CW: This comic contains some body horror/gore/disturbing imagery.
Co-morbidity is where you have concurrent pathologies, illnesses, or disorders. They interact with each other, amplifying, muting, or modifying symptoms.
When my depression ramps up, my compulsive skin picking turns from a distraction to a real problem. This is the illness that writes itself on my skin. It leaves actual scars. It’s also the one I talk about least, the one I feel anything close to shame about. It makes me hate the feeling of my skin.
I got a whole bunch of bug bites last month during a camping trip. Dozens and dozens. This is really uncomfortable for anyone and most people would have a problem with scratching and scabs. But for me, it triggered a whole other challenge, one i’ve been dealing with for weeks. The bites turn to scabs, which catch like hooks on my skin – I can feel them when I put clothes on, or when I’m lying in bed. It makes me hypersensitive to the rest of my body, like the skin around my fingers and toes.
This is a visible illness. It’s visible at work, when people see me chewing, when I’m shopping and I accidentally bleed on the merchandise, when my skin cracks and aches. I remember vividly modelling for an art class, standing naked for a pose in front of a dozen people and feeling a trickle of blood run down my leg from where I’d absently scratched, having to break the pose and ask for tissues. I’ll wear gloves, or bind my hands in bandages. At night I sleep with the sheets jammed between my fingers, so I can’t run my fingerpads against the adjacent finger. I avoid wearing catching fibers, like wool and cashmere. I pick and bite and tear, and if I can’t get relief, I’ll bite my arms? or something? which is weird. This whole thing is weird. I don’t talk about it, because I honestly hate it. It gets to me. It eludes management more than anything else going on in my head. It is a hook in my eye. And I hate admitting that.