Over the past few months, whilst battling with my Trich (as usual) and trying to regrow my hair, there is one phrase that I’ve heard more than any other. I’ve heard this phrase on the Trichotillomania Facebook Support Group I’m a member of, I’ve seen it written on countless Trichotillomania blogs – and I’m even guilty of using it myself.
The phrase is: ‘Pull-Free.’
I know what you’re thinking. And yes, it is not surprising in the slightest that I, a person with a compulsion to constantly pull my own hair out, would come across this term often. And yes, many Trichers find striving for a pull-free life to be very helpful and even therapeutic. It’s just that I’ve realised (very recently), that I am not one of those Trichers.
Let me explain:
I was ‘pull-free’ myself, for 29 days. From the 22nd June to 21st July, I did not pull a single hair out. It’s the longest I’ve ever gone and it was so hard – especially seeing as I’m struggling with a bad bout of depression at the moment and have been for the past few months.I wish I could put into words how difficult it was in a more eloquent way, but I can’t. All I can say is that those 29 days were a blur of twitching fingers, gritted teeth and cycling thoughts.
‘The longer I go pull-free, the easier it’ll get.’ I thought. But was that the case? No.
So really, it should have come as no surprise when on Day 30, the day that should have been a positive milestone for me, was the day that I woke up, hands already touching my head, covered in my own hair.
I realised what I’d done straight away. Believe it or not, the scenario is not unfamiliar to me, so it didn’t take me long to put two and two together. There was a brief moment where I attempted to think up a lie to tell myself about what had happened. When I couldn’t think of one, I sat up, thought ‘f**k it’ and then I continued to pull my hair out. Just to make the tragic irony of that sink in, I’ll repeat it: I CONTINUED TO PULL MY HAIR OUT.
And then afterwards, I curled up and cried in bed for about half an hour.
Because I’d been so close. I’d almost made it an entire month pull-free, and I’d fallen at the last hurdle because I was weak.
It took me three days of moping around to realise that that wasn’t the case.29 days was actually an incredible achievement. The fact of the matter was, I’d put too much pressure on myself. And why was that? Because of the notorious phrase ‘Pull-Free’ and everything it stands for.
‘Pull-Free’ is what all Trichers seem to be aiming for. Because if we’re not pulling out our own hair, then that means we’re cured, right? WRONG.
If I were to stop pulling my hair out, that wouldn’t mean that I don’t have Trichotillomania anymore. Just like when I shaved my head, I didn’t shave away my condition.
I wish it were that simple, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I think it’s unrealistic to believe that I’ll ever be pull-free. And if that’s true, then why should I feel like a failure every day of my life just for having a condition and doing the best I can to cope with it?
Quite frankly if I pull out eight hairs one day and seven the following day, that’s something I should be celebrating.
And if I have a bad day and I’m overwhelmed and I give in and pull out a hair or two, why should I feel guilty about that?
Being pull-free isn’t everything. Which is why from now on I’m not going to track how many days it’s been since I pulled.The app I have, HabitSeed, that tells me how long I’ve resisted pulling urges and rewards me by growing a cute little tree on my phone, is going to be deleted.
It’s time for me to start celebrating the little things.
Like the fact that my hair, which three months ago I had none of, is now over an inch long.
And all those patchy bits on my head, the bald spots that a few weeks ago I thought would never grow back? They’re finally started to grow.
In fact, my hair is growing so well – and so quickly – that I actually need to brush it now:
These are the milestones I care about. They may be little but they all add up.
And in no way am I saying that I’m going to just give up and let my Trich win; of course, I’m going to continue to fight off my pulling urges the best I can – I’ve made too much progress to go back now. I’m just saying that living with this condition is hard enough without me being my own worst enemy. It’s time that I started being kinder to myself, so I can become my own hero instead.