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Home Podcast: Nail Biting and Hair Twirling (Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors)

Podcast: Nail Biting and Hair Twirling (Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors)

 
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Podcast: Nail Biting and Hair Twirling (Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors)

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Why you gotta turn my nail biting into some big mental thing. I just bite my nails, why are people making it such a big thing?

~Michelle Hammer

Nail Biting. Hair Pulling. Skin Picking. All of these “bad habits” fall under the category of Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors or BFRBs. In today’s episode, Gabe and Michelle discuss their issues with BFRBs and some potential solutions — though they readily admit sometimes the solution can be worse than the habit.

This podcast is proudly sponsored by Betterhelp. Save 10% on your first month with the discount code “BSP22” or by clicking here.

About the Hosts of A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and a Podcast

gabe howardGabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and activist living with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on mental illness.

He’s the author of Mental Illness is an Asshole and Other Observations and a popular podcast host. Learn more at gabehoward.com.

michelle hammerMichelle Hammer is a Schizophrenia Activist and spends her time passionately fighting stigma. She is an NYC native featured in the WebMD documentary Voices, which was nominated for a Tribeca X Award at the Tribeca Film Festival 2018.

Founded and run by Michelle, Schizophrenic.NYC is a clothing brand with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health.

Transcript for Nail Biting and Hair Twirling?

Please Note: This transcript was computer generated. Please be mindful of errors. Thank you. 

Announcer: So, what did the bipolar say to the schizophrenic? You’re in the right place to find out. . .

Michelle Hammer: Hey, everyone, my name is Michelle Hammer and I live with schizophrenia.

Gabe Howard: I’m Gabe, and I’m bipolar, and we want to shout out our sponsor, BetterHelp. Get 10 percent off your first month just by going to BetterHelp.com/BSP22. Michelle.

Michelle Hammer: One second.

Gabe Howard: What are you doing?

Michelle Hammer: I’m biting my nails. One minute, I can’t stop, I can’t stop. It’s, it’s a, it’s a bad habit I have.

Gabe Howard: No, no, no. You do this a lot, actually, and you always say it’s a bad habit and I want to call you out on this. It’s, I mean, I guess it’s a bad habit of sorts, but it’s actually a body focused repetitive behavior. It’s a BFRB.

Michelle Hammer: Why you gotta turn my nail biting into some like big mental thing. I just bite my nails, why are you going to make it such a big thing?

Gabe Howard: Because you know how I twirl my hair and you tell me that it makes me look crazy? And that’s actually trichotillomania, which is in the BFRB category, the body focused repetitive behaviors. And it’s actually really serious because before I got it treated, I would literally pull clumps out. Do you bite your nails clean off? I mean, how damaging is this to you?

Michelle Hammer: Oh, it’s bad, I bite them, I bite the cuticles, I bite till I bleed. It’s terrible. And my toenails.

Gabe Howard: Wait, wait, what?

Michelle Hammer: My toenails,

Gabe Howard: You?

Michelle Hammer: You don’t even know how flexible I am, watch this.

Gabe Howard: No, no, no, no, no, I don’t. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You put your feet in your mouth?

Michelle Hammer: What’s wrong with that? It’s nails. Nails are nails, it’s a nail. Your hands touch more things than your feet do. Your hands don’t wear socks, your feet wear socks. I’m not the only one that does it. Don’t pretend like it’s only me.

Gabe Howard: Uhm?

Michelle Hammer: I know other people that do it, but I’ve been doing it my whole life.

Gabe Howard: This is the very difficult part about acceptance, right? On one hand, you’re right, I find feet so disgusting and I know there’s a whole internet that disagrees with me, but sticking your foot in your mouth just seems so gross to me. But I, you’re right, I don’t want to. I don’t want to shame people for the body focused repetitive behavior part. But, when did you start this? Let’s just put the focus on you, Michelle. When? When did you notice that you had this this?

Michelle Hammer: I’ve been doing this my entire life, I’ve always been biting my nails. I’ve always been biting my cuticles. I’ve always been biting my toenails. I’ve always been biting everything, ever. I’ve never, never not done it. And then, as you know, my grandmother, Blanche, she had quite the chin hair. I’ve inherited the same thing. So I’ve gotta tweeze and pick and tweeze and pick and tweeze and pick. And I can feel one right now and I want to get it so badly. But we’re podcasting and I can’t get it.

Gabe Howard: Listen, listen.

Michelle Hammer: And I just want to tweeze it out.

Gabe Howard: This is.

Michelle Hammer: And tweeze it out and pick and just tweeze. And I can’t stop. And all these remedies, none of them work. They’re all nonsense.

Gabe Howard: Ok, so many questions. Michelle, the beauty industry in this country, I don’t think I could find a magazine that would tell a woman not to tweeze a facial hair or a hair, and in many different places, just legs, breasts. I mean, the hair removal industry is a billion-dollar industry. Why have you decided that this idea of wanting to de-Blanche your chin is part of some sort of mental issue? Why isn’t it just a beauty issue?

Michelle Hammer: I pick till I bleed.

Gabe Howard: Have you ever brought this up with a therapist or a mental health provider?

Michelle Hammer: No.

Gabe Howard: Why not?

Michelle Hammer: Because I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Gabe Howard: Well, you just said that it causes you pain, right? You pick till you bleed, you bite your nails till you bleed.

Michelle Hammer: Well, it.

Gabe Howard: You just, you’re chewing your feet for Pete’s sake.

Michelle Hammer: I, Ok, I have no problem with it. Other people see a problem with it

Gabe Howard: See, I.

Michelle Hammer: Like I, I can’t just bite my toenails in front of other people. I’ve done it before and they say, What are you doing?

Gabe Howard: In a way, I understand what you’re saying, I started twirling my hair. And that’s what I always called it, hair twirling, right around puberty. I just started playing with it and it started off small. I would just kind of twirl it in my hands and then it turned into ripping and then I’d get the bald patches and I frankly didn’t care. I enjoyed it. It was, it was sort of a coping mechanism for me, but the people around me really hated it. It really disturbed them.

Michelle Hammer: So are BFRBs our problem or other people’s problems?

Gabe Howard: Well, so they can be two things, right? I was literally pulling patches of my hair out. You’re literally bleeding. I mean, doesn’t it? Doesn’t that disturb you? Doesn’t it? You’re harming yourself. I recognize that it’s low level harm.

Michelle Hammer: I gotta get the hair.

Gabe Howard: But what about the biting your nails, what are you getting there? What about biting your toe nails? What are you fixin’ there?

Michelle Hammer: They got to get there too long.

Gabe Howard: Well, but

Michelle Hammer: They gotta be shorter.

Gabe Howard: Ok, but you recognize that you can trim your toenails and your fingernails without biting them and without bleeding.

Michelle Hammer: Sometimes you don’t have a nail file on you sometimes. But sometimes you gotta get the cuticle and you gotta get everything around it, and it’s got to be smooth and it has to be nice and it has to be perfect. Sometimes they bleed, but you got to get it done. You got to make sure it’s all good. So it’s perfect and everything lines up right? And sometimes when you got to do something, sometimes you got to pull it a little too far and sometimes it goes too far and then you just bleed. Sometimes it happens, whatever, it goes, but you’ve got to get it. And that’s just how it is. Oh, well.

Gabe Howard: I. First off, I apologize, Michelle, because I know. I’m trying not to act disgusted, but sincerely, you put your feet in your mouth.

Michelle Hammer: [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: And you say that it’s so that you don’t have long toenails. Ok, but you recognize that it’s hurting you. You’re bleeding. And you say, Well, sometimes you don’t have a nail file or nail clippers. OK. But if you did have a nail file or nail clippers, is that your preferred method or is biting them your preferred method?

Michelle Hammer: Ah, biting.

Gabe Howard: Right, so that hogwash about, oh, sometimes you don’t have nail clippers is just bullshit, you prefer to eat your nails, which causes you physical pain.

Michelle Hammer: I’m not swallowing

Gabe Howard: And harms you.

Michelle Hammer: My nails. I don’t swallow them.

Gabe Howard: Who cares? That would just be further along the spectrum.

Michelle Hammer: Well.

Gabe Howard: Really irrelevant to the fact that you are causing yourself pain and injury.

Michelle Hammer: I’m not really in that much pain, I mean, like my fingers, I just got to get all the cuticles and then they start bleeding around them like you can kind of see it right now. I have some bloody fingers

Gabe Howard: So, so listen.

Michelle Hammer: Like there.

Gabe Howard: While you were talking. Thanks. Please, please get your hand out of my face. While you were talking, I googled body focused repetitive behaviors, BFRBs and they are defined as, I’m reading this literally from WebMD, BFRBs, body focused repetitive behaviors, are intense urges like biting, picking and pulling that can cause damage. As many as one in 20 people have a BFRB, and they can be dismissed and are often dismissed as bad habits. They share some symptomology with obsessive compulsive disorder, apparently, but they are not the same. Now, for example, you have the biting, right? And I have the hair pulling, and both of us, Gabe and Michelle have defined this as just bad behavior. But again, clumps of my hair have been yanked out. I will literally not work so that I can focus on yanking my hair out. This harms me. My thing is called trichotillomania. I have no idea what the hell your thing is called, but my thing is called trichotillomania.

Michelle Hammer: I looked it up. Skin picking is called excoriation disorder.

Gabe Howard: I have no idea if you’re pronouncing that right, but good on you for trying.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah. Excoriation disorder, that’s what I found, but look, look, I also looked up ways to fix this, and they’re all a bunch of nonsense. Listen, to not bite your nails, right, Band-Aids. First of all, what am I going to put Band-Aids on all of my fingers? How am I going to text?

Gabe Howard: That’s

Michelle Hammer: Can’t text with Band-Aids on your fingers.

Gabe Howard: This is where the age difference between Gabe and Michelle really comes in hard. How are you going to text wasn’t even on my radar. And that’s the first thing that you thought about. Really? That’s why this method won’t work?

Michelle Hammer: And also, OK, there’s another one that I’ve tried before. Bad taste nail polish. I’ve tried bad taste nail polish. You know what happened? I got used to the bad taste polish, started liking the bad taste polish and was just biting my nails anyway. Plus, if you get like food stuck in your teeth and you pick it out or something like that, you then have the bad taste nail polish in your mouth. Also, the bad taste nail polish, if you get it on your cuticles, it dries out your cuticles and then you start picking them more.

Gabe Howard: It’s interesting to me that you’ve both described this as not a problem, no big deal and something that you like to do and you’ve tried some of these methods to quit.

Michelle Hammer: Because everyone tells me to quit. So I tried. Done all these things, it doesn’t work. Oh, and then I also read a thing, put vitamin E on your cuticles. Oh yeah.

Gabe Howard: How was that helpful?

Michelle Hammer: Dude, you’re going to have oil all over your fingers. What are you doing with oil all over your fingers? Another one, you can’t text with oil all over your fingers.

Gabe Howard: This all comes back to texting.

Michelle Hammer: Yes, yes, and then when it’s off your cuticles are all nice and great for you to bite.

Gabe Howard: I, I.

Michelle Hammer: Oh, and then my favorite one, this is always my favorite way to fix everything when people say this one. Meditation

Gabe Howard: Oh, God, it’s like the yoga.

Michelle Hammer: I love, I love when people say the fix is meditation,

Gabe Howard: Do yoga.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, do yoga.

Gabe Howard: Do yoga and you won’t have bipolar, schizophrenia or depression anymore.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, if you meditate, you won’t bite your nails anymore.

Gabe Howard: Wow.

Michelle Hammer: Oh yeah, that’s going to work.

Gabe Howard: I just

Michelle Hammer: Oh, yeah. Meditate.

Gabe Howard: I just, it always comes, for some reason, it always comes down to like mindfulness, meditation and yoga. I don’t know why that is, but I don’t know if those are good ideas or bad ideas. I really don’t. I’ve never tried them. I can’t comment, but I do know that you don’t want to stop. I don’t think there’s any method that’s going to work if you don’t want it to work, and by your own testimony, you don’t want it to work. You’re not even trying to stop. Not really.

Michelle Hammer: Oh, no, no, not at all, I don’t, I don’t want to stop.

Gabe Howard: Then why are you so hard on these plans? Maybe they would work if you, you know, put some effort into it.

Michelle Hammer: You want me to walk around with Band-Aids on all my fingers?

Gabe Howard: I mean.

Michelle Hammer: What am I going to look like? If I got Band-Aids on all my fingers?

Gabe Howard: See that that is the thing that that you said to me and that Lisa has said to me and that the people around me have said to me about the hair twirling. What does it look like, Gabe, to be somebody living with bipolar disorder that’s ripping your hair out in public? That’s what made me work really, really hard to stop. Like, sincerely, that was my motivation. My motivation was not, you know, not to harm myself, not to rip out my hair. It was I didn’t want to represent people living with bipolar disorder by, quote, looking crazy. And I’m making the air quotes. And you’re saying that, hey, you don’t want to walk around with Band-Aids on your fingers because you’ll look nuts. Let’s just call it how it is. You’ll look nuts.

Michelle Hammer: Everyone’s going to be like, why do you have Band-Aids on your fingers?

Gabe Howard: But don’t you think you look nuts chewing on your fingernails?

Michelle Hammer: No.

Gabe Howard: I mean, you’re a grown woman, you’re sitting there in public, just eating your fingers. I’m assuming that you don’t eat your toenails in public.

Michelle Hammer: No.

Gabe Howard: Do you pull that out on a date?

Michelle Hammer: No, what are you crazy?

Gabe Howard: I mean, I’m not, I look I don’t know your dating life.

Michelle Hammer: No, I don’t bite my toenails on a date.

Gabe Howard: Do you bite your toenails in front of anybody?

Michelle Hammer: Not anymore.

Gabe Howard: Not anymore. What made you stop?

Michelle Hammer: Other people being disgusted.

Gabe Howard: Ok, so you do recognize that there’s a. Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of gross.

Michelle Hammer: I have two best friends that do the same thing.

Gabe Howard: I’m trying to be supportive. I am.

Michelle Hammer: Two of my best friend’s bite their toenails, too. It’s not as uncommon as you think it is. Can you even put your feet towards your mouth? Are you even flexible enough for that?

Gabe Howard: You want me to try, don’t you?

Michelle Hammer: I do. I want to see that right now.

Gabe Howard: Ah, listen, I’m not going to put my toenails in my mouth, but I’m going to see if I can touch my. I’m going to see if I can touch my nose with my foot. All right,

Michelle Hammer: Ok.

Gabe Howard: So I’m going to.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: I’m going to have to push myself away from the mic. So you’re going to have to describe what is happening

Michelle Hammer: Ok. Ok.

Gabe Howard: To the listeners.

Michelle Hammer: Ok.

Gabe Howard: All right. Here we go.

Michelle Hammer: Ok, Gabe has backed up.

Gabe Howard: Ok, here we go.

Michelle Hammer: Now he’s backed up, he’s lifting his foot up. It’s not even, oh oh, he can do it.

Gabe Howard: I could do it, I could do it.

Michelle Hammer: You did it. He did it. The giant man did it, you can do it. You’re flexible,

Gabe Howard: Whoo!

Michelle Hammer: You’re flexible. You did it.

Gabe Howard: I am one step closer to chewing on my nails.

Michelle Hammer: Yes. Yes.

Gabe Howard: Can you believe that? You didn’t think I could do it, did you?

Michelle Hammer: I didn’t think you could do it.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, yeah, I got some surprises left in me, don’t I?

Michelle Hammer: You do. You do. I’m impressed.

Gabe Howard: It hurts, it hurts so bad.

Michelle Hammer: Does it?

Gabe Howard: My, my leg is on fire.

Michelle Hammer: Like I could.

Gabe Howard: Ugh.

Michelle Hammer: I could sit like this forever.

Gabe Howard: Michelle has now have her ankle behind her neck. I did get my big toe. She’s got both ankles behind her neck, ladies and gentlemen, this is. This show has taken a very, very, very serious turn. To get the show back on track while Michelle un-pretzels, we did some, some slight research. It’s not a lot. We’re not great. We’re for entertainment purposes only, but we looked into the causes of this and it really does come down to it becomes a coping mechanism for people to deal with stress or anxiety. Now there’s all kinds of other, you know, theories about chemical imbalances, and we don’t truly know the cause of many things, even like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. But for me, twirling my hair relieves stress and anxiety. Michelle, is picking at your skin, is biting your nails, does this relieve stress and anxiety for you?

Michelle Hammer: Oh, yeah, oh yeah. If I’m stressed out, I have to bite my nails or I get stressed out if my nails aren’t what I want them to be. Like right now, like my thumb right here, it’s like rough at the top and it’s bothering me so much. I need to do something about it. And if I don’t do something about it soon, I’m going to freak out.

Gabe Howard: One of the things when I was trying to stop twirling my hair was to keep a really, really short haircut so I can’t get a hold of it. I get my haircut like every two weeks and keep it really closely cropped. And that’s thankfully worked for me. But I’d like to have my hair longer. I think I’d look better with my hair longer, especially as I get older and my forehead wrinkles up. I’d like to not have this giant billboard, which is for rent.

Michelle Hammer: You want bangs?

Gabe Howard: I mean, I don’t know if I want bangs, I just, you know, I used to have a ponytail. Ok, so you’re saying this might be the best look for me anyway?

Michelle Hammer: Yeah. Do not grow your hair longer, and I want you to guess how many haircuts I get a year.

Gabe Howard: I’m going to go with zero. Any woman that chews her toenails is probably not.

Michelle Hammer: So I never get haircuts? I never get haircuts?

Gabe Howard: I mean, one, you get one a year.

Michelle Hammer: Yes, I get one haircut a year,

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: Yes.

Gabe Howard: I don’t know why I’m, nobody’s surprised by that. You cut it yourself, don’t you?

Michelle Hammer: No, I don’t

Gabe Howard: Does your mom cut your hair?

Michelle Hammer: No.

Gabe Howard: Who cuts your hair?

Michelle Hammer: I forget her name, this nice girl.

Gabe Howard: Does she have a license?

Michelle Hammer: Yes, I go to the salon.

Gabe Howard: Do you really?

Michelle Hammer: Yes.

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Michelle Hammer: And we’re back discussing body focused repetitive behaviors.

Gabe Howard: Let me ask you this. One of the solutions that we both read was that to substitute the behavior like, for example, when I was trying to quit, people gave me like a lot of Koosh balls, a lot of like squeeze balls. And the Koosh ball was specifically so I could twist the the thing. They gave me little like rabbits’ feet because it has that fur. Have you tried to substitute the behavior? So instead of chewing on your nails and I don’t know, you chew on a rabbit’s foot?

Michelle Hammer: Well, I’ve tried to get my nails done, and that sometimes works, but, you know, nail polish doesn’t last forever.

Gabe Howard: When you have the nail polish on, do you twirl less?

Michelle Hammer: Twirl?

Gabe Howard: Yeah. So, yeah, you twirl your nails, I bite my hair, whatever. When you have the nail polish on, do you bite less?

Michelle Hammer: Yes, I bite them less when I have nail polish on, but, you know, nail polish chips, your nails do grow and then, you know, you have the whole thing of your chip and you’re now picking your nail polish off your nails.

Gabe Howard: Do you bite or chew any other part of your body?

Michelle Hammer: No.

Gabe Howard: It’s just the nail beds, both feet and hands.

Michelle Hammer: Yes, yes.

Gabe Howard: And you pick? You actually like use your fingers and pull or do you use instruments?

Michelle Hammer: My fingers.

Gabe Howard: Just your fingers. And but it causes bleeding, but you’ve never thought to mention this to a mental health professional?

Michelle Hammer: Nah.

Gabe Howard: Are you starting to regret that decision? Do you think maybe you should?

Michelle Hammer: What are they going to tell me to do? Put Band-Aids on my fingers?

Gabe Howard: I don’t know. But, but honestly, because Google let you down, all of medical professional knowledge is bullshit? I mean, come on, what are you doing here?

Michelle Hammer: Well, Gabe, you know, I was a very.

Gabe Howard: No, no, no, no, no, no,

Michelle Hammer: No, no, no

Gabe Howard: No, no, no, no.

Michelle Hammer: I watched a credible source. It was Dr. Oz. It

Gabe Howard: Oh, right, right.

Michelle Hammer: It was Dr. Oz.

Gabe Howard: You watch Dr. Oz.

Michelle Hammer: That credible source.

Gabe Howard: That’s great.

Michelle Hammer: That credible source of Dr. Oz.

Gabe Howard: That’s great.

Michelle Hammer: Dr. Oz told me to put some Band-Aids on my fingers.

Gabe Howard: But people do this to you about schizophrenia all the time.

Michelle Hammer: You know that Dr. Oz, he’s one smart man, that man.

Gabe Howard: You recognize that you’re doing the same thing that the anti-psychiatry folks do to us in our email boxes all the time where they tell us that by taking meds were bad and that schizophrenia is fake and that bipolar disorder is just bullshit designed to control us. And we don’t actually have mental illness, that was just made up as a mechanism to keep us down. And we always say like, Well, why do you think so? And they’re like, because I googled it and because I saw one thing on Google, YouTube, whatever. And now I will not discuss this with a medical professional. And normally you call those people f-ing morons. But now when I say, Hey, why aren’t you mentioning your body focused repetitive behavior to a mental health professional? You’re like, Whoa, whoa, what am I gonna do? I googled it and there’s no answer there.

Michelle Hammer: No, no, no. I’ve bit my nails in front of medical professionals, and they don’t say anything.

Gabe Howard: Biting your nails and bleeding are different. First off, I refuse to believe that there is a medical professional out there that would see you whip off your shoe, your sock, stick your foot in your mouth and eat the nail until you started to bleed that wouldn’t think, Yeah, something’s wrong here. Really?

Michelle Hammer: Well, you know what, I doubt there’s no medical professional that would see you take off your hat and see that it’s red haired, that would be like you’re a giant leprechaun.

Gabe Howard: I really thought for a moment that you were going to say, take off your hat and have like bald patches where you pulled your hair and keep on theme. But then it went left, it went straight to Leprechaun. Is it because I’m wearing a green shirt and have red hair?

Michelle Hammer: You know what was even funnier? Earlier when you were talking about having, you know, squish toys or whatever they are and

Gabe Howard: Mm-hmm.

Michelle Hammer: You held it up, your stress ball like everyone listening can actually see your stress ball.

Gabe Howard: I was showing you the stress ball.

Michelle Hammer: I know what a stress ball looks like, but you held up the stress ball like everyone listening can actually see the stress ball like, Oh yeah, people got me stress balls and you held it up like everyone looks and sees your stress ball. Nobody can see your stress ball. Everyone knows what a stress ball is, but you still held it up. Like, Yeah, I got a magical stress ball to stop me from pulling out my hair. You know what, Gabe? Let me show you all the Band-Aids that I have that I’m going to put on all my fingers and then I’ll never be able to text you again. Wait, let me get some clear nail polish that have bad taste on it. I’ll put it all over my fingernails. I’m going to show you all about it. Why don’t we just have a whole thing? I’ll take pictures of my nails every single day and you can see the growth and the un-growth, and we’ll track how my progress. Is that what you want to do? Track my nail bed progress?

Gabe Howard: Yes, yes, that is exactly what you should do with the professional. I know that this was designed to mock me, that has not gone unnoticed, but you’ve hit on what you need to do. Tracking this, figuring out when you bite, what triggers you to bite. Is it because of joy, happiness, sadness? Stress, anxiety? What causes it? Figuring all that out, that is what you would work with a therapist to help curb BFRBs. Also, again, we are not doctors. I want to be very clear on this. There are some medications that can help lower anxiety, which leads to some of this and on and on and on. There is a huge, huge amount of help for people with BFRB’s, and some of that does include, because of modern technology, taking a picture of your nail beds every single day to show yourself and your medical professional, your therapist, whomever you’re working with, the exact damage that you’re doing because you keep talking about it in the abstract, you’re like, Oh, I bite my nails. It’s a bad habit. Sometimes I bleed. But if you really compared healthy nail beds to your bleeding that you ate, you ate your flesh and you compared it side by side. I think maybe that you would find that it is disturbing. The other thing that I want to say is you’re constantly holding up your artwork to me and I know what your damn artwork looks like. You’re so proud that you can draw. I can draw.

Michelle Hammer: What are you talking about? What are you bringing that up?

Gabe Howard: What do you even bring it into the studio?

Michelle Hammer: No, let me tell you.

Gabe Howard: Why, why? And another thing why are you? Why are you always wearing your clothes? Literally, right now you’re wearing a shirt that says, Don’t be paranoid, you look great, which I know you’re immediately going to say, available on Schizophrenic.NYC.

Michelle Hammer: It is it’s available on Schizophrenic.NYC. Don’t be paranoid, you look great, it’s a great, great shirt.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, but nobody can see you. Why are you wearing that shirt for an audio podcast?

Michelle Hammer: I have no other clothing.

Gabe Howard: [Laughter]

Michelle Hammer: This or naked, whatever you want. You want me naked, Gabe, is that what this all was?

Gabe Howard: That’s, that’s

Michelle Hammer: Is that what this whole plan is? You want me to see me naked?

Gabe Howard: This went in a disturbing direction, ladies and gentlemen. It is interesting to me what you said about it makes other people uncomfortable. I do want to revisit that and I really do think about what everybody warns me about when they say, you look crazy when you do it. This does speak to me a bit because I do think that sometimes people with mental illness were told to stop doing things not for our benefit, but because it makes the people around us more comfortable. And one of the things that you do a lot, Michelle, is you rock and you’re doing it right now. And as you know, the stereotype of the crazy person is, you know, sitting, rocking back and forth, probably chewing their nails. And the rocking doesn’t hurt you. It doesn’t hurt anybody. But I know that people have said to you before sitting alone in a corner and rocking back and forth makes you look crazy. And that is a really, really good example of how you’re not hurting anybody and they’re trying to get you to stop. But do you really think making yourself bleed, picking your skin, hurting yourself with tweezers and the rocking to soothe yourself are in the same category? I mean, sincerely, honestly?

Michelle Hammer: You make a good point, I don’t know, I’ll think about it. One time I went to get a pedicure and my toe had some blood on it, and the lady was just like.

Gabe Howard: Just one time, just this one time, Michelle?

Michelle Hammer: Well, I don’t usually get pedicures, actually. So the lady goes, what happened? And I was like, Oh, I don’t know. I was playing sports.

Gabe Howard: Just out of curiosity, why did you lie? If there’s no big deal and you don’t care, why didn’t you just say I was chewing my feet?

Michelle Hammer: Well, she was very judgmental.

Gabe Howard: But what do you care? You’re the great Michelle Hammer.

Michelle Hammer: I don’t know. She was like, aghhh.

Gabe Howard: You one time told me off in front of a room filled with people, but now you’re shy? In New York City, your home turf, against the woman that you’re going to pay to, I don’t know, saw your claws, your feet claws? Then you got shy?

Michelle Hammer: I mean, they tell me a lot of stuff when I get my nails done. They’re always yelling at me.

Gabe Howard: What are they yelling at you for?

Michelle Hammer: I get yelled at a lot when I get my nails done. Don’t take the cuticle. Don’t use your cuticle. We do the cuticle. You come in here, you don’t do it yourself. You come here. We do it. You don’t do it.

Gabe Howard: Do you listen?

Michelle Hammer: No.

Gabe Howard: But do you care?

Michelle Hammer: When I go in and get my nails, no, I don’t care, because it’s expensive to always get your nails done. I’m not going there all the time.

Gabe Howard: Do you tell them that you only get your haircut once a year and that this is it, you’ll see them, you know, next summer?

Michelle Hammer: I only get my nails done when there’s an event.

Gabe Howard: Like, what kind of an event?

Michelle Hammer: A wedding.

Gabe Howard: Whose wedding?

Michelle Hammer: I went to a wedding a few months ago, I had to get my toenails and my nails, it was the whole thing.

Gabe Howard: Did you flip your hair?

Michelle Hammer: You know, I got my hair done. I had to get all this, I had to spend so much money on this stupid wedding. I had to buy the bridesmaid’s dress. I had to get it tailored. I had to get my nails done, my toes done. I had to go to the bachelorette party. I had to pay for all of that, so I didn’t give her a gift.

Gabe Howard: Who was this?

Michelle Hammer: My best friend.

Gabe Howard: Wow, you guys must be close.

Michelle Hammer: We’re very close.

Gabe Howard: Uh-huh, does she know that you didn’t get her a gift?

Michelle Hammer: I’m sure she’s well aware, but she knows how much money I spent on her.

Gabe Howard: This is love.

Michelle Hammer: It is love.

Gabe Howard: I know that if my best friend was like, I did a lot for you, so I am taking payment and I am not giving you a gift.

Michelle Hammer: I paid a lot of money to get my hair and makeup done for her wedding. That’s the gift. I looked beautiful for her. There you go.

Gabe Howard: I am struggling with this from your unique point of view, Michelle. Because the beauty standards for women are different. They just are. When your nails are just all clawed up from biting and bleeding and just torn to shit, this becomes two problems for you. One, it does fall under the BFRBs, and I do think that it’s a mental health condition for you. I do think sincerely that you should follow up on this, but doesn’t it cause you problems as a woman? Isn’t the stereotype of the woman has to be beautiful and have, you know, manicures and pedicures? And isn’t this harder for you?

Michelle Hammer: I mean, I do get told to clean my nails constantly. I constantly get told to clean my nails, clean your nails, clean your nails, use the nail file. Clean your nails. Use the nail file. Clean your nails. Stop picking. Stop picking. Clean your nails. Clean your nails.

Gabe Howard: Who’s constantly telling you to do this?

Michelle Hammer: The biddy in the other room.

Gabe Howard: So your roommate?

Michelle Hammer: It’s my excoriation disorder, you see.

Gabe Howard: It’s your excoriation disorder.

Michelle Hammer: That’s what it’s called.

Gabe Howard: Is that what you’re going to tell her? That you actually have a disorder and you’re going to work on it from here on out?

Michelle Hammer: Aww, I just say I’m a skin picker, I always say I’m a skin picker, I can’t stop. I’m a skin picker, I’m a skin picker, I can’t stop. But also, why are my nails always dirty? Like, they’re always just dirty underneath? Because I think, like, I rub it on like my pants or I rub it on my shirt and then I just get like dirty nails just from rubbing all the time.

Gabe Howard: I think part of the problem is that you only take one shower a year.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah. And I don’t use the actual shower, I go in a fountain.

Gabe Howard: Is it the Friends fountain that everybody is convinced is actually in New York City when it’s actually in a lot in L.A.?

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, that’s not in New York City, that fountain.

Gabe Howard: I want you to know, Michelle, I’ll be there for you.

Michelle Hammer: Shut up, shut up, shut up. Don’t even. Don’t even. I can’t stand those friends T-shirts.

Gabe Howard: I know you hate Friends.

Michelle Hammer: I can’t stand those Friends T-shirts.

Gabe Howard: You poor thing.

Michelle Hammer: Friends is an old show. Friends is an old show. Stop wearing those Friends T-shirts. Please stop wearing those Friends T-shirts. Ok? Please don’t wear a friend’s T-shirt

Gabe Howard: What do you want them to wear instead?

Michelle Hammer: And don’t wear a NASA shirt, either. I can’t stand those NASA shirts.

Gabe Howard: Why do you hate NASA?

Michelle Hammer: No, I have no problem with NASA, but NASA doesn’t get the money from the NASA T-shirts. Do you know that they don’t get the money from the NASA T-shirts? And everyone’s just walking around wearing a NASA shirt, oh, I’m supporting NASA. No, you’re not. Because NASA doesn’t even get the money from the NASA shirts? Stop wearing a NASA shirt. Stop wearing a Friend’s T-shirt. Take those shirts and burn them. Stop wearing those shirts.

Gabe Howard: Imagine if you had the same conviction about stopping chewing your feet and picking your skin and making yourself bleed.

Michelle Hammer: If people will stop wearing Friends T-shirts and NASA T-shirts, I will stop picking my skin and making my nails bleed.

Gabe Howard: But you mean, are you willing to make like a one for one, like if I stop wearing my Friends and NASA T-shirt, will you stop?

Michelle Hammer: No, you don’t even have a Friends and NASA T-shirt, and if you do, I’m going to slap you in the face.

Gabe Howard: That’s, that’s, that’s violent, that’s.

Michelle Hammer: Those friends T-shirts make me want to slap people in the face.

Gabe Howard: That’s, you know what sucks? The whole time, the whole time you’re yelling this like your face has turned into a different color. And in my head, the Friends theme is playing over your rant. So for me, it’s just been just a wonderful experience, and I would recommend to all of our listeners that you back up about a minute and a half or whatever right before she starts and then turn on the Friends theme kind of low and then just kind of go with it. So I’ll be there for you, and they don’t get that money from the NASA shirts, when the rain starts to fall. I just think that would be fantastic.

Michelle Hammer: [Deep breath]

Gabe Howard: This is the part of the show where Michelle is angry. But, luckily she’s chewing her nails so she can’t yell at me. Michelle, it’s just a yes or no question. I’m just seriously curious. After all the research for this episode, after all of the work, after everything that we’ve learned, after everything that we’ve did in this, this wonderful, enlightening conversation, yes or no, no explanation. Are you going to follow up with a mental health therapist or are you good?

Michelle Hammer: I’m good, yeah, I’m good.

Gabe Howard: Michelle has made her choice, but you can make a different one, remember that body focused repetitive behaviors are treatable. Just follow up with your general practitioner, your psychiatrist, your therapist. Get some help. Don’t let the front page of Google stop you from getting the help that you need. You have been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Wherever you have you downloaded this episode, please subscribe or follow. It is 100 percent free and do us a favor and tell someone about the show. Word of mouth, text message, share the show, and if you’re interested in my book, “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” you can of course get it on Amazon. But you can also go to gabehoward.com and grab a signed copy with free swag.

Michelle Hammer: Even better than that, if you’re interested in the first clothing line started by a schizophrenic New Yorker, go to my online store. It’s Schizophrenic.NYC.

Gabe Howard: Michelle and I both travel nationally as speakers, you can find out more information on our respective websites, and we have to give some love to our sponsor. You can save 10 percent on your first month of online therapy just by going to BetterHelp.com/BSP22. See you next Tuesday.

Michelle Hammer: Band-Aids.

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and activist living with severe bipolar and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on mental illness. Society often sees people living with mental illness at their worst and he works to add a more balanced view. Gabe Howard is the recipient of the 2014 Norman Guitry Award, given by Mental Health America to the person who shows exceptional leadership in promoting mental illness awareness and prevention in the community.


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