Casey is a 20-year old from New York City. This is how she is Conquering with Keen Awareness, in her own words.
HIDING AND ALONE WITH TRICHOTILLOMANIA
It all began in elementary school. I remember I was in my bedroom when my parents asked me where my eyelashes went. I didn’t know what they were talking about at first and then I ran to the mirror to discover that my eyelashes were all gone. I started to panic because I didn’t know how this happened and I didn’t even remember pulling them out.
At the same time, my friend's parents started noticing my missing eyelashes and would point it out. I felt so self-conscious because I already had body image issues and now there was something else I need to hide.
I would try to ignore people when they asked me about my missing eyelashes. But that was really hard because people are trying to make eye contact with you.
My parents decided to send me to a therapist and that was not was not my cup of tea! I resisted at an early age because I took therapy as a sign that I was crazy. Looking back I know that wasn’t the case, but my young brain was like ‘psycho’ and ‘psychologist” or a doctor for crazy people. I stopped after one session and continued to live my life. However, I was super aware of my behavior and became even more frustrated when I noticed myself pulling. The sensation felt so ‘right’ that I didn’t care if it was affecting my appearance. If someone isn’t going to like me because I don’t have eyelashes then that is their loss.
Then, I went through a period where I was in ‘remission.’ I stopped pulling my eyelashes for about 3 years without any help. But that didn’t last. My pulling picked up again as soon as I began high school and that threw me into a rut. During my high school years, I was extremely self-conscious and the last thing I wanted was to go out in public. I attended an all-girls high school and most of the girls wondered why I didn’t wear mascara. I couldn’t. There was nothing there. I didn’t make a big deal about it in high school even though the situation got worse. I began to pull more frequently and started to use tweezers which took the situation to a whole new level.
Towards the end of high school, I tried therapy, this time to get my anxiety under control. I didn’t talk about my trichotillomania with my therapist because I was too embarrassed. My top concern was my Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Despite how long I worked with the therapist, I still have anxiety. That’s just something I’m going to have to suffer with my whole life. I did have another period where I didn’t pull for a while and had a full set of lashes on both eyes, but as soon as I started college that quickly changed.
My freshman year was rough and I was also coping with the loss of my grandfather. I can’t directly relate the pulling to the grief and depression, but I’m sure it didn’t help. I went through a phase my freshman year where I just pulled and pulled without a single thought. I was doing it as a way to isolate myself and make people stay away. As my college career continued, I realized that a big part of my major was camera-heavy. Whenever a camera is involved, that also means makeup is coming. I would never let anyone get close to my face out of fear of being found out and noticing I didn’t have any eyelashes. But that is exactly what happened once I started broadcasting. Right in front of my professors, I felt humiliated. I had no answers or explanation.
MOVING FROM HOPELESS TO HOPEFUL
That was the moment I realized that I needed to stop pulling out my hair because I wouldn’t be successful in my chosen field that has a “looks based” focus. One night, in the middle of a pulling episode I searched on Google for "trichotillomania solutions" and HabitAware Keen came up. I was skeptical at first because I’ve tried other small things like vaseline, gloves, putty, etc and nothing worked. I looked around on Keen’s website and thought this was the next best thing that I haven’t tried. However, the price point was a problem because as a broke college student I didn’t have any extra money to spend. I told my therapist about it and she told me about the Keen Giving Program. After a few interviews, I was selected to receive a Keen bracelet and that is when my life changed.
When Keen arrived in the mail, I immediately opened the box and hopped on a free phone call with a Keen family team member to learn how to train the bracelet. Once I figured out the motion and position that I commonly use when I pull, I was able to set it to go off whenever my hand was approaching my eye. In the first few weeks, I would not leave my dorm room without my Keen. I definitely recommend to reaching out to HabitAware if you need help training, as they offer free video training.
About a month and a half of using Keen, I was able to understand more about my eyelash pulling habit. My awareness grew. I became aware of when my hand was raising and was able to put it down before I started. I’m so proud to write that I haven’t pulled in nearly 5 months and that is something I haven’t been able to say in a long while.
CONFIDENCE, COURAGE AND HOPE
I now have the confidence to pursue my major as a journalism student who is not afraid to be on camera and make eye contact with other people. Before Keen, I felt that I had no way out and that I was going to have to live my life without eyelashes. Keen restored my faith in making a change. Everyone else saw it except for me. Keen opened my eyes.
I would definitely recommend Keen to others struggling with a BFRB. The device looks like a fit-bit so there are no random questions. And with proper training, it works! At first I was a bit skeptical, but I actually tried to make a conscious effort to stop. Keen doesn’t do the hard work for you, but it gives you a gentle reminder not to pull.
I would suggest making sure your Keen is charging during the night so you are not panicking in the morning when it is dead, and you need it. While I am now in ‘remission,’ I know if my behavior returns, Keen is there to help me get back on track and that gives me hope for the future.