UPDATED : Trying To Resist Old Bad Habits...not Winning At The Moment

barefoot

Sponsor
Not really sure why I'm posting this...I think it's because I feel horrible...disgusted with myself...and maybe I'm hoping that if I offload it in here it might free up some headspace and make me feel a bit better. We'll see...!

So...when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, I got in to a habit of cutting my gums so that they'd bleed. I would usually just use my fingers/fingernails but would sometimes use other things too. It would feel like my gums were really throbbing with pressure...like they were literally aching for some kind of relief. So then I used to make them bleed and then I'd feel a momentary high and then I'd just kind of numb out. Knowing what I know now, I'm pretty certain that I'd do this and dissociate for hours at a time. And then afterwards, I'd think it was disgusting.

Anyway - haven't done it for years. Haven't even thought about it. Well, actually, I did it once several months ago when I was going through a tough time - had just been diagnosed with PTSD, was finding therapy really difficult, had had a difficult conversation trying to explain what was going on to my partner... Found myself in bed one night, unable to sleep, feeling tired but wired....felt that same old familiar ache/pressure in my gums and had done it before I'd even realised what I was doing. Then felt really mortified.

Haven't done it since but then went to the dentist a couple of days ago. Hadn't been for a few years so the session with the hygienist was quite full on! Inevitably, everything bled. A lot. And I haven't been able to stop thinking about it or leave my gums alone ever since. I keep thinking about it, I keep feeling that achey pressure that just seems to be screaming out for some relief and I keep fiddling with my gums. I really, really don't want to get into that bad habit again. But it's driving me mad - it's like I feel absolutely compelled to do it even though I think it's horrible and disgusting.

I'm hoping that once my gums have settled down from the visit to the dentist - which has made them quite sore - it will all just calm down and I won't be so fixated on it. But my worry if that if I don't manage to start leaving them alone soon, they won't calm down, because I'll be keeping them sore and sensitive.

Ugh! This is so ridiculous! I hate it! And I don't want to do it. So why can I not think about anything but doing it right now?!
 

LuckyDuck

MyPTSD Pro
It's a compulsive thing. Not sure if it's OCD or a branch off of it. Either way, it's worse than itching.

I used to do the exact same thing as a kid. Talk to your doc, shrink, find coping mechanisms to implement while waiting for help.

It's not about learning to press the STOP button. It's about learning how to not press PLAY ever again.

My heart goes out to you. It really sucks.
 

Truthful_Whispers

Not Active
Hmm..I have cut my limbs/body with a razor blade or knife in the past during a panic episode, but I have never heard of cutting your gums. Really, the only way to break it is to keep your stress at a manageable level, and also realize that self mutilation accomplishes nothing, except leaving permanent scars on your body. Be extra careful with your gums, though. It wouldn't take much to set up infection, and that could quickly travel to your brain. P.S. It is possible you could also like the metallic taste of your blood. That can be an addiction. Strange, but true.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Thanks for such a fast response, @LuckyDuck - feel like I'm going out of my mind here!

I don't even remember how I stopped before. And I haven't even given it a thought in all this time. Really wasn't expecting this at all.

I don't think I can bring myself to tell my therapist. I know she'll have heard much worse! I just don't think I can say it. It just feels such a stupid, disgusting, shameful thing to do.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
@Whispering_Truth - I've never thought of it in terms of self mutilation....it was just "something I did"/a bad habit...
I don't even feel super stressed...I just feel as normal...which means there's some anxiety present, but it's not off the scale.

It feels like something's just got stuck in my brain about it and become fixated. I need to somehow "unstick" it.

I know I should probably tell my therapist...I think I'm struggling with the fact that I feel appalled that suddenly it's become "an issue" when it hasn't been before.
 

Chava

MyPTSD Pro
I don't think I can bring myself to tell my therapist. I know she'll have heard much worse! I just don't think I can say it. It just feels such a stupid, disgusting, shameful thing to do.

I was a cutter and burner, but did not injure my gums. But this does not sound stupid, disgusting, or shameful to me. I hope you consider a way to tell your therapist, even if you are able to write it down or send a message. That might be a big step in over-coming the shame of it and maybe even some part of the compulsion. Also, your therapist can't help you manage this if she does not know about it.

With cutting or burning urges, I know I usually need to either get safe or let go of a lot of energy. So it's sometimes hard to sort out because those responses are quite different (like curl up in a corner in the most interior room of my house, with a "weapon" of some sort...could just be a stick, or go for a good walk or exercise). Also, distractions help...to a point, especially if I catch myself early. When really intense urges, it has helped to wrap the body part I wanted to cut with compression tape. To make a long story short, I have realized my self-harm urges actually came from a self-protective place but were obviously off track. It was like a fight reflex I had to turn against myself because it wasn't okay to outwardly express. I'm not sure if any of this matches your experience. If it is now more of a compulsive/habit thing, more behavioral or distracting approaches might be helpful (also I know it would not be practical to wrap your gums up...so I can't think of a substitute for that compression thing that works for me). Your therapist might be able to work with you on ideas for managing this.

I can also add that my connection to my therapist grew because I became willing to share this stuff. I went through several periods of fearing she'd dump me because of what I'd share. But we got through. She was not grossed out or horrified, did not dump me, and now it feels very good to know I can share my creepy stuff with someone.
 

Truthful_Whispers

Not Active
I am currently having a compulsion where I have picked at my scalp, creating a few wounds, and I keep picking at them after they scab up. May be nerves, I am not sure. Painful, but I seem to enjoy the pain.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Thank you @Chava - that means a lot.
I've been feeling quite lost since I've stopped dissociating...I'm feeling more than I'm used to and I don't think I always really know what to do with the feelings. I'm wondering if the dentist visit and feeling the pain and tasting the blood has somehow triggered an association with numbing out, because that's what I used to do when I did it. I think that's what I want. I want to be able to numb out and be nothing and feel nothing. I want the dissociation to come back. But it's not going to. And I know that's technically a good thing. But it doesn't feel like it right now.
 
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