"My recovery encompasses much more than my hair growth;" From Peer Coach Gessie

"My recovery encompasses much more than my hair growth;" From Peer Coach Gessie

This is a blog post written by Peer Coach Gessie, who hosts HabitAware's Kid Hangouts! We are so happy to have her as a part of the HabitAware team and are so honored to share her story with you & the rest of the Keen Family! 

 My trichotillomania journey began when I started pulling my hair out at age 11, followed by plucking my eyebrows at 14. Now, at 25 years old, I am a passionate BFRB advocate, author, and HabitAware team member.

Like most of us with BFRBs, I felt immense shame and isolation because of my behaviors. As a teenager experiencing extensive hair loss, my self-esteem plummeted and I became extremely withdrawn. I tried everything to conceal it, I wore wigs for a while, but the shame was debilitating and I felt like I was living a double life.

Things shifted for me when, in 2015, I attended a national conference for people with trichotillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors. Meeting others who understood exactly what I was going through was the catalyst for shedding my shame. I had decided from that point on that I didn't want to hide anymore. I started sharing my story, first with my inner circle of friends, family, and classmates, then eventually on a larger scale on public media outlets. I stopped covering up and even shaved my head at the end of my senior year of high school!

It was also at that first conference that I had learned about HabitAware, and met co-founder Aneela. The company was still in its infancy at the time. The first Keen bracelet had not even been released to the public yet! A couple years later in 2017, when it was finally made available, I asked my parents for one for my 19th birthday. After the initial setup and training, I gradually became more aware of my hair pulling. Having had success with the original Keen, I just recently “upgraded” to a Keen2.

Keen is one of many tools that I utilize in my recovery. Recovery to me personally means progress, not perfection. I avoid placing unrealistic expectations on myself, and strive to always practice self-compassion. With that being said, my hair pulling has significantly decreased over the years and I owe much of that progress to Keen. I never thought the day would come where I would have a full head of hair again. But my recovery encompasses much more than my hair growth, it's about my personal growth, which has been astounding.


Being in a healed place in my journey now, my focus at this point is on helping others still struggling. In fact, I've made it my life's mission. In 2019, I started my own charity program, “Trichster Sisters,” in which I sent personalized care packages to over 40 young girls with trichotillomania. I serve as a mentor and big sister to these girls. I've always enjoyed writing, and in 2022, I published two books: a memoir Triumphant Trichster, and A Trichy Situation, a picture book for kids. As a community leader, I proudly serve as a board member and the Programs Director for The Lyder Foundation, a non-profit focused on supporting those with BFRBs in communities of color.


Professionally, I have worked with children in various capacities my entire adult life. Currently, I am a direct support professional for kids with developmental disabilities and I absolutely love my job. Knowing of my professional background, as well as my role in the BFRB community, I was asked by Aneela last year if I would like to lead a virtual group for kids with BFRBs. And that's how HabitAware’s monthly “Kid Hangouts” came to be. 


Kid Hangouts are for youth ages 7-13. They are a safe space for kids to ask questions, share strategies, receive support, and just connect with peers who understand. I know firsthand how important the power of community is in cultivating BFRB recovery, and I take pride in being able to facilitate that support for the younger generation. I'm amazed at how insightful some of our conversations are, and believe it or not, even as an adult, I've actually learned a thing or two myself from the kids. I love being able to combine my two passions: BFRB advocacy and helping kids  thrive.


Kid Hangouts are just one of the many helpful resources HabitAware offers. To me, HabitAware is about more than the Keen smart bracelet, it's also a community and a family. I've been a part of that family since the very beginning and I feel honored to now be part of the HabitAware team. In addition to Aneela being a longtime friend, I have also gotten to know Mari and Ellen. It's a pleasure to work alongside such dedicated individuals. I'm so excited to continue HabitAware’s mission of supporting the BFRB community!

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