Ever wondered, “What is trichotillomania?”
You could google it. And if you do, you’d get the medical definition: Trichotillomania, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is “a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop.”
BUT the best way to really, truly understand “What is trichotillomania?” is to hear first hand from those who have it. Sharing our experiences, the struggles & the successes is how others can learn. In telling personal stories others can feel & picture what it’s like to live with these issues. And when they can feel, they will understand. And when they understand, they will not judge. And when they stop judging, we will stop feeling shame.
And of course this tactic for understanding is not just for trichotillomania (hair pulling), but also for skin picking (dermatillomania / excoriation disorder), nail biting (onychophagia), thumb sucking, nose picking and other body focused repetitive behaviors.
That is why beginning this October, during BFRB Awareness Week, we threw caution to the wind & handed over our Instagram account, @HabitAware, to YOU to share your story. All in the name of creating understanding and ending the stigma.
It was just so inspiring and beautiful. We will continue letting others use our channel as a megaphone on “#TakeoverTuesday”! I hope you’ll join us over on Instagram to check them out as they happen live, but if not, I’ll be sharing some of the stories here on our blog from time to time.
The first in our “Guest Post / HabitAware Instagram Takeover” series is Abby W., who shares her powerful story below. We thank Abby for her incredible insights and vulnerability as she opens up about her trichotillomania and journey to acceptance.
It’s only in facing life’s adversity that we truly come alive!!
If you are interested in taking over our account, click, “Takeover Instagram!”
with love, strength & awareness,
* The following blog post was written & photographed by Abby W. as a series of Instagram posts *
Hi all! My name is Abby, and I’m in my second year at the university. I’m majoring in Sociology with plans to go to law school. I have #trichotillomania, I’ve been pulling since I was 11 years old, and at my lowest point, I had no eyelashes, no eyebrows, and very thin scalp hair. The fight for me is far from over, but I’ve learned so much about life because of my experience with trich, and I hope I can communicate those insights with all of you beautiful people today! Feel free to ask me any (seriously, ANY) questions along the way.
A few years ago, I was emotionally dependent on my makeup. I spent most of my mornings trying to perfect my eyeliner and eyebrows so I could look “normal.” I refused to go anywhere near water, just in case it got washed away. Because of this, I missed out on activities like boating with my family and swimming with my friends. I tried so many things to get over this fear—glasses, waterproof eyeliner, and even makeup tattoos—but what made the biggest difference was when I began to accept myself for who I was and what I looked like. I’ve decided that I won’t let my trich scare me away from life. It took me years to get to this point, but it’s a relief to finally say that I feel okay about who I am.
My hair evolution:
These three pictures show my hair evolution:
(1) I didn’t begin pulling from my head until the end of my junior year in high school, but I didn’t think much of it. I thought it wouldn’t have as big an effect as my other pulling patterns had made. I really liked my hair, and without knowing it, is attached some of my value to it.
(2) My hair became too thin to wear long, so I cut it short. I liked it while it lasted, but my pulling got even worse during the few weeks after I got it cut. Something else had to be done.
(3) At the end of my senior year, I buzzed my head. My pulling had gotten so bad that I had virtually no other options. I showed up the next day with a cute headband, big earrings, and almost no hair, surprising all of my friends and classmates (I’d only told my family and a couple of close friends). At first I was doing great; I’d gotten nothing but positive feedback and support from everyone around me. A month or two later, though, I began realizing how much I’d relied on my hair to make me feel pretty and feminine. I went through a tough period of time where I felt like a new person, but not in a good way. It took a while for me to pull myself out of it, but I’ve learned not to attach my worth on something as silly as a few hair strands. We are so much more than this. It took me cutting off all my hair to find myself, and because of that, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
How to stop hair pulling…or, at least, how Abby did it!
My two most powerful trich-blockers: hats and habitaware. I began collecting hats shortly after I buzzed my head because of how well they stopped me from pulling, and also because I’ve found that I just love hats. My other weapon of choice, the bracelet, has been on my wrist since April. It’s by far the most effective method I use to track and combat my pulling. I’ve gone through countless trich-blockers—gloves, fiddles, fidgets, fake nails—and I’ve found what works best for me. I encourage everyone to find their own weapons of awareness on this journey, and to never give up on yourself. 32 hats and one super-cool bracelet later, and I’m more confident and in-control than I’ve ever been.
Thank you for letting me into your lives today! Sharing my story has healed me a little more, and I hope it has helped someone else heal a little too. If I could sum up all of what I have learned these past eight years, it would be this: I am not my trich, but trich has made me who I am. Keep fighting and smiling, and know you have a great bfrb network to fall back on.
This is Abby, signing off
Thank you again, Abby. & Thank you, Keen family, for letting us in to your lives & helping you become the best versions of yourself. As Abby said, keep fighting + smiling!
love + awareness,