a habit

[TW: mentions of blood, self-harm]

Let me tell you about my fingers.

They are always a little bloody
Nothing too noticeable, usually
But enough skin torn off
To satisfy me.

They call it dermatillomania
Apparently it’s a sign of stress, anxiety
I can’t remember not doing it.

I am past my mid-twenties now
And my scraping and peeling
Has never stopped.

When nails are not enough, I use my teeth.
(I don’t like doing that
But teeth are sharper.)

Some skin is permanently discoloured
Where I have scraped off my melanin:
I am always brushing away tiny pieces of myself.

A bad day: I need to use a plaster
Or more than one.
My toes are ruined
The soles of my feet too
I wince with every step.

A good day: only one finger is bleeding
Well done me.

Even writing this poem
At every pause in my typing
My index finger returns to its work
I can count, at this moment
Fourteen small, bleeding places.

It could be worse:
I could be picking my face off
Instead of my fingerprints.

The thing is
I never mean to make myself bleed
And the pain is incidental, really
Easily ignored
Not the point.

It’s just that I
I just need
A distraction sometimes.

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