Years and years of wanting my own blog about something I care about and months and months of wanting a platform to talk about Trichotillomania, and I finally clicked and decided to hit two birds with one stone.
So here I am, up and running, and prioritising writing my first blog post over working though my hefty workload for uni. And when I say I’m up and running, I really mean I just got antsy and hurriedly set this all up – I am definitely not satisfied with how this is looking and plan to make a lot more changes! But for now, this will sate the impatient part of me that just can’t wait to get started. So here I go:
I have an impulse-control disorder called Trichotillomania. Now, by dictionary definition, this is:
I suppose that is correct and does sum it up nicely. But that’s not all there is to it. There are details in that definition that can’t be included, because the specifics of this condition are entirely dependent on the person.
For example, what I’ve learned since I began talking to other Trichsters after being officially diagnosed late last year is that there are different kind of hair-pullers who focus on different areas. Some are head-hair pullers, some eyebrow and eyelash pullers, some pull from their arms, legs and even pubic area. Now, I always pulled from my head and never wandered elsewhere, but after I shaved my head in February, and my pulling urges weren’t letting up, I began to pull from my eyebrows and eyelashes. Now I’m here in April and at the moment, there are gaps in my eyelashes where I’ve pulled and half of my right eyebrow is gone, as well as being bald.
I’ve also learned that Trichotillomania is just one condition under an umbrella of others of its kind, which are formally known as BFRBs (Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours). Other body-focused repetitive behaviours are: hair nibbling, hair cutting, skin picking, skin nibbling, nail picking, nail biting and cheek biting.
Now, when I was researching my own condition and came across this, I thought what you’re probably thinking now: ‘But these are just nervous habits, aren’t they? I know so many people who do these things, surely they’re not ALL suffering from BFRBs?’. And you’re right, they probably aren’t.
I’ve bitten my nails for years but I wouldn’t consider it a problem the way I consider my hair-pulling a problem. Because if I don’t bite my nails, I don’t feel tense and stressed and agitated the way I do if I want – need – to pull out my hair. I just don’t bite my nails, it’s very simple. I don’t feel like I’m challenging my self-control by not biting. I just don’t.
But I can’t ‘just not’ pull out my hair – and there is the difference.
Having Trichotillomania has serious impact on me and the way I live my life. How am I supposed to relax and enjoy myself when I feel like people are staring at the bald patches on my head and wondering what’s wrong with me? How am I supposed to focus on anything when the entire time I’m trying to write an essay, or read a book or even have a conversation with someone, all I can think about is how much I want to pluck a hair from my head from the root? Because not only do I have to pull out my hair, I have to get the root. I need to feel that pop or I won’t be satisfied and then I have to pull out another hair.
Sometimes I end up in what I call my ‘trance-like states’, which is when I just sit, pluck a hair out, look at it, drop it, pluck another one out, look at it, etc.
Other times, I make deals with myself in my head: ‘Beth, you are allowed to pluck out five hairs today and then you have to stop.’
Turns out, I’m not very good at honouring these deals and won’t stop until my lap is covered with hair.
Shaving my head helped with this because I don’t really have the hair to pull anymore, but my trance-like states and deals are still things I cope with on a daily basis: It’s hard to resist a pair of tweezers, especially when the sun shines through your bedroom window and makes them glint so it’s like a sign from the heavens telling me to use them. I didn’t say that to sound poetic either, this is the way I justify things to myself. I wish it would help with my guilt but it really really doesn’t.
So why am I making this blog? Clearly I don’t have this under control whatsoever and probably shouldn’t be an example to others who are suffering. Why do I feel the need to have a platform to talk about my Trichotillomania, anyway? Well, I’ll tell you.
I spent years feeling completely alone, because I didn’t know there was a hair-pulling condition and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. People would compliment my lovely long hair, not knowing that I’d carefully styled it to cover bald patches. It was embarrassing and isolating and completely damaging to my self-esteem – which I didn’t have a lot of to begin with.
After being told officially that I had Trichotillomania, the first thing that hit me was relief. This condition wasn’t me, it was just that, a condition. And if the condition wasn’t me, that meant that I can regain control of it. So I started talking about it – and people started listening.
It began with this:
From this Facebook status came this overwhelming response. Within an hour, my inbox was filled with messages. Friends sent me messages showing their support, other people with similar issues sent me messages confiding in me, but there was one that struck a chord with me most. A girl around the same as me from Alaska took the time to send me a message. In this message, she told me that she has suffered for years with the condition and has only been able to bring herself to tell two people. She talked about how embarrassing it was trying to hide her bald patches. Everything she said was very touching and very relatable. I remember reading her message and stopping halfway through because I’d teared up. She was the first person I’d ever spoken to who had the same condition as me, and I was the first person she’d spoken to who had the same condition as her and that was a really special thing. And then she said this:
“Reading your post and discovering that I’m not alone, is incredibly comforting for me. And despite us not knowing each other at all except for our names, I think you’re a beautiful person with a beautiful heart. Keep at it because further down the road, there’s going to be another girl who needs someone to look up to. And the person to help her through will be you.”
And I decided that this person she was talking about was exactly who I wanted to be.
So while I am the first to admit that I myself am just finding my feet with this condition, I hope people do follow me on the journey I’m on here. Right now, it’s enough for me that I have had an effect on that one person, but it would make me incredibly happy to do the same for others. And if sharing my story as it goes on does that, then that is exactly what I’m going to do.