Katie is a 20-year old from Toronto. This is how she is Conquering with Keen Awareness, in her own words.
STRUGGLING WITH RESTLESS HANDS
I remember when I was really young I was always picking at scabs or scratching mosquito bites. People would always tell me - “Put a Bandaid/Itch Cream on it!” - but I’d always end up peeling that off the bandaid and scratching anyways. This didn’t cause a lot of problems when I was growing up, minus the occasional scolding I’d get from my parents/family/teachers. But as I grew older, the problem intensified. I had no idea that what I was doing was the beginning of my Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior or BFRB journey.
In high school, I started playing golf and I was taking advanced courses. This increased my stress level exponentially! My family and teachers constantly commented on how my hands were always in my hair. Also around this time, I began to feel itchy all the time. It didn’t matter how much Benadryl cream I used, my legs and my scalp were constantly itchy. I even asked my mother to take me to an allergist because we couldn’t figure out why I was always itchy. I just assumed that I was allergic to something I was being exposed to when I was playing golf.
I really began to worry when I was in my final semester of Grade 12 and my hair started falling out in clumps. I remembered crying to my best friend and begging her to shave off all my hair because I couldn’t go to school with bald spots. She refused, insisting there must be a better way to handle my problem. Instead I changed all of my hair products, using only products for sensitive skin and hair. This helped some, but I was still losing hair by the handfuls.
When I was in my first year at University, I eventually saw a psychiatrist because I had a really bad week when I was super hyper, dissociating, and had to wear gloves to avoid pulling out my hair. I kept insisting that I never knew when my hands were in my hair - just suddenly I’d have a handful of hair in my hands. My psychiatrist diagnosed me with ADHD and PTSD, and for a while, the stimulant I started began to lessen my hair pulling/scab picking. I wasn’t as fidgety, and I found my hands in my hair less and less.
But, I was still losing hair and I was constantly developing and picking off scabs from the back of my scalp. This was especially true in times of stress, which as an engineering student is more frequent than not! Eventually, after several visits to the psychiatrist about my hair pulling and skin picking, I was diagnosed with both dermatillomania and trichotillomania. It was so nice to have a name for my behavior, and to find a community of people who were also like me.
FINDING A BFRB SOLUTION
After my trichotillomania and dermatillomania diagnosis, my psychiatrist put me on medication. I hated the way it made me feel, so I began to look into alternatives. This is when I found HabitAware Keen! A support group on Reddit was talking about Keen and I immediately was interested in the product. I watched all the videos I could and ended up ordering Keen that night.
When Keen arrived, I trained it to alert me for two areas: picking at the back of my hair, and playing with my hair. Surprisingly, by training the area in the back of my hair, Keen also buzzed when I put my hand near my ear. This helped me discover a whole new BFRB behavior I didn’t even know about! Turns out I picked at scabs in my ears and I had no idea that I was doing it!
I told my boyfriend and my family about Keen and what it does, and they’ve all been so supportive of my recovery. Whenever my boyfriend notices me respond to the vibration, he immediately hands me a fidget or reminds me to get one. It’s now second nature for me to go for my fidget cube instead of my hair.
I also use the Keen’s side button to help track my behavior. I went from over 60 instances in one night to about eight or nine a day, with Keen’s help!
FROM SHAME TO PROUD AWARENESS
My neck and scalp area scabs have recovered completely! My hair is a changed beast all together. It’s now thicker than it’s ever been! I’m also remarkably scab free on my hands/arms/face, and managed to keep a set of gel nails for over three weeks!
Emotionally, I feel so powerful. I used to harbor so much shame about my skin and hair, and now I feel the complete opposite. It’s been life changing to be able to wear my hair up all day, and not compulsively pull it down to play with my hair. I feel in control.
BEING LOUD AND PROUD
I already have recommended Keen to others! Every person who asks me about it, I tell them how life changing Keen has been for me. I went back on the original Reddit thread where I found Keen in and commented about how I’m so thankful for the Reddit recommendation.
I spoke at a Conference about Women’s Mental Health in STEM and even spoke about Keen there! I had two or three people approach me afterwards to learn more about Keen.
When I went back to my psychiatrist, I showed him how much progress I’d made with Keen and now he’s put it on his list of patient supports!
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