Inside the itch
I’ve written before about my problems with itchy skin and eczema and even shared my story of how I’d adopted the title of ‘itchy girl’ into my sub conscious but I’ve not yet told you about the maddening, damaging and somewhat upsetting world that a constant itch puts you into. Thanks to a hot and humid summer I’m now perfectly placed to make good on that.
It tingles first,
Not a nice tingle but a ‘damn what’s that crawling on me’ kind of tingle like I might just have stumbled upon an ant’s nest or walked through a sticky, wispy spiders web.
I scratch without thinking, no matter where I am or whom I am with I scratch it. Temporary relief, a feeling that makes me want to shout ‘it’s OK I got this’ but I don’t.
I hold my breath a little, try to think of something else, get re-absorbed in my day-to-day but somewhere in the back of my mind is a twinge of something, fear maybe that it will be back.
Then it IS back.
Bigger and bigger, radiating its nerve-awakening nagging further and wider. I become aware of what just happened, that I DID just pull the trigger, I catalysed the reaction, gave the itch permission to take hold. I scratch again.
This time the scratching is harder, deeper and more forceful. I am conflicted by feelings both of relief and horror – horror that I am ripping through my own flesh, scraping it, bleeding it, leaving it inflamed, rough and damaged. But the relief is so good, I feel it through my whole body, a rush of calming, soothing warmth and satisfaction. A feeling I want more of, that I am addicted to? It’s possible I guess.
I stop scratching. I feel pain.
It’s a raw, dull discomfort now, skin stiffened, awkward, weeping. It is a pain that I know well, that on one level I’ve come to expect. I don’t want it and can see that this vicious cycle serves no good purpose in my life. I feel a little sad that I’ve done this to myself, that I’ve put myself at risk of infection, that I’ve scarred myself – temporarily usually but it’s all the same.
I sit back and wonder why. Why is it that I can’t tolerate a little skin sensation? That I turn a little nothing into self destruct?
What biological advantage could there be to the itch/ scratch cycle?
I am left with a nagging feeling that the whole thing is slightly perverted. Not in the sexual sense of course, I appreciate that all this talk of sensations might lead ones mind to that but there is little real pleasure in any of these feelings, only pain and destruction of self.
But I can’t stop.
Can’t isn’t a word we use around here is it now?
I dealt with my ‘itch because I’m nervous or wound up’ stuff.
I dealt with my ‘itch because it’s what I do’ stuff.
But I still itch.
It’s burning, stinking, grating on my very last nerve.
But I still itch.
I find a little comfort in the fact that one of my Guinea Pigs is also suffering right now. Perverted indeed, finding comfort in the suffering of others, no? I don’t mean it like that. What I mean is my Guinea Pig doesn’t know that Christmas just happened, that credit cards can get maxed out at this time of year, that work is piling up and thanks to having had the kids at home for the ultra-long school holidays (8 weeks!), that I’ve been sitting somewhere between 1/4-1/3rd of my usual output speed at work while work has been coming in by the truck load. Guinea Pigs know and care for none of that but one of my Guinea pigs still itches while the others don’t.
I am comforted by the fact that ‘blaming stress’ in this situation is wrong. That I didn’t entirely make this.
It’s the weather.
I know that. I feel that, it’s hot and wet and I’m hot and sweating more than usual and I don’t like that feeling and it itches me and I know that I have found the key to this merry-go-round.
I can’t DO hot and wet.
I can do hot and dry,
But I can’t do hot and wet or cold and wet.
What if I am allergic to water?
But not all of the Guinea Pigs are itching, not all people are itching.
The weather, wet, water is only part of the problem. The other part is me and I’m almost sure the ‘me’ in the equation can be broken down into two:
* The biologically defective me that mistakes and over-reacts to skin triggers due to something or other.
* The psychologically conditioned me that is somehow addicted or otherwise emotionally invested in the process.
But what came first?
I am intellectually drawn to the biological over the psychological given what I’m observing with the Guinea Pigs but I don’t REALLY have the answer. I am not even sure there is just one answer, one ‘this plus that equals itch’ equation.
But I must stop now.
Because I am awake, conscious and itching.
I try ignoring the tingle. Diverting myself with writing, working, talking, daydreaming, creating.
But it persists. It is stubborn, un-yielding.
I allow myself a little itch just to ‘tell it that I know it’s there and that I can sate it’.
But then the itch moves. No longer on my hand but on my shoulder.
It is playing games with me.
I scratch that as well.
I scratch around it creating a scratch margin as if to tell the surrounding skin that ‘It’s OK I’ve got this’ all over again.
But it doesn’t work.
Now my head is itching.
I leave it as I write.
Tingles like there is something creeping around.
That’s silly, there isn’t.
I am fully aware of my thoughts and talk myself out of any inner chattering of head lice, bugs, creepy crawlies. Weird really as I’m not frightened by bugs or dirt or anything like that really. I just itch.
It’s been 2 minutes of ignoring the head itch and it is still there.
Or at least it was when I started that sentence but now my arm is itching. A patch just below my shoulder.
My head stopped itching for a moment there but now it is back, radiating warm annoying tingles along with my shoulder.
I become aware again that if I were out in public and I was attending to each itch as it came up I would look like lice woman.
I scratch my shoulder and screw up my face at the thought.
How many people have observed my itching and thought ‘that woman must have lice?’
And on that thought I’ll end.
I realise I don’t care at all what other people think as what they see and interpret is nothing compared to the legacy of a moments scratching.
I live with that.
And I have to learn to deal with it.
Or beat it.
I’m choosing the latter.