It’s Not About Willpower!

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2576209288_2747b80538_oPicking, picking, picking

Fingernails digging into flesh

looking for imperfect skin

to claw away.

Making blemishes worse,

bleeding.

I can’t stop.

Fingers always need to be busy,

hurting myself is too easy.

Sometimes boredom,

sometimes stress,

always pain.

No body part is safe.

Blackheads, pimples, ingrown hairs

and imaginary imperfections.

Making a mess.

Shoulders, back, chest, legs, face

my fingers go everywhere

and I can’t make them stop.

I stick them under my pillow

and breathe into the need

to pick, pick, pick….

3711055069_43e819b138_oI wrote this poem as I lay in bed this past weekend trying to stop picking so I could go to sleep and then the following scenario played out in my home the other night before bed: my daughter came looking for a band-aid. Her finger was bleeding and I asked what she had done. Then, as she held her thumb clenched in the fingers of her other hand, I asked her if she’d been picking at herself again?

She had picked at the dry skin on her thumb until she had drawn blood.

I flash back to myself, I’m about her age and I am picking at the dry skin on my big toe and I dig and dig until it suddenly starts to bleed. The blood startles me and I panic. I get a band-aid, I make up a story, why didn’t I stop before I drew blood? Why couldn’t I stop?

Neither of these stories are isolated incidents and though separated by years and time, both feel all too familiar.

As my husband is tucking our daughter into bed he catches her picking or scratching again and he gives her a stern look. Some words are exchanged and then he says,

“Or you can use willpower to make yourself stop.”

5610963733_f775bd4601_oMy heart breaks as I hear those words. I have heard them too and I know how hard it is to stop. I am all too familiar with the feelings of wanting so desperately to stop because my skin hurts. It is red and blistered and raw from scratching and digging and no matter how much I might want to stop, I do not feel like I am the one in control.

Time means nothing, it could be one minute, fifteen minutes or an hour. Yes, I’ve easily spent more than an hour digging at my skin, sometimes two or three. It’s not about willpower. Of course I want to stop and if it were that easy, willpower would be enough but it’s not.  It’s a repetitive behaviour that soothes the constantly churning whirl of thoughts and anxieties. I have to literally fight with my hands, repress them, restrain them to make myself stop. Sometimes I just want to cry I get so frustrated with myself and now I see my daughter struggling with the same impulses, damaging herself and I don’t know how to help because I have yet to figure out how to help myself.

I do know that telling her to use her willpower is not helpful, it just makes you feel more broken.

I look back over my life and there is a history of self-mutilation but as I would conquer one bad habit I’d replace it with another. I used to bite my tongue and the inside of my mouth until I bled. It hurt, a lot. I finally made myself stop by stuffing Kleenexes in my cheeks at bedtime. Once I stopped, then the picking started.

I still pick though not as badly because I’ve discovered something else to keep my hands and mind busy – my cell phone. I’m always trading up one bad habit for another, and now I see my daughter struggling too, inheriting, copying, trapped.

I do have a theory behind my daughter’s and I’s behaviours. She is diagnosed ADHD and I believe her picking is how she copes with her feelings of being hyper and restless. She hates boredom, mentally and physically, and when there is nowhere else for her energy to go, she picks. It calms her mind, it becomes trance-like, even the pain offers some stimulation, something for her to focus on.

Last year I was reading a book entitled “Driven to Distraction” by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Rodey, M.D. I was reading it so I could better help and understand my oldest child but it opened my eyes to my own ADD issues, something I didn’t think was a problem for me. I did well in school, I didn’t portray the classic signs of ADD growing up but I believe it was and continues to be something I struggle with. It also helps explain my need to constantly be doing stuff with my hands and the constantly whirling thoughts in my head that I struggle to pin down and sort through and follow to conclusions instead of things just piling up around me as UFO’s (Un-Finished Objects), or forgotten as I move to the next thing. My picking, my incessant need to fiddle with my phone quiets those impulses and crazy thoughts, allows me to zone out the stimuli that are over-whelming me, including the emotions I have not learned to cope with. For those moments, I’m focused.

Through my daughter, I am gaining an understanding of my own habits and through understanding my own habits, I am understanding her.

So what is the solution, how do I fix this, change how the story ends for my daughter?

Right now, I don’t know but I am going to explore this further through my blog, as well as how we live and cope with ADD/ADHD in my family. Almost every one of us has some degree of handicap because of this disorder, and the one thing I do know, willpower alone is not enough to break the cycle of self-harm, negative thoughts and bad habits.

I do believe that there is a power that is more than up to the task: love.

“…. love works. Positive human relationships work. The human connection is indispensable. I call it “the other Vitamin C,” Vitamin Connection. And if you do not get enough of it, you will languish and never thrive.” pg xvii, Driven to Distraction.

For more information about excoriation or the need to pick at one’s skin, follow this link: http://www.trich.org/about/skin-picking.html

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Bathtub Contemplations

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4318089749_fafc96b0fb_bSitting in the tub

Candlelight bouncing off the white enamel

The water quiet,

Rippling with my subtle movements.

I sit, contemplating,

wondering how to do it all.

So many needs to balance.

Where are my needs in that tangled web?

Making others happy,

stretching everything to the limit,

giving all.

I sink back into the quiet, warm embracing water,

I can hear the world outside

the bathroom door.

But I am neither a part of it

Or apart from it

In this moment of heat and

candlelight and quiet,

soaking away the aches

of my labours of giving.

Perspiration running down my cheeks.

The room warm and close,

intimately by myself

and yet the world outside is so close,

a whining voice at the door

“Daddy won’t give me cake.”

Balance.

Searching for it.

Elusive.

This is my one space.

I hide in the bathroom to escape

but the world outside is

constantly there to remind me

“Come back.”

I must go back.

When the room cools

and water chills

and the candles flicker their final flames

I must go back.

Til then I submerge and

try to ignore.

Go into my head, hear my thoughts.

Bleeding my thoughts in ink

so when the real world is drowning me

I can reread the water streaked pages

and remember this place,

this moment, this quiet

just outside the noise

and escape back into it.

Penned May 25, 2014

BUT….

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4234598818_5d7773c11e_oWhy don’t you say “I love you” anymore?

Are the words too heavy?

Too scary to say

when there’s too much anger inside?

When what you really want to say is

“I love you but….”

But, three letters, so powerful,

too powerful,

more powerful than love’s four letters.

BUT I want you to change.

BUT I want you to let go of your oldest child.

BUT you need to change or

I won’t love you anymore.

BUT you are too weak.

BUT your ideas are too strange,

I don’t understand them.

BUT I can’t follow where you are going.

BUT I can’t let you go where you want to go.

BUT you give too much,

you must give less,

think of us (me?) first.

BUT love is not enough.

Why can’t love be enough?

Why can’t love’s four letters

be stronger than but’s three?

Where’s faith? Where’s hope?

Is BUT stronger than those too?

How can that be…

I’m searching for an answer.

I want to hear the words.

I want to say the words

without the silencing effect

of those powerful three letters

Because you’re not good enough

Until you change

To be loved unconditionally.

That’s what BUT means.

Can you, can I, can we

let go of that word

to accept, to embrace,

to nurture what is

instead of what we want

or wish could be?

I Choose…

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1936440_140197265504_7848093_nI choose fresh strawberries. I choose to get down on my knees and get dirty and pick my own because I love the smell, the taste of freshly picked strawberries.

I choose to cook with basic food and feed my family with food made with my hands. I take them strawberry picking so they know where food comes from.

I choose sandals. I choose not to put them on today so I can feel the earth under my feet, the sand between my toes.

I choose yoga pants and sports bras. I choose my son, to be with him, to get dirty with him and not worry about clean clothes.

I choose how to spend my time, sometimes I waste it playing games but I also choose to spend it learning, connecting, writing. Sometimes it looks the same but it’s not.

I choose to be a mother, a role model, a friend, a lover, a wife, and sometimes I fall and fail, others I’m trying to be too much at the same time and nobody is happy, even me, but I choose to be all these things as best I can and when I fall, when I fail, I choose to pick myself up and try again.

I choose to forgive others when they make mistakes. I forgive others easier than I forgive myself but I choose to keep working on it. I am a work-in-progress, ever-evolving, ever-learning, ever-changing.

I choose to find the positives even in the darkest storms. To believe in the good in people, even when things go wrong.

I choose to standup and take on the world in its imperfections and do what I can to make my corner a little happier.

I choose to live with less. I choose to be happy with less because when I count what really matters it’s a short list: family, us, you, me and the kids. I choose to be happy despite tough times because if it takes more stuff to be happy, I’ll never find happiness. So I choose less stuff and more connecting time. Less tv and more picnics at the beach. Less trinkets and more making memories. Less electronics and more watching the kids grow up. I choose more talking, more listening, more connecting. I already have everything I need for that.

I choose to believe, to believe in you, to believe in me, to believe in us, to believe there is something greater than both of us and strong enough to re-kindle what we have lost, to help us find each other in the mess of our lives.

I choose you. I choose us. I choose love.

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