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Self-Injurious Stimming

CW: Self-injurious stims involving skin, hair, and knives

My self-injurious stims:

  • Trichtillomania – hair-pulling
  • Dermatillomania – skin-picking, particularly but not exclusively the scalp
  • Exfoliating my hands with pocket knives

My scalp takes the brunt of my stimming. I pull my hair and dig bloody furrows with my fingernails. Periods of my life were marked by sores on my forehead where the furrows trespassed beyond the hairline. Those healed, but the bald patches are permanent.

My hands bear multiple nicks from exfoliating with knives. There are raw, pink patches where I’ve shaved close to quickened flesh. While those areas heal I tend to others with my collection of pocket knives — so many different blade shapes and grinds with which to peel strips of skin.

These stims have been lifelong companions. They give me great comfort despite the bloody scalp, hands, and fingernails. There have been periods of my life where I and others tried to stymie them, but no longer.

I love scratching my head. Love, love, love. The feel from both head and hand is satisfying, comforting, and necessary. Life is more bearable with the pressure of fingernail on scalp. Life is better when I can scratch, pick, peel, and pull.

Instead of suppressing these stims as I occasionally and unsuccessfully tried over the first four decades of life, I seek a balance that can be covered with a cap.

I buy beanie hats that:

  • cover the sores on my head
  • provide access to my scalp while wearing the hat
  • cover and squeeze my ears for sensory management

I like wearing beanies as sensory management, but they get in the way of scratching. I’ve taken to wearing beanies that are either thin enough or have loose enough stitching to allow my fingernails to gain purchase in my scalp. I can stim in my favorite way while still having my ears covered and my sores obscured from public. I’ll also use slouchy beanies that allow me to get my hand up under the hat while it’s still on, although those don’t provide as much ear pressure as I like. Someone make a stimmer’s beanie that accommodates fingernails while still providing ear pressure.

As for my knife-shaven hands, they don’t have sores like my scalp, so they’re not as anti-social. Regardless, I welcome the normalization of fist bumps and, even better, not touching each other at all.

My self-injurious stims are a great comfort. They’ve gotten me through so much. I no longer try to live without them. I wish all the people who tried to suppress them as a kid had just given me a beanie, let me wear it at school, and let me scratch, scratch, scratch. That would have made the tidal immensity of fear and stress I constantly felt more bearable.