Kate is a 28-year-old American living in Australia who has been struggling with Trichotillomania, Trichophagia and Dermatillomania for 15 years. This is how she’s Conquering with Keen, in her own words.
Struggling with Multiple BFRBs
I’ve had Trichotillomania, the hair-pulling disorder, and Trichophagia, the hair-eating disorder, for 15 years, since I was 13. I also have bouts of Dermatillomania, the skin-picking disorder, when my stress levels are through the roof. These three mental health conditions, along with many others, are known as Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, or BFRBs.
When my Trich first started, it was focused just on my eyelashes. Over time, it moved to my scalp. I had a tiny bald spot at the front of my head during high school and it was such a confidence killer. No matter how great I was at school or sports, privately, I felt really low. The bald spot grew. I started wearing wigs at 15 and have never stopped. At my worst points, I have had no eyelashes, no eyebrows and almost no hair on my whole head. During those times, I felt demoralized and helpless.
I used pulling as a form of emotional regulation
Looking back, I was so stressed by outside factors that I used pulling as a form of emotional regulation. Sometimes pulling was comforting, sometimes it was a form of punishment for failure and sometimes it was a form of celebrating success.
For most of my life with Trich, I hid how I was really doing. No one knew how crappy I felt about myself, probably because in public I tend to come off as very confident. If someone were to name my attributes, “crushingly low self-esteem” wouldn’t be on the list. Yet, that’s often how I felt -- like I was constantly failing myself by having no control over my pulling.
Sharing the Journey - Sharing Awareness
Over the past year, at age 28, I decided to make a lot of very significant changes. I was tired of feeling bad about myself all the time. I started talking about Trich -- to everyone. I started a blog, Why Do I Pull My Hair Out, to document Trich facts I learned as I researched. I started going to therapy and taking medication.
I was searching online for a way to control my Trich at home when I found Keen by HabitAware, the habit-tracking bracelet. I liked that the bracelets were created by someone who had a BFRB and knew how it felt, and that the bracelets looked cool enough to pass as a fitness tracker. I started wearing my two Keen bracelets as soon as I received them in the mail.
I wanted to invest in the Keen bracelets because I work from home, often alone. Since I only pull when I’m alone, it feels like constantly being in a danger zone. My Keen bracelets used to remind me when my hands rose, retraining my brain over time to forgo that behavior. Now, I don’t usually raise my hands at all, although the bracelets make me aware of my hands and alert me if I do. Keen has been crucial to my at-home success. I’m currently writing a modern guide to Trich, a book I’m planning to publish next year -- something I never would have attempted without the use of Keen at home.
Making so many conscious changes to my lifestyle was a bit daunting at first. It was frankly terrifying to start on the path and I did have some setbacks. After the first six months, the ups and downs slowly evened out and I have not pulled at all for a few months now. That’s a really big deal for me, as I used to pull every day.
Confidence Leads to Happiness and Hope
I highly recommend Keen to others. The awareness bracelet can help break unconscious behaviors like biting nails, and picking skin, in addition to pulling hair. My advice is to just remember that the Keen bracelet will only work as well as you allow it to. Stopping your behavior when the buzzing happens and logging your behaviors are part of the Keen bracelet process. It won’t work if you ignore the buzzing or your behavior.
The Keen bracelet will only work as well as you allow it to
Personally, it took me a few weeks to find my sweet spot with Keen. I realized that since I only pull when I’m alone at home, there was no need to wear them out, although you absolutely can. I also trained the sensitivity levels to be more accurate over those weeks, so the bracelet would only buzz at the right area. Just be patient when first using Keen while you discover which way of using it best suits your needs and lifestyle.
Physically, I have all of my eyelashes and eyebrows. My scalp hair is growing back in too. I started shaving my head in University as a way to limit what I could pull (it was under my wig, so no one could see the change anyway). Yet, I still did pull at the top of my head quite a lot and the damage there is the worst. Now, I shave my head every few months as the patchy areas even out and wear wigs over the top.
I'm feeling happier and more confident than ever
My dream is to have my own hair again. I’m feeling happier and more confident than ever. Now, I’m focused on having my own hair again (something I haven’t had in a decade), sharing Trich info on my blog and YouTube channel, Trich and Treat, and writing and publishing a book about Trich that is accessible for everyone. Therapy, medication and my Keen bracelets have given me back the confidence I never had at home, which has flooded all other areas of my life with positivity, happiness and hope for the future.
Kate, thank you for taking the huge step of sharing your story with your audience, our Keen Family, and soon, the world with your book! We hope your future is flooded with happiness! You’ll find Kate on Facebook at Why Do I Pull My Hair Out? and in her private Facebook group, Trich & Treat. You can also follow her blog at Why Do I Pull My Hair Out? and her YouTube channel at Trich and Treat.