“A lot of times I don’t feel comfortable without a coat on. The thought of people staring at my arms and my body is terrifying to me, so whenever I’m going out anywhere I always take a coat. The only bad thing about this is that it only works in the winter. In the spring and summer is when I really feel uncomfortable.”
A lot of times I don’t feel comfortable without a coat on. The thought of people staring at my arms and my body is terrifying to me, so whenever I’m going out anywhere I always take a coat. The only bad thing about this is that it only works in the winter. In the spring and summer is when I really feel uncomfortable.
In the winter and in the fall, it is socially acceptable to wear a coat inside because sometimes, it’s still cold even when you’re in your house or the school building. This is mostly because my school is too cheap to actually turn on the heater. And sometimes, our landlord is too cheap to turn on the heater as well. But in the spring and summer, if you go out wearing a coat, then you look crazy, and the people in the street give you mean looks, which is funny because in those moments it is the very thing that protects me from the judgement of others that is making other people judge me. And then sometimes, when I am going to leave the house for a little while and I go to grab my coat, I am scolded by my mother because “it is scorching outside and you will burn in the heat.” Then, she tells me to leave it at home, and I get upset because if someone I don’t want to talk to comes and tries to talk to me, then I can’t just put my hood up and ignore them, so it won’t be as awkward because I can’t see their face.
I think everyone should just wear coats during the spring and summer.
I’m a very approachable person. This is both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, I know how to handle myself in social situations, and I have no problems at all when it comes to talking to people at parties and other social situations, since people are always trying to initiate conversations with me, while on the other hand, I hate being approached.
“You’ve inherited my gift with people,” my mother will often tell me. However, I’m not quite sure whether or not that’s true.
I mean — I’m okay with people, but not great. I’d rather not talk unless it’s required, but when it is required, I’ll always provide at least the bare minimum amount of conversation necessary for whatever situation I’m in. I’d rather avoid being noticed, because contrary to common belief, I’m a very anxious person. But not my mother. My mother is a gracious person, who is skilled when it comes to talking to people. She is witty, and interesting, and humorous, and sociable. She is caring and kind and beautiful, and she has the ability to spark up conversation with pretty much anyone. She can bring introverts out of their shells, and she can make the shy ones laugh. Something about her is just so open and inviting, and just makes you want to get to know her immediately.
I’m not that kind of girl.
I don’t go out of my way just to talk to people. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s just the people who are always going out of their way to talk to me.
Except, I have no idea why…
I’m nothing like my mother. I’m not interesting or appealing or witty or talkative. I’m not particularly pretty either. It’s not like I’m anything special — I’m just a short, pale girl with short, dark hair that curls perfectly over my ears. Perfectly simple, perfectly boring. Just a short, pale girl with a closet full of turtlenecks and pastel colors. Just a short, pale girl who likes to draw and paint. A girl who is utterly and painfully short of any personality.
I don’t know exactly what it was that triggered the start of my ongoing three-and-a-half year battle against dermatillomania, but somehow here I am. I’m not sure if it was something I always had, but if I didn’t have it when I was little, then I certainly have it now.
Perhaps one day, I had an especially bad panic attack and in a flustered, anxious frenzy, decided to dig my nails into the bumps on my arms and after coming to the conclusion that I enjoyed the feeling, decided to return to it whenever I was bored or anxious. Perhaps I had found a pimple on my face and thought that the best course of action was not to pop it, but to scratch it hard until it was gone altogether. Or maybe I had just washed my hair and whilst making sure that I had gotten all of the shampoo out of my hair, I accidently came upon some dandruff and by mistaking it for nits, continued to poke around my scalp with my nails until a piece of my skin was picked off. At this point, who really knows?
But it doesn’t matter, because how I developed this disorder won’t make a difference. In the end, I still end up here in some therapist’s office every Tuesday, where they hire some hippie to come and ask me bullshit questions.
If I’m honest, I don’t even know her name.
I never use her name anyways.
Sometimes, she asks me questions about how my day was, to which I answer truthfully, but other times she’ll ask me questions about my “condition,” to which the answers I give her are always lies.
“What triggered you to pick at your skin?” she’ll ask me. I’ll shrug at her and sigh.
“I don’t know,” I’ll tell her, but this is not true at all — not even in the slightest.
I hate telling lies, and I always have, and because of this, I try to avoid lying as much as possible, and when I do lie, I am always sure to at least reveal a little bit of the truth. For instance, there was this one time when my mom baked a tin of banana bread, which usually is quite good except for this one time when it was extremely dry.
After eating a decently sized slice of it, she came up to me and asked me what I thought of it, to which I responded with, “Yeah, it was really good! Just a little bit dry, but otherwise really good!” and she smiled and went on her merry way.
Was her banana bread really good? No, it was just average. But was it dry? Yes. Yes it was. But I couldn’t just say that, could I?
But with this particular question, I can’t even share my answer. My answer will always be overridden. The truth of the matter is that most of the time, I start picking whenever I am bored and need something to do with my hands — specifically during my classes. But if I even try to explain this to the therapists, they’ll never believe me. They always seem to think that me picking at myself stems from anxiety — some deep, dark fear gnawing at me from the inside out.
Except it’s not.
That’s the thing with therapists. There always needs to be some type of ulterior motive — one that more often than not isn’t there.
At this point, I’ve just stopped trying to defend my illness. There really isn’t any use because I always find myself answering the same goddamn questions over and over again, and at this point have grown tired of it. It’s mentally draining, and I’m over it. The cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t help — not when the therapists try to act like they know what I’m feeling or thinking better than I do myself. Perhaps one day, I’ll find someone who will just listen.
Sometimes, I like to sit with my dog out on the stoop and watch people walk by. My dog is a Pomeranian, and she’s really fluffy, so lots of people stop to pet her because she looks really soft. But some people don’t like little dogs like mine. They’d much rather have a big dog than a small one. I’ve never understood this. A dog is a dog. I like both big dogs and little dogs equally — and if given the chance, I would totally get a big dog, but I live in an apartment in the city so having a Husky or Bulldog isn’t an option.
I like my dog more than I like most people. I can tell Jazzy anything because she won’t tell anyone or think I’m weird and secretly judge me, and I like this. Another thing Jazzy won’t do is get up and walk away from me when she sees the scabs on my face, like that one lady on the bus did after sitting next to me.
When I was little and Dad was still around, he used to play his jazz CDs on the radio really loud in the morning, and then I would get up and dance around the house. Then one day, he brought Jazzy back to the house, and I named her after something my dad really loved. Then one day, Mom found out about the affair. Then, he left. Now I don’t listen to jazz anymore. I still have Jazzy, though.
Lots of days Laura will come to my house after school, and we will sit on the stoop together. She doesn’t like to hang out in her house very much because she has four younger siblings, and they’re always in her face. But today, Laura isn’t here. This is because we had a fight at school today, and she got mad at me.
I had come out of the principal’s office during last period to find her staring at me with her arms crossed. She looked really mad, and that made me upset — so much so that I felt a sudden urge to open the door to the closest classroom, step inside, and lock myself in there so I wouldn’t have to deal with whatever harsh thing she was gonna say to me, but that wasn’t an option.
We walked to the cafeteria together in silence. It was only after we sat down at our usual table that she said anything.
“What did you do this time?” she asked.
I sighed. Why did she have to be like this?
“I yelled at my para,” I mumbled. I hated the paras. They were basically hired to help me one-on-one, but all they seemed to do was piss me off.
She rolled her eyes, “Go on.”
“O-okay, I cursed at my para.”
“Are you sure that’s all?”
“… I punched my para.”
Laura scoffed, “Really, Callie? Are you serious right now?”
“Yeah!” I yelled, “I am!”
“What the hell were you thinking?!”
“She hit my hand!” I protested.
“Callie, she probably didn’t. She probably just tapped your hand to tell you to stop picking, and you freaked out. Jesus, do you have to be so Special Ed all the time?”
I froze. Only seconds later did she realize what she had said.
“Oh Callie… I’m so sorry.”
“I can’t just stop picking. That’s not how things work. Do you think I enjoy picking myself bloody? Because I don’t, and if it was as easy as not doing it, then I would’ve stopped a long time ago.”
It was at that moment that I got up from my seat and left. I ate by myself in the bathroom. I didn’t talk to her for the rest of the day.
So here I am, sitting on the stoop of my apartment, sketchbook and pencil in hand and a dog at my feet. I listen to music as I draw and this time, I do not draw what is in front of me. I draw what I see in my mind.
I do not look up from what I am doing until around 8:00 when Jazzy starts barking. There’s Laura, refusing to meet my eyes.
“Can I… can I sit with you?” she asks.
I nod, and she comes to sit next to me, wrapping her arm around me tightly. We don’t speak for a long time.
“I’m not just a Special Ed kid,” I tell her, my voice hushed to a whisper. She sighs.
“No,” she agrees, “No, you’re not. I’m sorry.”
“I’m a person.”
She is silent once more.
“Yes, Callie. You are a person.”
“Then why am I treated differently?”
At this point, I am crying my eyes out, and she can definitely tell.
“I don’t know, Callie. You just are.”
She pulls away from me, and my arm feels cold.
“Take off your jacket, Callie. No one’s judging you.”
My jaw drops. “How did you know?”
“I’m your best friend, Callie. I’m psychic,” she winks at me, and I laugh. “But seriously. Take the coat off.”
And I do.