I knew nothing about hypnosis before starting, and only knew of “stage hypnosis,” and wasn't sure how it was going to work in a therapy setting. I was open to trying and had no preconceived notions beforehand. I was actually hoping it was more like “magic” and a quick-fix. My friend's mom went to two hypnotherapy sessions and quit smoking cold-turkey. I was hoping the same would happen with nail biting.
My initial problem I wanted to deal with was nail biting/picking. My nails and cuticles were becoming so painful and destroyed from picking them. It was soon discovered that it wasn't really only the aesthetic reason of how my nails looked, but getting more to the root of the problem for why I was doing it – and that was stress and anxiety (mostly from my job).
Back in winter of 2012, after having been living in Manhattan for 9 months, I saw a LivingSocial deal for a Hypnotherapist session. I had never done hypnotherapy before and truly knew nothing about it.. except that my friend's mother quit smoking after only a session or two. I had something that had been on my mind for years, but more recently and within the entire year of 2012 had gotten pretty bad – I wanted to break my disgusting habit of nail and cuticle biting/picking.
I have bit my nails for as long as I can remember, and when I was 16, my mom said, “I bit my nails until I was 16. You'll stop this year.” I didn't. At 21 years old as a Junior in college I said to myself “enough is enough.. my cuticles are dry and gross and my thumbs are sore and I sometimes pick at the skin until it bleeds, and this is not attractive and it's nasty and painful and I'm done.” I didn't stop. So by 24 years old in 2012, after I had been working in my first post-college job for over a year and my job itself was extremely stressful already, I felt like I needed to try something new and instead of spending money on another Livingsocial restaurant deal, invest in something for myself and my own well-being.
I saw Grace's picture and read a little bit about Awaken NYC and decided to buy the e-deal and commit to a 6PM session on a random weeknight to see if one session with a pretty stranger could wipe away a quarter of a century worth of short stubby fingernails and straggly cuticles.
I remember being SO nervous my first session.. asked to used the bathroom beforehand because I was scared I'd have to pee while in hypnosis and I'd pee myself or something crazy. I remember Grace explaining the difference of stage hypnosis versus what she does, and that I won't wake up and have experienced a true blackout where I don't remember anything (and secretly she had made me dance around like a chicken or something) but instead, we are targeting the subconscious mind and I'd be experiencing a slight dream-state, etc. After my first session, I felt really comfortable with Grace Smith more than anything. I saw her as like an older-sister type.. and she also had an eerie resemblance to my goofy friend and roommate at the time, so I felt ever more connected to her. 🙂
I had about 8 sessions with Grace in Awaken NYC over the course of the next few months, and about my 4th session in, we had a really awesome breakthrough. Grace had me under in hypnosis and she prompted me to regress backwards in time. She had me try to recall my earliest memory, and then from there to a memory when I was a little girl… not a baby. And what flowed to me next was incredible. For the first time in about 15-20 years, I really accounted my experience as a 6-year old first grader in elementary school. Under hypnosis, I could remember my outfits, my classroom, my teacher, my classmates, etc. As Grace asked questions and we talked about that early memory, I described the overall experience of that year. **(Side note: as an adult, when I was about 20, sometimes I talked to my mom and dad about that first year. My recollection is that I had this great group of girlfriends, and it was fun, but my teacher was mean. That's really it. My mom, on the other hand, thinks I was “kind of depressed that year.” She says, “You would come home from school, and just sit on the couch and watch TV. And your only friend on our street was this weird boy across the street that you would sometimes go outside and play with. and I would ask you, ‘Jenny, how's school?' and you'd said, ‘it's fine.' but you really lost the life in you and you didn't smile much. And you would say how mean Mrs. Cottone was.” THIS BLEW MY MIND! I didn't know I was “depressed” or “not my bubbly, usual self”… how sad at 6 years old to be perceived as “down” and depressed by your parents!)
SO… I knew of this but we hadn't talked about it in years and I never really tried to go back and remember that first-grade year. But under hypnosis that session, I was talking about that year – the classroom, the teacher, getting in trouble for talking in class too much, etc. And when I was describing one incident where I remember getting called out in the middle of class and yelled at by my teacher because she thought I was talking to this girl Kate (when really Kate leaned over and asked me a question about a book I had on my desk, and I was just answering her). Grace said, “Good Jen.. this is great detail. Now tell me.. what do you see? What are you physically doing at this time? Where are your hands?” and I saw myself, embarrassed and cowered, getting yelled at by my mean Russian teacher, with my hands under my desk, rapidly picking my fingernails, out of nervousness, stress and anxiety. It was the first time that I realized that first grade year could have been the kickstart to my nail biting/picking problem. I saw myself in hypnosis doing the exact thing I have had a habit of doing. It was eye-opening. And from there, Grace and I would try to get to the root of when I pick my nails, in what environment, under what circumstances, what times of day, etc. so that I could try and 1) be more aware of it and 2) use some techniques to try and stop.
Over the course of the next year of so, we spoke pretty frequently, and my relationship with Grace expanded from just my nail-biting issue, to all of the other things she is so knowledgeable about. We spoke about life, and meditation and Past Life regressions, and the meaning of life. She ended up moving her office out of Manhattan, and I ended up leaving Manhattan December of 2013, but I continued to try and use daily mediation to stay calm and less anxious. I gained the courage to quit my stressful miserable job, leave the city that was overcrowded, expensive and making me anxious, and moved home to South Jersey in January 2014. I changed my city and my job to better help me get mentally and spiritually healthier.
Fast-forward 2.5 years… am I still biting my nails? No. (Because I keep them constantly manicured with gel). Am I still picking the gel off of my nails when my manicure starts to chip every 2 weeks? Yes. Once the gel is picked off, do I pick at my cuticles? Sometimes. Is it exacerbated by boredom or stress? Yes. Do I tend to do it more after a few cocktails? Also yes. But are there weeks at a time where my nails are healthy and growing and manicured and I don't touch them at all? YES. My point is that 8-10 hypnotherapy sessions over 3 years ago did not “cure me” or my 20+ year old long habit. If I had stuck with it, and really committed would it have? Maybe. But hypnotherapy isn't magic. It takes time, and patience and practice.. and takes a lot of self-talk and self-identification of the root of the problem. I wasn't “cured” from occasionally making my nails nasty and short and painful… but I did find clarity in what was triggering that for me. I recognized that my job and living in NYC was not good for me anymore… it was too stressful and my job was making me miserable and anxious and I needed to make a change. That change came after moving home in 2014, and then moving again into Philadelphia with my boyfriend in 2015… and working in a new job… and I have been the happiest and calmest and most alive I've been in years.