Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Start 'Em Young

I'm a nail biter. Or... at least I used to be.

I suppose it's more accurate to say that I'm a head-scratcher. I scratch my head as a nervous habit. I grew up biting my nails. In what I feel was probably a bid to somehow encourage me to stop (the first of many, until she just gave up and started sighing heavily and accepting my neuroses as set in horrible twitchy stone), my mother bought me that clear nail-polish-for-kids that just peels off so you don't have to use harsh chemicals on it.

Eventually she had to take it away from me because I would just paint my nails, let them dry, peel off the polish, and repeat the process.

It's most likely part of having an anxiety disorder. I'm a worrier, and part of that is that I worry at myself. I bite my nails or tear up the skin around my nails or scratch my head or twist hair around my finger and if you take all those habits away from me somehow I will figure out something new.

It's only within the last few years I've been able to (mostly) stop my nail biting. Even then, I start it right back up when I'm stressed, stuck in traffic, or when one of my nails tears and I'm not anywhere near clippers. I count how many fingernails I actually have at least once a week, proud if I have 8 or 9.

When I (mostly) stopped biting my nails, I started scratching at my head without realizing it, in the same situations or when I'm reading a book. It's such an ingrained habit that I can't stop. Except that I mostly did stop scratching at my head about a year ago... and immediately began biting my nails again

Basically, I have to pick a nervous habit and declare it the lesser of fifteen thousand evils and go about my day, because if I really tried to stop all my nervous habits I'd A. have to lock myself in a room for a year by myself with no distractions and B. still wouldn't succeed.

Oh, there was one time I stopped biting my nails and scratching my head.

I started picking paper apart into little shreds compulsively instead.

I am a magical creature, and frankly I'm just trying to be happy that I don't flip light switches a specific number of times yet. Although I have been known to check to make sure I turned the oven off like four times.

In my defense, though, that's because I occasionally do actually forget to turn the oven off when the cornbread is done and I won't remember until Jason and I have just settled down to eat dinner.

Wait. I got off track here.

Over the course of June, Audra has gone through her first serious round of ear infections. She had them in both ears, and they didn't respond to the first kind of antibiotics. We ended up having her on SOME form of antibiotics for over three weeks altogether, which I don't like; Jason and I are not fans of antibiotics, as their overuse has made antibiotic-resistant bacteria much stronger and more common. That said, if the doctor tells me she needs a medicine, she's getting a medicine.

Plus, she wouldn't top scratching and pulling at her ears, and that worried me too.

I mentioned to the doctor today that despite her ear infections being taken care of, she's still pulling at her ears regularly, although it seems like she does it more often when she's tired and trying to stay awake.

"Oh, that's probably not anything to worry about," Audra's physician cheerfully informed me. "She's probably just picked it up as a nervous habit. I'm sure it'll go away on its own."

I looked down at my 29-year-old fingernails - 9 perfectly normal and one bit down nearly to the quick.

Well, I thought, I'm never buying her that peel-off nail polish...


  1. My 5 year old always fiddled with his ears. And when he was tired he would fiddle with the ears of whoever happened to be holding him. He probably stopped fiddling with his own ears by the time he was a toddler and he stopped fiddling with the ears of others about a year ago. My 2 year old has never done this. Kids are weird. The end. :)

    1. That could be the slogan of parenting.

      PARENTHOOD: Kids are weird. The end.

  2. My son bites his nails and has for over a year and he's not even three. I now want to apologize to my mom for biting my nails. It is maddening. I stopped when he started and it seemed to help. Now he's back at it. :(

    1. I was a pretty anxious little kid in retrospect. I'm hoping that that will help me be able to tell if her nervous habits are just completely unconscious, or if they're due to a deeper well of anxiety like mine were.


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