Elizabeth is a 21-year-old from Rhode Island, attending school in upstate New York. She’s struggled with Trichotillomania since age 12. This is how she’s Conquering with Keen Awareness, in her own words.
For as long as can remember, I’ve played with my hair. But in 6th grade I started pulling out my hair. I have absolutely no idea what started it, but I have distinct memories of twirling the little hairs in between my hands, which were sitting on my desk at school. The girl sitting across from me looked at me weird and said, “Eww... is that your hair?!” And at that moment, I knew what I was doing was not “normal” and that I should be ashamed of it. And I had no idea it was a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) called Trichotillomania.
I would pull out hairs and fold and twist them and stretch them back out. When the hair would inevitably become a little knot, I’d drop it and pull another. I left little piles of hair in all my classrooms at school. On picture day in 7th grade, I was sitting in class and I grabbed a bit of my hair from behind my ear because that’s where the best hairs to play with were. As I tugged it to get it apart from the rest of my hair, instead of just one hair, I had pulled out an entire chunk. Probably 100 hairs were in my hand. I was mortified. From that day until the end of that school year I wore my hair in a ponytail because I was scared I would rip out another chunk of hair. Albeit I could still pull, but it was significantly more difficult when my hair was in a ponytail.
"I hated Trichotillomania and how “weird” it made me feel"
Since 7th grade, I had many failed attempts to stop my hair pulling. I’d stop for maybe a day but then I’d be right back into the swing of it. I hated Trichotillomania and how “weird” it made me feel. I hated all the little baby hairs that would grow back in and stick up out of my head. I hated it all. I live by the coast where it’s relatively humid most of the time, so the baby hairs were out of control most of the time. I hated that my hair wasn’t smooth like all of the other girls in school.
Then one day last summer, an ad came up before a YouTube video. It was for Keen, the habit tracking bracelet by HabitAware. I was immediately intrigued. Something innocuous I can wear that will give me an equally innocuous vibration when I’m pulling as a way to snap me out of the trance that I go into when I pull? It sounded too good to be true!
"One of my hands always seemed to be in my hair"
I did a little research, and found out people were LOVING their Keens. When my mom got home that night from work, I showed her the ad. She had noticed that I pulled my hair out a few years prior so she was as excited for me to stop as I was to actually stop pulling. That night we ordered my Keen. When my Keen arrived and I set it up, I immediately started realizing how much I touched, played with, and pulled my hair. It didn’t matter if I was driving or watching TV or playing a computer game—one of my hands always seemed to be in my hair.
Within days, I was pull-free. The little vibration that the habit tracker gave me was just enough to bring my attention to the pulling, allowing me to stop. After a few weeks I stopped wearing my Keen because I found I wasn’t pulling anymore. It had increased my awareness in that short period of time, and allowed me to retrain my brain to stop pulling out my hair.
The Keen bracelet "allowed me to retrain my brain to stop pulling out my hair"
A few weeks ago, I was in a dressing room at the mall and the lighting was quite harsh. I could literally see a line of demarcation in my hair, where the hundreds of little baby hairs stop. It was a moment I’ve been waiting for since I started pulling 12 years ago! I’ve tried to stop my hair pulling in the past but it had never worked until now.
There’s no way I could possibly say enough about the freedom my Keen has given me. Being pull-free is the best thing that’s happened to me! Thank you, HabitAware!
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Together with Abbe Greenberg and Maggie Sarachek, of the Anxiety Sisters, and Lauren McKeaney of PickingME Foundation we recorded a podcast to share treatments for body focused repetitive behaviors like trichotillomania and dermatillomania, along with our mental health stories.
It's important that Keen fits snugly. Here's a quick guide to help you decide which bracelet size to order: