Grateful for Trichotillomania

Doing the work of going inward and really understanding your feelings and your thoughts is hard work.

Trichotillomania: an abnormal desire to pull out one’s hair.
The word trichotillomania derives from the Greek trich- (“hair”) and tillein (“to pull or pluck”), along with the suffix -mania (from mainesthai, meaning “to be mad”). (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

What I am about to talk about right is very hard for me to write about, let alone speak out loud about. It’s something that has haunted me for years and until now, haven’t told very many people because of how ashamed I was for it. For years, ever since I can remember I have been picking and pulling my eyelashes and eyebrows out. I feel I remember it starting back in 7th grade. I was in middle school, I had braces, not feeling the best, shy, awkward, quiet, puberty was starting for me and I genuinely never felt pretty or that I was good enough when I was younger. There is a lot that happens around this age for most kids, and I can understand why I picked up this habit, which some consider an OCD habit.

In this picture you can see a bit of my eyebrows are missing and if you look closely at my eyelids some of my eyelashes are missing too. This was back in October 2020 after I had started my journey of MM for. about a month.

Back when my mom started noticing that I didn’t have any eyelashes or eye brows she was immediately concerned. I’ll always remember her speaking to me during dinner one night. We had happened to be in a little Diner eating dinner as a family when my mom noticed I didn’t have any eyelashes or eyebrows. She started to talk to me about it, asking me quietly about why I didn’t have any eyelashes or eyebrows. I was already very insecure of myself at this point in my life. ( Also what didn’t help was that this one ‘popular’ girl in my band class was at the table next to us and I didn’t want her to hear anything for fear of being judged and this going all around school.) (I feel so much for my younger self as I am writing this, so much healing I still need to do to be okay with this part of myself). After that night, my mom never stopped asking me questions about it. “Did you know that you didn’t have any eyelashes or eyebrows? When did this start? Why are you doing this to yourself?” I felt I was getting even more insecure than I already was with her asking me questions. At this point I didn’t see it as her being a concerned parent, I felt I was being judged, and humiliated and I just wanted her to stop. My mom had no idea how to handle this situation. She had never known of anyone doing this to themselves.

But then one day as my mom and I were ‘Driving to go to McDonalds’ (yes I use to eat McDonalds, but I stopped going years ago and will NEVER EVER go back), or so I thought, she pulls into my Pediatricians office. I asked her why we were here. We were there because my mom didn’t know what to do, so she was looking for help for me and brought me to the doctors office to have me talk about why I was pulling them out. I have no idea how she got me to go in or what she exactly said to me to go in (must’ve blacked it out) but what I do remember is the doctor asking me questions about why I was doing it. I remember saying it was because of stress. (Which at the time was mostly true, but what I didn’t realize, and won’t realize until much later in my life was exactly why I was doing it.) I was very stressed as a teenager, acne, starting my period and having awful symptoms during it, never really had a boyfriend or many guys interested in me growing up, so much insecurity about myself and my body. This was the day that I stopped talking to my mom for a while, I didn’t trust her and it took me a long time to forgive her. All that I saw from this situation was my mom lying to me and taking me to a place that I didn’t want to go to. I felt no one understood me and I wanted to hide more than ever.

This is the most recent picture of me, part of my eyebrows missing. I realized that I do not have many photos of me from when I was younger. So my more recent pictures will have to do.

For a long time I wasn’t consciously aware of myself picking at them. Until I would look in the mirror and realize empty patches now exist. I’ll always remember this specific time that I was picking my eyelashes, and it was one of the times I was consciously aware of doing it. I was sitting on my couch and I just started picking at my lashes. I had this feeling that I had to do it. I kept picking until I picked the ‘right’ lash out and I felt I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know why, I just had to keep doing it until I got the right one out. (I feel almost crazy writing about this experience.) I saved all of of these lashes and ended up counting them out once I felt I got the ‘right’ one. After I counted them all I immediately rushed to the bathroom to check out my face in the mirror and I immediately cried. I felt ashamed for what I had done to myself. Eyelashes exist on your eyelids for a purpose, to keep things out of your eye. And now I had gone and pulled most of them out for reasons I couldn’t quite understand. What I did understand was that it was some sort of release for me that was only temporary, until I realized the damage I had done.

My mom and I from our trip to Maine.

Today my mom and I have a really good relationship, better than I when I was younger. She’s always there for me when I need her and I am grateful to have her as my mom, someone who I can talk about anything with. We actually just went on a trip together to visit her sisters in Maine. Today, I still have a little bit of pulling out my eyelashes and eyebrows, but they have been growing back so much nicer than they ever have since switching to MM. I still have my moments where I can’t control myself but I can start to recognize it and have compassion for myself in the moment and after. I have to remember that I have been doing this for over 20 years and it eventually became a habit for me. It is going to take a long time for me to stop pulling them because of how long I have been doing it. But what I can tell you is that I am healing every day and still learning about myself. I am so much better than I ever have been in my life, so much more at peace with who I am. Eventually I will have my eyelashes and eyebrows back more full than when I was a kid. I know in my heart that, that day is coming. But for now I will take the time to make sure I have compassion and love for myself , and try to understand what is really going on inside my head or ask myself what am I feeling in this current moment. Also needing to honor my past because there has been hurt for a long time. Doing the work of going inward and really understanding your feelings and your thoughts is hard work. To sit there and talk out loud or talk in your head or even journaling about it is not easy. It really takes a lot of dedication to want to change and work on yourself, especially when there are so many distractions out there. But Hey, we all start somewhere and I am choosing to start now by sharing my story.

Much Love,
CLD

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