Everyone experiences anxiety on occasion, but for the 40 million adults in the US with anxiety disorders, everyday life can feel utterly overwhelming. Megan Lynne Ferrero knows this all too well. And in a moment of pure bravery, she took to Facebook to show her followers the ugly side of this mental illness.
The post has been shared nearly 200,000 times in less than two weeks. It has also amassed over 22,000 comments, many from people sharing their own struggles with anxiety. The photo is especially grabbing, showing the results of nail-biting and skin-picking — habits many anxious people develop as an outlet for their ever-present nervousness.
It takes incredible courage to share an image of something society considers to be “ugly” and “embarrassing.” We’re so thoroughly conditioned to hide the results of these “bad” habits that most of us have no idea just how common they are. Megan’s Facebook post is helping to bring people together.
An estimated 2 to 5 percent of people have a skin-picking disorder.
“Anxiety isn’t just chest pains, crying, and the inability to relax,” Megan wrote. “It’s biting your nails until they bleed, then picking off the skin on your fingers once you’re out of nails to bite.”
Although the photo of Megan’s hand might seem shocking to some, many others know exactly how she feels. Some people were even moved to share their own photos of their bitten nails and chewed fingers, as well as their own stories and struggles with anxiety.
Others offered advice, such as using bandages to cover areas you want to chew, as well as encouragement.
“I’ve been a chewer and skin picker since I was a kid, always dealt with severe anxiety for no apparent reason,” said one commenter. “Good luck to everyone that is also suffering, it will get better.”
Living With Anxiety
There was much more to the post than just nail biting and skin picking, however. Megan poured her heart out, listing several clearly personal struggles caused by her anxiety.
“It’s driving to the store only to sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes before turning back around, without even going inside.
“It’s getting a text message and forgetting to respond promptly, so instead of responding explaining you were busy, you leave the notification there for days, weeks, even months, getting a knot in your stomach every time you scroll past it or every time that person’s name comes up.
“It’s hearing a noise and planning in your mind where you’ll hide, what doors you’ll lock, and how you’ll secretly call for help if someone broke into your house.
“It’s asking your partner several times a day if they love you, partially kidding, but mostly needing to hear it because you find it so hard to love yourself in that moment.”
She concluded by explaining that, although it was difficult for her to share her struggles, she hopes that it will help others feel supported.
She wrote, “It’s hard for me to share this and a little embarrassing to include this picture, but if even one person finds comfort in knowing they’re not alone in this, then I’m going to push past my comfort zones to do that.”
Megan runs a natural makeup and skin care (and positivity) Facebook page that has just over 1,700 followers. She also posts about motherhood, relationships, and various personal struggles.
Although she has plenty of helpful posts, this is the first time something from her Facebook page has blown up to this extent. To her surprise, she woke up to see her story published on several different websites.
“I truly had no idea how many people would relate to my struggles, and share their very own personal ones with me,” she wrote in a recent post.
“If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s to speak your truth and make your voice be heard. Whether that be the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. Because someone, somewhere, is going through exactly what you are.”
In an interview with the Mighty, she explained that she doesn’t want people to be fooled into thinking that her life is perfect by posting only done-up, perfect photos of herself.
“The reality of it is that you can look one way on the outside yet feel the complete opposite on the inside,” she said. “That’s why I very often share pictures of me bare faced, and it’s why I decided to include the picture of my fingers post-anxiety attack when I shared my story.”
“At the end of the day, we’re all human,” Megan wrote. “We’re all here for the laughs and the cries and the stresses and the magic. Might as well not go through it alone.”
Her followers certainly agree with her, as well as the flood of new friends and followers she’s received.
“My inbox is super flooded, so if you’re waiting on a response, please be patient with me,” she said in a post two days after the original. “I have so many friend requests I don’t even know where to start.”
When 18.1 percent of American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, it’s no surprise people are loving Megan right now. And in a stress-filled world, we could all use more of that kind of support.
Thank you, Megan!