{08/05/2012}   Cuticles and nails

I pick, chew and fiddle with my cuticles in a way that appalls me.  They often bleed, always look unsavoury and feel hideous.  It’s an infuriating habit and one I just can’t seem to stop.  Help!

For the past two weeks I have been on a mission to try to find a way to leave my cuticles alone.  I pick and fiddle with them while I’m talking, driving, working … only at night do they seem safe.  I have tried so many things, but to no avail.  I can’t really wear nail varnish as my nails are kept very short (for about two days after cutting, my picking calms down as the nails aren’t long enough) and the cuticles look manky and sometimes they’re cut and bloody.  But on the rare occasion that I do apply nail varnish, for a few days I don’t pick because my nails look nice and cuticle picking would lead to varnish chipping and my nails would look even worse than normal.  So that can be a deterrent of sorts!

Currently, with my thumb and three fingers bandaged up, I don’t pick.  For up to three days, the bandage trick can work, it just affects how you go about your daily business, namely issues with getting your fingers wet, plasters coming off, food on the plaster; you get my drift.  As an aside, unexpectedly, the bandage trick is quite sociable.  Two people have asked if I’m a drummer (?), a few others have commented on my either colourful or animal-decorated plasters and one girl asked if I was ok, to which I explained the bandages were a preventative cuticle picking measure.  She then proffered her equally skanky fingers and we had a long chat about ways to stop.  For her, she had to put her hands in water throughout the day for her job (she worked in Gourmet Burger Kitchen) so couldn’t do the plaster option.  She hadn’t found a cure either.

So the bandaging works, but is a bit of a hinderance.  I have also used that horrid bitter stuff to stop me chewing them.  I suppose that works, but I actually pick more than chew so it’s limited in its effectiveness.  I do also get annoyed with that because if you prepare food, wipe your mouth, etc, it taints everything and I object to being subjected to that horrid taste when not actually doing anything wrong.

A friend once suggested I apply vaseline to my cuticles every time I wanted to pick.  But I often pick so absent-mindedly that that wouldn’t really work.  It did kind of help because the vaseline softened them a bit.  But it was a bit excessive, I might just as well have kept the tips of my fingers submerged in vaseline all day.  I have also tried keeping to hand things you can fiddle with.  I had a clicky pen once, but it drove everyone else mad as I couldn’t stop clicking it.  I have also tried keeping a kind of netsuke in my hand, something small and tactile to keep me distracted.  But there are so many activities during which you can’t hold something like that, eg driving.

So what on earth to do?  I will persevere with the plasters, cutting nails every few days and liberally applying bitrex.  But as I wrote that, pausing briefly over the keyboard, my middle fingers had a good scrabble at my index fingers’ cuticles.  It really is a dreadful, consuming and infuriating habit.  I fear it may be a lifetime’s work to render my finger nails things of beauty and a joy for everyone!


Julien Brassard says:

Man, I’m so with you on this. I have the exact same problem and no solutions have come to stop the madness. I often work with executives, so it’s quite problematic and embarassing to leave an impression of non-control and freakyness. I’m trying to find small/clear/discreet cuticle plaster. Good luck with this!

Your comment made me laugh, at least in part because I totally get the “non-control and freakyness” aspect of the embarrassment! I hope you have more success than I have so far.

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