am not even sure how to pronounce. there is a different word for the skin picking that goes along with it, excoriation.
i have been a nail biter for as long as i can remember. as a child under the age of 10 my parents tried a few things to get me to stop. the one i remember most clearly is the bitter polish. it didn’t work because i would chew it all off the nail and then begin biting again. disgusting, i know.
my nail biting became a serious source of embarrassment. i remember being self conscious about it from before i was 13. my friends all had nice painted nails for functions like grade 8 grad and other more formal parties. our visits to the mall often included lengthy time in shoppers drug mart looking at make-up and nail polish, neither of which i had any business using, or so i thought.
i was convinced that the cross-bite structure of my teeth was a result of this habit and thus an even greater source of mortification. yet i had no plans to stop the biting or confront the reasons behind it.
for years i just ignored it. forgot about it until someone would bring it up and i would make a joke to ease my own tension. every once in a while i would notice the pain i had inflicted upon myself, through broken skin or nails so short i had exposed parts of me that should never have met the air, and the horrid state in which i had left my hands.
there are regular entries in my journals over the years which indicate that my hands were mangled. a word which became so familiar i often didn’t give it or the state of my hands a second thought.
in the past year i have tried things like wearing a rubber band like a bracelet and snapping it each time i catch myself biting. that worked for a short time and i was pleased with the result but i slipped back into the most revolting habit i can think of…
they say nail biting can be a learned behaviour, though neither of my parents possess this trait, er, flaw. i have been worried that my own kids [that do not yet exist] would see this habit and take it on board to my humiliation.
not sure what the change has been but i am now in recovery. it could have been the first manicure of my life a few days before christmas 2014. i was nervous about it and apologised to the lovely wee korean lady for the state of my hands. she laughed and said they would look a lot better when she was finished. they did.
shortly after christmas, about a week later, i had my second manicure and first pedicure. the long and the short of it is that i’ve gone about 3 weeks without biting my nails. they are currently painted and my hope is that i will not longer partake in such a vile past time in future.
i still haven’t tackled the reasons behind it but i figure if i can stop it once and for all, who cares why i did it in the first place?