Yesterday during a volunteering session at the local community garden, I had a really interesting experience.
We were clearing out a garden bed in order to create a bee-friendly space. A space with a diverse variety of flowering plants, to give the bees a healthy range of pollen sources. This first involved weeding out all the invasive, pest species, and then planting new flowering herbs which will hopefully grow big and strong.
Getting rid of all the buttercup plants first was a mighty task, as it had completely taken over with really deep, twisting roots. Although buttercup is flowering and therefore can be suitable for bees, it’s pest and weed type nature means that it smothers out all other, less intense plants, removing the natural diversity in both the vegetation and soil.
We used hook type tools, and Japanese weeding blades to clear the buttercup shoots and to dig up the roots, and in doing so, something really weird happened.
It’s really difficult to explain. In using the tools to dig deep into the soil, and remove out the knot of budding weeds which centred each buttercup plant, this mirrored exactly how it can feel to have dermatillomania.
Don’t worry if you are lost, even I’m quite confused about it all at this point.
The drive, the full concentration, and sole needing, of absolutely having to remove all the complex layers of root systems of each plant – is exactly how I feel having dermatillomania.
Except with my skin.
Even thinking back to all the weeding we did, removing the plants in their entirety; it gives me a weird feeling. A feeling of needing to keep going, to make it all perfect, of it never being good enough. A feeling of absolutely having to, of there being nothing else I would want to do, or could do instead. That this is what I need to do, plain and simple. Making the soil pristine from all buttercup roots which could come back with a vengeance, and the appearance of the garden bed with far less imperfections – it’s all exactly the same as needing to clear and get rid of my skin.
As a small child, I remember sitting in the gravel driveway of my Uncle’s farm, using a stick to pick out small stones. This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, per say, as visiting the cows or hanging out with my cousins would have been far more fun, but it’s something I couldn’t resist. I had to, almost impulsively. It’s like I had no control. The satisfaction of removing each small piece of gravel was like some sort of buzz, keeping me going and going until my parents said it was time to drive home. The knowledge that what I was doing was incomplete and unfinished, bothered me greatly.
It’s not as though I’m particularly passionate about weeding, or removing small pieces of gravel for that matter. It’s more an “instinctive” feeling or drive, like something I just have to get done before all else. I took a while to get to sleep last night because my brain kept replaying over and over again how removing the weeds felt. And how that feels very weirdly exactly the same as removing anything I deem “wrong” with my skin. Which is quite often an awful lot, and sometimes apparently invisible to everyone else.
I don’t necessarily like or enjoy what I’m doing. I just have to do it, if that makes any sense.
All I can think about is how it feels removing the weeds, which is annoying because today there are lots of things I need to get done, and none of them involve obsessing about weeding buttercup. Honestly, if anybody else could see inside my brain, they would be absolutely baffled.
Seriously brain, what are you doing?
Hopefully this discovery, albeit strange, can help me channel some of the nuisance that is dermatillomania into helping the bees instead. Saving the bees is a way better cause than taking apart my skin any day.
All of this felt kind of uncomfortable to write, like saying it aloud. Does anybody else have experiences that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the brain, but feel strangely similar?