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Trichotillomania Acceptance

“You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf." -Joseph Goldstein

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Liberating Exhaustion

I’m not going to pretend like there aren’t some shitty things about trich. It causes shame. It causes guilt. It causes a lot of embarrassment. I’ve been there.

Before I started pulling, I’d rub my mouth against the hair on my legs and arms. I’d run my head hair through my lips. I’d play with individual hairs on my eyebrows. It was like my brain had this massive craving for something but I had no idea what. I had no idea what this seemingly instinctual, overwhelming craving was until I pulled that first hair.

This is why I don’t believe it’s merely a habit. In fact, I hate that word in regards to trich.

The definition of a habit is,

“A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”

With the definition, it makes sense why my old counselor insisted it was just a habit, but I still disagree. If you don’t brush your teeth twice a day, that can develop into a bad habit. If you eat right before bed every night, that can develop into a habit. If you work out every day, that can develop into a good habit.

This feels like more than a habit. There is some unknown reason my brain needs this and nobody knows what that is, and it was there even before I pulled that first hair.

I started pulling when I was 13. Some people had been telling me how bushy my eyebrows were and how I should pluck them. It was around that time where I started caring about being pretty. I remember being worried it was going to hurt. I had a moment of motivation and I finally took a pair of tweezers, went into the bathroom, and pulled a hair. It wasn’t painful. It was one of the most relieving feelings I’d ever experienced. Some seemingly unknown force took over my hand, my eyes and my motions. Suddenly, I was no longer in control of my eyebrow grooming. In the same moment I wanted to groom myself to appear more attractive, I pulled out every single hair. I went from feeling euphoria to a sudden, devastating panic.

If you don’t have trich, just imagine your hand suddenly starts ripping your hair out and no matter how much you say, “Ah, stop!” or “What are you doing?” you can’t stop. That’s exactly what it is.

I thought I was crazy. I thought I was alone. I just wanted to hide and never been seen again. I managed to draw on some horrible looking eyebrows with an old eye pencil I found at the bottom of a drawer.

A year later was when I started pulling at my eyelashes, and it was met with the same shock and panic as the first time I pulled from my eyebrows.

I hid it from everyone including my parents and closest friends. I wore fake lashes every single day (Which was a pain in the ass), I kept my head down at school and in public places. I found I couldn’t even talk to some people for fear they’d notice. If anyone asked me why my eyebrows looked like shit or why I was suddenly missing eyelashes, I’d become overwhelmed with anxiety and embarrassment. I’d say, “What do you mean?” or “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Every single confused look I’ve ever gotten is permanently engraved into my memory. I continued hiding for a good 7 years until I started pulling from my scalp.

I decided that hiding it was fucking exhausting.

While it’s difficult to do so, I’ve learned it’s so much better to just say, “I have trichotillomania which causes me to compulsively pull out my hair out.” They may not understand, they may have a lot of questions, they may give you a weird look, but there’s relief in knowing you’re not hiding something that has such a big impact on your life. The understanding and amount of support from opening up can also be a surprising weight off the shoulders.

Opening up to others and being honest about trich was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Only then was I able to truly start being comfortable in my own skin again and was the thing that ultimately lead me to being able to accept it.

The problem is, there are still people out there who think they’re crazy and alone. Opening up and spreading awareness is extremely important, and can benefit not only you, but others with trich too.

-Ann

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