I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Dermatillomania

Believing in Reiki


Healing Hands

“Why yes. Yes I am. I am a Reiki healer.”

Hahahahahahahaha! Cue the laughter. I am just pretending. Fooled you!

My daughter discovered Reiki through her yoga teachers. I was inclined to poo-poo Reiki as crazy hokum. How can someone heal simply by holding their hands on or near you? I want deep tissue massage! I want little needles! And maybe an occasional pill. I want proof!

My daughter shrugged and said it made her feel comfortable and relaxed and all warm and tingly. I was skeptical. I had to read up on it. That’s my way. Let me read some books. Then I tried a few sessions. My Reiki mentors would tell me they could feel the thoughts exploding out of my head. Always thinking thinking thinking! What? Isn’t everyone’s brain like that? She told me to feel the energy move down to my feet, to ground myself in the present moment. I felt comfortable and relaxed and all warm and tingly. I saw colors and images and felt more than two hands offering me healing energy. (To whom did the other hand belong?) My intuition heightened and I could sense someone’s mood or “aura” just by tuning in. When I asked for a book to read, she counseled me “Why don’t you try not reading and just focus on your experience.” Well, that’s different.

During one session, she paused, stuck on my heart. She interrupted the quiet session and asked me what was going on. I cried. And cried and cried. It was around the end of my mother’s life, though she had not yet had the fall that would break her hip and lead to the infection that ultimately would kill her. But the end of her life was near and I had sensed it for a while. So I cried. Mourning the passing of time, the words said and unsaid, the regret that we had not shared more mixed with the loss of the deep love that we had shared.

During another session, I told her about my skin picking. How I destroy my cuticles and pick and rub at the skin by my ear until it is raw. I beat myself up for this nervous habit. All my life I have had this habit and beaten myself up for it. She shrugged and said “Maybe that’s simply what you need to do to release your anxious energy.” Suddenly, the perspective shifted. Maybe it was no big deal! She gave me permission to give myself permission. That I was okay and I could be kind and forgiving. To me.

My daughter and I received Reiki 1 attunement. Then, my daughter and I received Reiki 2 attunement. It was a meaningful shared experience that brought us closer. Occasionally we practiced on each other. I offered Reiki to my husband. He is the ultimate skeptic. He fell asleep and woke up 9 hours later and said it was the best sleep he had ever had.   I offered Reiki to a beloved young woman who was struggling with a panic attack. She calmed. I offered Reiki to my mother when she was dying. She was able to let go. But mostly I secretly and somewhat embarrassedly practiced on myself when I was alone.

Secretly and somewhat embarrassedly because I don’t understand how it “works.” I can hear all the skeptics in my life poo-pooing me for believing in this crazy hokum. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I found it comforting and relaxing and felt all warm and tingly. Like any mystery, it requires faith. Certainly, the power of touch and the effects of meditation and deep relaxation are profound, with plenty of scientific evidence. But healing energy? That’s a little woo-woo for me. And yet. I’ve felt the energy. I’ve experienced the healing. Reiki has helped with my chronic anxious insomnia. My cuticles have started healing. My skin has  started healing. I feel happier, more grounded, more able to enjoy the present moment.

This summer, a full year after receiving Reiki 2 attunement, it occurred to me that I could actually offer Reiki to other people. Truly, it was a revelation, like a voice or a gut feeling that simply but insistently turned on.

I decided that for my birthday, to kick off my new year, I would offer a Restorative Yoga and Reiki workshop. It took me a while to remember to tell my yoga students about it. (Even though I am a marketer by trade, I am not so good at marketing myself.) The first time I mentioned it, I said “Yeah, I don’t really understand how Reiki works, but it’s deeply relaxing.” My daughter laughed at me. “Mom, no one is going to come if you don’t believe in yourself and in Reiki!” Indeed. The second time I mentioned it, I sensed intense interest and acceptance. I heard myself say: “Why yes. Yes, I am. I am a Reiki healer.” One of my students looked me in the eye and said, “Well, of course you are. That makes complete sense.”

What do they see that I don’t?

I led my workshop and poured myself into offering Reiki to my students. After it was over, I saw clear eyes and relaxed bodies and love and gratitude. They felt comfortable and relaxed and all warm and tingly. I was amazed and exhilarated!

I’ve had to work a bit to hang on to that exhilaration. Back in my busy busy busy work world of Monday to Friday, it is easy to let the skepticism take over. This Reiki stuff is silly. Crazy hokum. I have important things to do at WORK! But, if I can help people sleep, help people reduce their anxiety and panic, help people die, isn’t that at least as important as being busy busy busy?

I am a Reiki healer. And I am beginning to believe it.

Image:  Healing Hands by Patricia Januszkiewicz, used with permission.  Thank you Patricia!

My Left Thumb


Healing My Left Thumb

My left thumb is healing.  Slowly. 

I pick at the cuticle. 

I pick compulsively at the cuticle even though I know I should stop.  Any rough edges of the cuticle become fodder for a picking session.  I will create a rough edge in order to have an excuse to pick at it.  The slightly painful sensation is a pleasurable distraction from anxiety. 

I pick when I am sitting at my desk looking at my computer wondering which project to tackle or which decision to make – the one that makes someone happy or the one I believe to be the right one for the business.  So, more to the point, I pick while postponing confronting a person or situation that makes my stomach lurch. 

I pick when I am driving.  Yikes!  Two hands on the wheel!  I stopped when the kids were in the car, mainly because my son would point it out:  “Mommy, stop picking!”  I started wearing gloves when I drove.  That was annoying.  Now I place two hands on the wheel and breathe – commanding myself to focus on driving and not the incessant chatter in my head.  It works for about a minute.  And then I try again.

I pick when I am sitting still, because I can’t sit still.  My mind races through my to-do/to-worry list as my hands fidget and pick. 

I pick when I am standing in the kitchen, ostensibly preparing a meal, felled by some anxious thought until I shake myself back into the task at hand.

When my cuticles are smooth, I will find a rough spot somewhere else on my skin to pick at.  Usually around my right ear.  My hair covers my ear so you can’t see the damage.  It is better than it was.  The cuticle of my right middle finger is also a target.  At its worst, my left thumbnail was so damaged and ridged that it throbbed in the middle of the night and I was afraid it would get seriously infected.  I wore band-aids.  This was effective if I didn’t use my hands or wash my hands.  The best bandage was Band-Aid Ultra-Strips.  They stayed put – so well that it hurt to remove them from the nail.  Keeping my cuticles and rough skin patches moisturized helps.  The best moisturizer for this task is ChapStick, neither too light nor too greasy.  I got manicures.  The manicurist would tut-tut and scold me for picking and try to fill my left thumbnail with ridge-filler.  Manicures helped for the first few days after I got my nails done and are a recurring tactic for weaning myself from this ocd, addictive, self-injurious behavior, which apparently has a name:  Dermatillomania.  I made this discovery after reading Alexandra Heather Foss’ post about Trichotillomania in the NYT superb anxiety blog.

But manicures don’t fix the underlying cause of obsessive, ruminative, anxious thought and behavior patterns.  Is it genetic?  Definitely.  I do not need any scientific proof to know this is true at the core of my being.  My parents are anxious, risk-averse, cerebral introverts.  My mother rubs her cuticles and cuts them with cuticle nippers all the time, resulting in thick, ridged 90-year-old nails.  My father, who is arguably borderline Asperger’s, has a ritual for many activities and a well-thought-out explanation for each routine.  My son picks his nails and my daughter likes the sound and feeling of her hair ends pricking her skin.  What have I done to my children!  How can I help them?!  The tendency toward anxiety is genetic and the response to the anxiety in the form of nail-picking is modeled in the family. 

Nail-picking must correlate with thumb-sucking.  I was a thumb-sucker until age 11.  My daughter was a thumb-sucker until the orthodontist forced her to quit cold turkey at 7.  My son sucked a pacifier until he started biting them and they became a choke hazard.  When I called to order a case of pacifiers, the telephone customer service rep asked me why I needed a case of them.  I told her.  She refused to sell them to me.  Kudos to her.  Cold turkey for him at age 2.  One year, I created a chart and goals for us.  After all, I optimistically announced, it only takes 21 days to change a behavior, to break a bad habit.  We decided on what incentive we wanted when we achieved our goal of unpicked healthy nails:  A Playstation for my son; a bed frame for my daughter; a Prada bag for me.  They got their prizes.  That was about 4 or 5 years ago.  I am still waiting for my Prada bag.  I don’t need the bag.  I would be happy with unpicked healthy nails. 

Yoga for Anxiety

I don’t pick at yoga.  It is perhaps the only place where I am able to still my mind and my picking.  Here is how yoga works for me:

    • I move inward, closing my eyes, paying attention to how my body feels.  Usually, I tell my body what it should feel.  With yoga, I listen to what my body tells me.
    • I breathe.  Slowly counting my breath gives my mind something to do besides dither, helping me to relax and to focus.  Breathing and meditation have helped my perimenopausal insomnia, a profound relief. 
    • I enjoy being in a yoga community with other people who are contemplative and supportive.  I have friends!  (A big deal for an only child.)
    • I listen to the teacher and her many directions.  Concentrating on the poses and her voice gives my mind and my body something to do besides think and fidget.
    • I learn that I am not my mind’s obsessive thoughts.  I can observe my thoughts and begin to change them.  I can observe my anxiety and choose a different, happier and more optimistic way of being. 
    • I become aware of habitual ways that I hold my body.  I question why my right shoulder rolls forward chronically to protect my right breast and the tense pain in my neck that results.  I stand straighter, more sure of who I am and that I am all right.
    • I realize that I am not what I wear.  I stop shopping compulsively.
    • I savor the taste of food and eat mindfully.  I eat less and enjoy food more.
    • I learn that every step in the process is crucial and can’t be skipped.  I slow down and stop grasping at achievement.  The pose never ends.  
    • I make an intention on the mat to be more loving, honest and authentic off the mat.  I do it. 
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