Brianna, from Arizona, is 16 and has struggled with Trichotillomania for 6 years. This is how she is Conquering with Keen Awareness in her own words.
The Trials and Tribulations of Trichotillomania
Since the fifth grade, I've struggled with Trichotillomania. At first, it was unnoticeable. But after several months of repeatedly pulling out my hair, my parents noticed the problem one day when we went swimming. They didn't know what to think of it at first, and assumed it was from my head rubbing against the headboard of my bed in my sleep. I of course knew this was not the case but I was too afraid to speak up.
Other kids at school would talk about me and tease me and I always did my best to just brush it off, because this behavior from my peers wasn't anything new to me. By the middle of sixth grade, I had almost no hair along the hairline at the top of my head or at either side of my head. What hair was left fell to my shoulders in a tangled, messy mullet and I began disguising it by wearing hats whenever possible.
My parents transferred me to a different school, hoping a different environment would help me stop pulling my hair. Instead it only got worse, and my scalp would bleed and scab up. It was incredibly noticeable to my classmates. I was constantly ashamed and didn't leave home without something to cover my head. My dad was convinced I was trying to "embarrass him" or "get back at him" for some reason out of childish spite.
After the seventh grade and months of my parents threatening to cut off all of my hair, they finally followed through with it. I had a pixie cut and my hair appeared much more normal. My parents gave me an incentive to quit pulling my hair: I could dye my hair a cool color any time it grew out evenly enough to do so. However, over the next few years, I continued to have phases of pulling lots of hair, to months at a time when I would not pull hair. I never went swimming or participated in any activities where my hair would become wet so the abnormality would not be noticeable. I was stressed, confused, and anxious.
Researching Trichotillomania Solutions
I've always liked researching things and every now and then I'll type in "trichotillomania" into google and search through the news tabs, images tabs, and videos in order to find support. One day there was a link to the HabitAware website at the top of my google search that read "Retrain Your Brain." I was immediately interested in the Keen habit tracking bracelets. I was hopeful and started doing research, but wasn't sure my parents would approve due to the price.
"The vibration helps me to snap back to reality"
My parents decided to give Keen a try, and over the next few days I waited impatiently for my Keens to arrive. When they did, I trained them by doing a mock behavior of my hair pulling gesture. When I started using Keen, I didn't pull for twenty-seven days straight and only relapsed when I forgot to charge them and didn't have them with me the next day. The vibration helps me to snap back to reality and refocus my anxious energy on something else. It makes me aware of the subconscious behavior and is a reminder for conscious behavior.
From Shame to Proud Awareness
I would definitely recommend Keen for people with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) like Trichotillomania, Dermatillomania (skin picking), and Onychophagia (nail biting). It helped me to tame rampant behavior that I wasn't able to stop for YEARS. For those who have gotten or are thinking of getting Keen, remember to charge your Keens every night so you can use them the next day, and don't be ashamed of them!
"I’ve come to accept that I shouldn’t be ashamed"
Over the years I grew used to people asking me questions about my hair and why it’s so short. When people would catch me pulling my hair I’d explain that it was a part of my anxiety disorder. Now people ask me about my Keens and what they’re for. At first I do feel a little bit nervous when I tell new people, but I use it as a way to educate them about Trichotillomania and Dermatillomania. The best advice I can give other kids or teenagers like me is to use your Keens to teach people so that they will learn about BFRBs and will have understanding and compassion when they come across other people with these habits. Everyone who has asked me about my bracelets has been extremely kind and understanding. I've come to accept that I shouldn't be ashamed and it helps to know that there are other people just like me working to overcome this, too.
"I don’t have to live my life hiding who I am"
I'm amazed by the results and my life has improved so much! My hair is almost fully grown in and I was even able to bleach it, and now I get compliments all the time! I'm not ashamed anymore and I can tell that I have extremely low levels of anxiety and stress. I don't have to live my life hiding who I am and I'm so extremely grateful for it.