Living with Trich

This is a personal subject for me and I have no eloquent introduction, but this post has lived in the drafts folder far too long already. So here we go: I have trichotillomania. 

What is Trichotillomania? 


*Information in image is from TrichStop, which has more in-depth information.*

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Every "trichster" has a different story, but mine goes something like this. 
{This post could be a potential trigger to those suffering from BFRDs.}

I started pulling out my hair when I was 8 years old. In one night while watching a movie, I pulled out hair from the root in a 2 inch patch on top of my head. When my mom noticed the next morning, she was immediately concerned I was sick and that my hair was falling out. I didn't have the courage to tell her I had actually pulled it out.

After a frantic call to my pediatrician, they suggested she ask me if I had pulled it out myself. She asked me, and through sobs, I told her yes. She was immediately relieved I didn't have a life threatening illness. (To this day, whenever I feel frustrated by trich, I keep a healthy perspective that it’s not life threatening. I won't die from this. It’s embarrassing and stressful, but ultimately it IS just hair.)

The next step: Dealing with the aftermath. Luckily, a deep side part and panda bear hair clips were enough to do the trick to cover the top of my head while the hair grew back.

Other than that isolated incident, I didn't pull out my hair on my head again for years. I did have a few other OCD-spectrum issues as a child, but grew out of the classic obsessive door locking compulsions. I struggled with the urge to pull my eyelashes out for a couple years. This is where the OCD ties in with the trich: I had this thing where if I were to pull eyelashes from one lid and two lashes happen to come out, I'd then have to pull two lashes from the other eye. Then maybe three lashes come out when I try to just pull two, so I try to pull one more from the other eye to be "even.” And two come out. And so the cycle would continue.

The thing is, I haven’t touched my eyelashes in years.

I’ve had over-plucked eyebrows, to varying degrees over the years. They were very sparse in high school. I hadn’t yet learned how to fill them in with makeup to hide it. Luckily no one in my high school made fun of me for it, at least not to my face. Suffering from trich as a teen is hard enough without being bullied for it, and I’ve heard some stories of people who were, which is horrible and could really be it’s own separate blog post topic.

The ways trich manifests itself has definitely shifted for me over the years. In my early teens, I started pulling individual strands from my scalp. It took years until I was doing enough damage for trich to actually have a significant impact on my life. That’s the thing with trich, everyone’s experience is different. I’m somewhere in the middle of the severity spectrum. Many people have far more severe cases than mine, while for others it never gets so out of control to the point where it causes them emotional trauma.

For most of my life, the toll trich took on my scalp was never so bad that it was noticeable, or was at least always pretty easy to hide. Maybe some shorter strands here and there growing back, but not enough to cause me stress. However, in recent years it has gotten so much worse.

The pixie cut.

The pixie cut.

December of 2012 I was doing really well, but was frustrated that the hair growing back still had a long way to grow before catching up to the long length I kept my hair. I decided to get a pixie cut to have a fresh start. The pixie cut was very liberating and I had never felt more beautiful. I write a little about how my pixie cut shaped my sense of style in my guest post on my friend Lauren’s blog, Prefer to be Demure.

However, this pixie cut was supposed to “fix" everything, in my mind anyway. I expected, or at least hoped, it would be a reset button of sorts. I’d just let my hair grow out healthy and beautiful and everything would be fine, right?

I was okay for a while. And then I wasn't.

After my wedding, I decided it was time to start growing my hair back. I missed having long hair—it just feels "me.” For whatever reason, probably a combination of a stressful new job, the stress of trying to style hair growing out from a pixie cut, my caffeine intake, and countless other environmental factors, my compulsions became increasingly harder to control.

These days, I have thin patches and short sections of regrowth all over. You'll rarely see me with my hair down. At least not without a few bobby pins or a lot of hairspray. I even bought a set of hair extensions last month to wear when I want to feel like “the old me” with long hair. (I’m wearing them in this post.)

The stress from how bad I’ve let my situation get causes me to pull more, so the cycle is endless. Getting ready is an everyday struggle. “I’m having a bad hair day” takes on a whole new meaning when you have trich. I cry getting ready in the morning on days where my hair isn’t cooperating and is making it particularly hard to style in a way that disguises any damaged areas. I’ve had a few consecutive weeks here and there of being “pull free,” but I always seem to relapse.

For years, only my family and a few select others knew about this. In recent years, with each person I've told, its gotten easier and has become less and less of a big deal. I've had nothing but postive reactions of support and love from those I've told. There's something powerful about just allowing myself to be vulnerable and not having to worry about hiding my disorder. Like this blog post for example--telling the world about something I've struggled to hide since I was eight? Liberating.

I am so fortunate to have supportive people in my life to help me deal with trich. There is no cure, only treatments. It’s quite possible, if not very likely, that I will struggle with this forever so instead of self-pity and/or hiding, I want share my story and try to be somewhat of an advocate for discussing trich, spreading awareness, and helping to destigmatize trich and other similar disorders.

I hope that by sharing this part of myself I can connect with others who may be dealing with the same or similar issues. Depending on the response this post gets, I may have this be a recurring topic on my blog with posts that aim to both spread awareness and inform those who don't understand trich as well as posts to offer help and support to those who struggle with it.

Thank you for reading my story. If you are curious about any of this, you are welcome to ask me questions. If you suffer from trich and would like to keep that private, you are always welcome to email me or DM me on twitter if you want to talk. Trich can feel extremely isolating at times, but please know you are not alone.

Further Reading:

NOTE: This post was originally published on my blogger account before I switched to Squarespace and imported my Blogger posts. When I originally posted this, I was so pleased to receive quite a few lovely comments from both old and new readers. Original post can be viewed here