I am a self harmer. There I’ve said it, and you know what? I enjoy doing it. If you don’t have eczema you don’t know what I mean. It’s not like scratching a bite, I’ve had those. I can just ignore insect bites, they don’t bother me at all because I am a pro at ignoring the complete all consuming incessant itch of eczema.
Think of a mosquito bite and mutliply it by ten. No twenty times. No, it’s more like fifty times as itchy. It goes so deep inside your body you have to scratch really hard to relieve it.
And it feels soooo good. The feeling of a really good, hard long scratch, the kind that leaves scabs pouring with blood and my skin red, raw and damaged and my finger nails caked in blood and filled with dry skin under the nails, is almost orgasmic.
But when I have scratched deep and long the damage is shocking.
And pretty disgusting. I disgust myself.
Sometimes I create deep gashes with a sharp bit of nail which look like a knife cut.
I scratch when it itches, but sometimes I scratch out of pure habit. I’m not even itchy but my finger nails go searching for any raised bump, lump or scab to tear or rip or dig at.
I know this damages my skin but in my mind it’s almost as if my brain tells me, if I can clear the skin of all these scabs and hives and prurigo nodules the skin will be flat and clear below. Of course this is not the case. I don’t think many scabs have healed naturally on my body and fallen off when they were ready.
They are itching as well, they are itching now even as I write this blog but in the interests of skin preservation and fighting the urge. Going for bit of skin stroking instead, but every time you obey that instict to reach and touch the itch there is a huge change the stroke or press will turn into a full blown scratch.
I also try to apply moisturiser when it’s itchy but this is not always possible and in itself often turns into a scratch fest…
A recent article I read on The National Eczema Society website, Lulu Haggans story about her life with eczema and trying to help her daughter through it too. She urges others “to take part in spreading the word on Say No to ‘No Scratching’ and give each other permission and credit that we know what we are doing, that sometimes we really cannot help it, and that we are not here to judge anyone at all. Ever.” She also has a Facebook page for her campaign to Say No to ‘stop scratching’.
And quite astonishingly you only have to type in, ‘is scratching e…’ for google to self populate suggestions of what you might be looking for – the first to pop up being, amazingly, ‘is scratching eczema self harm?’.
This is obviously something many people have been thinking and googling about.
And when you think about it, it is a form a self harm. And it’s something I think I am addicted to doing.
I know I shouldn’t be doing it and my husband is forever digging me in the ribs or grabbing my hands and saying, “Stop scratching”. or “Stop doing that.” but I can’t.
I scratch because I itch. I don’t want to be scratching but I just can’t stop.
And holding my hands so I can’t is pretty much torture. I HAVE to scratch or I will go insane.
My top 10 stop scratching tips
Most of the time I have techiques to reduce the damage done including:
- Wearing tights and/or other tight clothing so that I can’t get to the itch easily, the barrier makes me stop and think and try harder not to give in and scratch
- Keeping my nails really, really short and filed smooth so that I can’t do so much damage
- Stroking the area or pressing hard on it with a finger tip or nail
- Holding something hot on it, running very hot water on my hands or soaking in a really hot bath
- Wearing cotton gloves – probably the least successful as I just pull them off in my sleep
- Stay cool, make sure you don’t get over heated, especially in bed as that way leads to scratching
- Wear cotton night clothes
- Always apply plenty of emollient before going to bed, even if your skin feels OK. It’s often too late when you wake in the night itchy because your skin is now dry and tight and sore
- Use a body brush to slough off dead skin. The bristles are soft enough that you can get a bit of a scratch in without damaging your skin. Not a good idea on already broken skin though…
- Take antihistamines and cool with an ice pack when it’s really hot and itchy
But sometimes I just have to scratch. I go and hide in toilet rooms or sneak upstairs to the bedroom, shut the door and SCRATCH. Till it bleeds. Till it’s hurting really bad. Then I apply tea tree, aloe vera and loads of emollient, cover up and hobble back into the world of the living.
The feeling when are scratching like that is immense. I can’t describe it. And when you are exhausted and can scratch no more and you survey the damage and feel the pain, then you can stop scratching.
Having short nails does massively reduce the damage but I end up with loads of bruises, deep purple livid bruises where I’ve tried to ineffectually scratch without success, but I’ve had to try so hard, and press so hard it causes bruises.
So how do we stop this itch scratch cycle? We’ve all got to stop this self harming eczema people out there. How do you do it?
And do you think scratching eczema is like self harming?