Nail-biting has plagued me for as long as I can remember. I have clear memories of my mother saying “get your hands out of your mouth, Nae” all through my childhood. Skin picking became a feature in my late 20s. I had a nervous breakdown (the comatose, can’t function type) and after that point, anxiety became a daily struggle.
Of course, there were a heap of symptoms that really impacted my life;
- Panic attacks
- Loss of appetite
But, skin picking was one of the worst. Unconsciously, I would scratch, peel, and gnaw at my nail beds, my thumbs bore the brunt until I’d peeled off what seemed layer after layer of skin which left them red raw and bleeding.
Caught in the act
The skin picking would escalate in times of stress or when something (literally everything) triggered me. Watching a suspenseful movie meant my fingers would cop it, even something as enjoyable as lunch at a local cafe would cue a picking binge. The internal humiliation and desperate attempts to hide it out in public (even resorting to using a bloody napkin to collect stray bits of skin) became too much.
The aftermath of attending a night out
The secret shame
Shaking hands with someone filled me with dread. Getting a manicure? Absolutely out of the question. The well-meaning shocked looks and concerned comments invariably led to judgement. The sting of exposure led me to hide my condition and internalise the shame.
“Stop picking” was a phrase I heard constantly from my husband and those close to me. As much as I wanted to stop picking, I just couldn’t. Sitting on my hands, flicking an elastic band on my wrist, even binding my thumbs in thick Elastoplast band-aids weren’t long-term solutions.
Like a guilt-ridden addict, I hid my picking as much as possible. I hated disappointing my family and the shame spiral intensified.
Even a broken hand didn’t save my thumbs
Why skin picking?
Out of all the possible activities I could choose to release pent-up anxiety, why the fu*k did it have to be skin picking? Marathon training, baking, online shopping even? At least there were small rewards to be had there.
Turns out, there is a reason why my brain decided to take this path.
Skin picking, also known as excoriation disorder is classed in the DSM-5 under obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. Specifically body-focussed repetitive behaviours.
Unfortunately, OCD doesn’t come with a selective menu. You can’t choose what vintage your intrusive thoughts will be. You also can’t choose the compulsion type you’ll use to rid yourself of said thoughts.
So, my brain settled on skin picking. Lucky me.
The search for a solution
I knew if I wanted to treat the compulsion, I’d have to work on the obsession first. A mix of therapy, medication, yoga, fresh air and surrounding myself with good humans helped. My mind settled but the skin picking did not.
On one of my daily walks, I was chatting with my lovely friend (one of those rare A-grade humans) and she showed me her new ring. It was an Israeli spinner ring. I’d never seen anything like it and knew straight-up, THIS would help keep my hands busy.
With a Cyprian father, I was familiar with Kombolói or worry beads which are a string of beads manipulated with one or two hands and used to pass time in Greek and Cypriot culture. The concept felt sacred to me.
Googling led me to similar products all called different names: spinner rings, anxiety rings, medication rings and prayer rings. I immediately purchased one.
Retraining myself to spin my ring every time I noticed my picking took some dedication and the first week was really hard. Within a couple of weeks though? I noticed a marked improvement in my skin. I didn’t want to get my hopes up but to my astonishment, 2 months later I was sitting down to get a very enjoyable manicure.
Since I wasn’t a keen jewellery wearer, I couldn’t find a style of ring I was happy to wear every day. So, I designed my own!
Enter: Hey Luna Anxiety Rings
My very first ring was so perfect I knew others would love it too. So, I took a leap of faith and designed a small collection. Naming the business was easy. A nod to the grounding presence of the moon and my daily greeting of her (“hey, luna”) during long lockdown walks, Hey Luna was born.
Fast forward to now and I’ve been incredibly humbled at the response. Women with anxiety, ADHD, autism, and OCD have flocked to the pieces in an effort to keep their hands busy and calm their minds.
Even people who are simply searching for a pretty piece have been pleasantly surprised with the impact of our anxiety rings. I wasn’t quite expecting the immediate response!
After a very busy year, I have multiple designs available in rose gold, silver and yellow gold with the option to design your very own anxiety ring. Behind the scenes I've been working on a new stackable collection, a single spinner range that will be out soon.
Who knew such adversity would lead to such important work?! I feel really blessed that I've stumbled on a solution.
I’m happy to report bi-monthly manicures, shaking hands and frequenting my favourite establishments are back on the agenda. That shame has now been replaced with gratitude. It may not have been pretty but every single stumbling block has led me here.