(kinda disjointed… will come back to it another day)
Twice this year I have walked by people picking at open wounds.
The first: I was in the pedway, dodging poor weather as I headed to Michigan Avenue from the blue line. I saw a man bent over, investigating large sores on his legs and ankles, rawer than the early spring day raging above us.
I was in a hurry to pick up my kid. I debated buying some gauze and neosporin and offering them to him on the return trip. But that felt presumptuous and we ended up taking a different way home anyway.
The second: Yesterday, Michael and I found ourselves wandering around Las Vegas for a few hours while waiting for our flight home. We walked past a man leaning into a wall for support, poking at the edges of one of the many bloody craters in his arm.
The concern and curiosity parts of my brain fire a few seconds faster than my “mind your own damn business unless someone is clearly in crisis or asking for help” mantra. And so for a second I wondered if these wounds were from needles and then I remembered the man in the pedway and the rawness of my toes.
Regardless of the cause of the wounds, I am nearly certain he was picking. Intentionally or unintentionally, he was keeping them open.
Michael had a nasty bike crash this summer. He was miraculously OK but had so many scrapes, which turned into glorious, taunting scabs. Each day I marveled as he… left. them. alone. The big one on his knee was particularly beguiling. I was desperate to flick it off.
Apparently not everyone gnaws at their skin. But plenty of us do. And because humans have been human-ing for a long time, apparently there are some names for this not uncommon compulsion.
I am forgoing my typical process of choosing the most reputable seeming source to back up something I have figured out from looking at a range of online material that ranges from the anecdotal (thank you reddit), commercial (no I’m not giving you my email to get the results of this diagnostic quiz), and academic (I do give more credence to .edu and .gov websites)
I’m gonna TBC this so I have time to walk the dog and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Also I have gone 24 hours without picking my toes at all and my hand in any major way. And I am claiming that as an accomplishment. DBT: regardless of whatever has brought me to this habit of tearing at any little flap of skin, I can still control my own behavior.
Even now, I can feel my hand trying to heal. I want to smooth out the roughness necessary to healing. All the more reason to stop writing. Because my urge to pick increases as the night moves on.