S. is a 47-year-old living in Florida and has been struggling with Trichotillomania for 32 years. This is how she’s Conquering with Keen, in her own words.
My Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) is hair pulling, otherwise known as Trichotillomania. It started at age 15. Initially I pulled out my eyebrows and eyelashes and then it escalated to my scalp. Having no eyebrows and lashes was very noticeable to others and I was made fun of, even by strangers. But for me it was no longer noticeable when I looked in the mirror. I was in total denial but I was also young and headstrong. When I began pulling hair from my scalp, it felt like my dirty little secret and for many years I honestly believed nobody would ever notice.
The years went by and once I entered the workforce, there would be small piles of hair I had pulled in the trash. It was common to get busted by my co-workers mid-pull but I played it cool, like I had an itch or my hair was in the way.
My personal life was another story. Hair piles were scattered all over the rug on the driver’s side of my car. There were piles of hair on the sofa, coffee table and rugs, which tangled around my toes when walking barefoot. I was excited to get home after a long day for quality time with "my secret.”
Keeping this secret under wraps was hard work.
Over time my self-confidence dipped further and further. I was out of control and no therapist or Google searches could help stop my hair pulling. I got insane satisfaction from the hunt of that one perfect strand of hair and the pull that was slightly painful but well worth the discomfort especially if it was accompanied by its root. I realized I wasn't having any fun in my personal life. The spontaneity was gone. Keeping this secret under wraps was hard work.
I continually looked for a hair pulling solution. One of the many tactics I tried as a replacement strategy was digging my finger nail into my cuticles each time I pulled. It was a disaster so I began researching other concepts. And that’s when I found Keen by HabitAware, the awareness bracelet for hair pulling, skin picking and nail biting.
...the vibration is a gentle reminder that Keen is looking out for me.
Keen took a few tweaks to train properly, mostly because my wrist motion was too large and this caused Keen to constantly vibrate. After better training and focusing on a smaller gesture, the false vibrations subsided and Keen started to help. Now when I feel Keen's vibration, I breathe into it because the vibration is a gentle reminder that Keen is looking out for me. I observe my trigger and focus more on rewarding myself with praise and self love for getting past the desire to pull rather than shaming myself like I did in the past.
Since I started using Keen I've definitely grown up and through this process I show up for myself more with loving kindness. I am a huge advocate of yoga and meditation. It really creates awareness within my body and also calms away my nervous energy that can contribute to my hair pulling.
Accepting my flaws and beauty has been paramount in the healing process.
I'd absolutely recommend Keen to others who struggle with Trichotillomania, Dermatillomania (skin picking) or nail biting. One piece of advice is that when you start using Keen, be sure to focus on a small specific area during training or else the device will vibrate constantly. If you're a nervous person, keep the vibration on a lower setting so you aren't getting startled often.
And remember that you have to be willing to do the work to change the habit. Keen isn't a magic pill that will transform a habit that's taken years to master. Show up for yourself, YOU ARE WORTH IT. Give yourself the gifts of confidence, joy and a social life - And a Keen, if you are ready to change!
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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: