People who know me really well, and that is very few people, know that I have two bad habits that tend to betray how I am doing, in myself, and how life is treating me.
I used to bite my nails, but stopped when my mother bribed me with the offer of buying me a pretty and proper charm bracelet, to wear, if I could stop biting my nails and grow them to a nice length and keep them looking nice. It worked, and I don’t generally bite my nails now.
I do occasionally attack my thumb nail, though and the husband can tell if I am having a bit of a tough time, when he sees my thumb nail has been chewed and is much shorter than the other nails on my hand. Not a nice habit. Doesn’t happen often because it does look unsightly and I get annoyed at myself for doing it.
However, I also must confess to being a lip picker.
A very bad, nervous, anxiety led habit that I have carried out all of my life. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle really. Life gets a bit busy or demands on my time become greater, and I forget to look after myself, and my lips get sore and dry, or I get a bad cold, because I am run down, and they get sore and dry. Then I pick, then they get even more sore, then it takes me a good week to heal them. Sometimes I can go for months without it being a problem, and sometimes it really is that bad habit that I hate but can’t seem to help.
So, when someone who knows me really well, called me on Friday and said “lets meet for coffee next week, I think you can do with it” and when she saw me yesterday, handed me a pot of lipbalm she had bought me, I knew it was time to stop picking, and reflect on my mental health, and what is pushing my buttons and triggering anxiety.
Right now, I think it’s christmas, to be honest. With all it’s fun and merriment, there is still an undertone of stress. It’s a crazily busy time of the year, with school plays, carol concerts, parties, children’s social events, work pressure, family events, and all the busy and juggling that happens in these next few weeks. People wanting your time, and energy, and just one more thing to organise, expectations from family and friends, that you feel you should meet but don’t really want to, and when you don’t you face the aftermath, shopping, cooking,feeding people, presents to buy, house to clean, Christmas cards to be sent, plus the normal routine of daily life has to still be managed.
We all do it, and we all groan and get on with it, and once it’s over, we sigh with relief, that we enjoyed it, but are glad it’s gone for another year. Some people drink more wine that normal, some people eat more chocolate, some people use shopping as a sort of therapeutic outlet. Me? I drink more coffee than is good for me, and I get distracted and pick my lips.
It’s unsightly, unattractive, and sore. It’s a nasty habit, and I hate myself for doing it. I know I shouldn’t. I know people can see it, and it doesn’t look nice. After Emily was born, I was so anxious and unwell that I picked my lip so badly that I ended up needing antibiotic cream to treat the area that got sore. It ha
So, the self care regime begins both physically and emotionally.
I use a lip cream, and a lip balm religiously, even when I am wearing no other make up. I carry them in my pocket and instead of reaching to pick, I slap on another layer of balm. When I go to bed at night, I also apply a thick layer. The less sore and cracked my lips are, then the less likely I am to pick. I also am instituting some mental health self care… I am taking on no more work this side of Christmas, I have started cancelling or postponing non urgent or special meetings or social events that cause me more stress than pleasure, and I have asked the husband to confiscate my phone at night so I am not tempted to be available to the world or cruising social media (which can be a stress trigger) at night or in the mornings first thing. I am avoiding people and situations that I can, directing people to other sources with their needs and demands, and I am above all, trying not to pick.
Physical self care is a start, my lip care armor, always in my pocket…
My mouth is sore, this morning, and it’s bothering me. My dad arrives in less than a week, and the Christmas festivities will begin in earnest, over the next few days. I want to more than survive this next few weeks and actually enjoy it. Lip picking for me is a sign that I need to regain a grip and work on not letting my anxiety overwhelm me.
I wonder if I will ever not pick my lips. Who knows? I don’t show many physical signs of a mental health struggle, but lip picking, if you know me well, is a sign that I am fighting that bit harder.
Anxiety does not define me, but it plays a part in my life. Where I once lived in a dark tunnel with flashes of light and life, I now walk a more open path that’s much easier, because I can see who I am, and what carries me and what tries to make me sink. I haven’t mastered it, but I won’t let it master me. I don’t ask for a cure, or for it to go away, because I don’t want to spend all my days and energy wishing for different. Instead I choose to focus on what makes me strong, and what I know I can do, and the dangers that lurk for me, are mainly easier for me to spot and tackle, now, rather than letting them drag me back to my tunnel.
I am not broken, and I am much stronger today than I was yesterday, even if sometimes that is hard to see. I will continue to share, because I believe if we talk about these things, it helps the world around us to understand and gives those of us who struggle a space and a voice.
Now, this lip picker is going to treat herself to a new lipstick, to reward herself for when her lips heal, so she doesn’t have sore lips for Christmas… 😉