Another personal post today as they seem to go down quite well and it’s so nice to talk about something you think you’re alone in, then find out that so many people know how you feel and have gone through the same struggles.
In a day and age where everyone who is a little tidy proclaims to have OCD, it can actually be quite hard to talk about serious behavioural issues, because no one takes the phrase seriously any more.
OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Having a tidy desk, using a lot of hand sanitizer or cleaning a lot is not a disorder. It’s actually pretty normal. A true disorder is one that stops you living your life in a normal way. There’s ‘being clean’ (which is most people) and there is washing your hands obsessively until they are constantly cracked and bleeding and in pain. That is a disorder.
I have a number of compulsions. I wouldn’t class them as obsessive (as I don’t even know I’m doing it most of the time) but it is a disorder as they are causing physical harm. I am embarrassed by them, they affect what I wear, how I behave and even cause a fair amount of physical harm.
The head-scratching stems from suffering from psoriasis. I have a fairly severe case on my scalp, but I’m lucky in that it comes and goes. I can have months where it’s clear, but then months where it’s dry, itchy, flaking and sore. What started as a natural reaction to an itchy scalp became obsessive when it turned into scratching, even when it’s not itching. Hours spent picking away at the dry skin, pulling off crusty skin in chunks. I convince myself that I’m just ‘cleaning’ the crap out of my hair but the truth is, if I stopped picking at it, my scalp would probably be in much better condition.
Usually, I don’t even realise I’m doing it. It’s become such a habit that it’s subconscious and it takes someone smacking my hand away from my head to make me realise. But then, often I do realise I am doing it. I know it’s hurting my skin, I know I’m bleeding under there, but I can’t stop myself. It’s so insanely satisfying to grab a nice bit of crust and pick it out of your hair. But the side effects? I can’t wear dark clothes as you can see the skin, like dandruff. I can’t wear certain hairstyles as you can see the blood on my scalp, or the flakes in my hair. And my scalp is constantly dry, tight and with open wounds hidden under my hair.
Then, there is the lip chewing. I don’t know when this started or why it started or where it stems from but I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. I chew on the insides of my cheeks until they bleed. I knaw on my lips and pick layers and layers of skin from them. I can’t wear lipstick as my lips are so uneven and sore that there is nothing for it to cling onto. I’ve used Blistex religiously for about 10 years because it soothes the sores but irritates my lips even more. It becomes a vicious cycle. If I’m not chewing my lips then I’m covering them in lip balm, two compulsions I need to kick if my lips are ever going to heal properly.
Lip balm addiction
There is a lot of material online about lip balm addiction and basically, it doesn’t exist in the way people think. Lip balms are not chemically addictive, but they are insanely habit-forming. They are not designed to make your lips worse so you buy more (this simply isn’t possible with all the regulations in place) but there are certain ingredients that a % of the population has mild allergic reactions to. So you get chapped lips, you apply some balm and it soothes them for that moment, but later on, you get a mild reaction (sore lips) and think you just need more. 10 years of this means that I find it hard to imagine ever stopping. I panic if I forget my Blistex at home and I always have multiple pots lying around; one in my handbag, one at my desk, one in the living room, one next to the bed and at least a few spares in a drawer somewhere.
Kicking the habits
These are compulsions, habits, addictions that have been with me for as long as I can remember. Especially with the subconscious ones, it’s not as easy as just ‘stopping’, but I do want to do what I can to try and improve in order to improve my own way of life. How nice it would be to not worry about having flakes on my shoulders, or constantly be chewing the inside of my lips like a crazy person.
The most practical to try and stop is lip-balm addiction. My problem is with Blistex, and similar products, as something in there soothes really well in the moment but inflames later on. So I’ve hidden them all away in a drawer and am determined not to use them. I have a few shea-butter alternatives, which should moisturise without making my lips worse but for the most part, they don’t offer enough relief. They’re OK for 10 minutes when my lips become unbearable but it’s proving to be tough.
I’m about 5 days in and my lips are super tight feeling. They actually hurt, all the time. They’ve become super wrinkled and dry. It’s like I have a kind of red lip liner around them, except it’s not just red, it’s flakey, with some patches looking like an actual rash. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and seems to be getting worse each day. Stories online say it can take anything from 3 days to 3 weeks to start feeling better again and getting your lips back to a ‘normal’ place, without any product, so keep your fingers crossed for me.
Do you live with any compulsions or little habits that you wish you could kick?