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Once Bitten

January 24, 2018

I am a notorious nail biter.

 

I know...it’s unsanitary, painful, and ugly. When others look at my raw fingers with a mix of disgust and/or pity, I hastily mutter some Freuidan oral fixation joke without making eye contact and laugh uncomfortably. So it comes as no surprise that there have been countless periods in my life when I have attempted to kick the habit. I have put acetone on my nails so that when I try to bite them I immediately recoil...yet inevitably continue to nibble. I have tried painting them every day so I would find them beautiful and not bite, but that just leads to a cycle of colors on my nails that changed faster than that horse in the merry old land of Oz.

 

Through the years I waffled back and forth between the aforementioned methods until my senior year of college when I finally just...stopped. And wow! My life was changed. I no longer had sore fingertips, nail polish lasted for more than a week, and all of a sudden I felt a weird, fluttery feeling in my stomach...all the time.

 

What? That was not what I had expected! It seemed that when I acquired my newfound talons, I also gained an awareness that my nail biting had been keeping some deep set anxiety at bay. I was not pleased. This was supposed to be my victory lap, but I was stuck breathing heavily against the wall at the starting line. So, using my 21 year old logic I decided that the only reason I was anxious was because I stopped biting my nails. Granted, my 21 year old logic also told me that high-waisted shimmery green shorts were an appropriate outfit at almost any time of the year. Perfect logic.  

And just like that I was back to cheerfully chomping on my cuticles.  

The wild part is, I actually felt better. Although this logic was flawed, it worked as a bit of a mind trick. My anxiety has popped up many times throughout the years, just in ways I didn’t recognize or refused to acknowledge.

 

This became even more apparent over the past two years when my anxiety reached debilitating levels. I'm talking about the not so fun, not so cute, not so easy to throw a joke on at the end to make it easier moments. And I’ve been dealing with it. It’s not perfect, but I’m getting there. Back in June, I finally realized it might be possible that I can work through my anxiety and stop biting my nails.

Oh my! What a world!!

I realized that my well-being is not contingent upon whether or not my afternoon snack is coming from the tips of my fingers. And I can proudly say that I am now six months bite free! (Ok, I’ve had a nibble or two, but everyone has cheat days, be cool, guys). It sounds small, but I have finally accomplished something that I have attempted for 27 years. This is the longest stint I’ve gone, and I’m trying to keep that record.

 

Will I mess it up later? Maybe. But I have a newfound sense of willpower that I never believed I could get from such a simple thing. And I know...they're just nails. But next time it could be something bigger. Like maybe...I don’t know...addressing that throwaway bit from earlier about pushing down my feelings a lot? Nah...for now, let’s take it one step at a time (hey Jordin Sparks!) and maybe just try to break the habit of a giant clothes piles on my floor.

 

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