by: Ellen Crupi, HabitAware Director of Awareness & recovering "Trichster"
Growing up in the 70’s and coming of age in the early 80’s, there was no internet. I couldn’t just google, “why do I pull out my hair?” or, "I can't stop skin picking."
Forget lack of technology, there was quite simply a lack of knowledge around these little known disorders. I couldn’t even look up "trichotillomania" in an encyclopedia, because I had no way of knowing that was the word I needed to look up!
There was NO WAY this teenager was going to ask a teacher or a librarian for help, so I just lived with the idea that I was weird, and I lived with all the shame that came with feeling weird for pulling out my hair.
In addition to shame, came an abundance of self doubt, lack of confidence and a huge tilt towards pessimism...the glass was always half empty. I thought, "If I can’t control my hair pulling, I can't control anything else in my life."
And yet, my hair pulling served a purpose: It calmed me down. At any given time, it helped me get through the boredom, the anxiety, the fear, or the self-doubt I was experiencing. I loved it for the soothing mechanism that it was. And I hated it for the physical and emotional changes that resulted.
In high school, I was a C student. If I got a better grade, instead of celebrating, I became anxious, and thought, “this won’t last” and this mindset followed me through college and into young adulthood.
In my 40’s I confessed my hair pulling secret to a woman I worked with, who happened to be a psychologist by trade, and she was very supportive and non-judgmental. I stopped pulling for two weeks and thought, "OMG this is amazing, I’m able to stop!" But quickly I started again, and those same pessimistic feelings came rushing back: I’ll never get this under control.
Then Keen entered my life. In the first few months, the awareness was incredible. I signed up for the free training video that the HabitAware team offers. Once trained more accurately with the tips I learned, Keen caught me every time. I remember about 3-months into wearing Keen, I decided to associate the vibration as a “hug” on my wrist. I look back now and realized that I must have been sick and tired of the beating myself up. I didn’t realize this then, but I was starting to change my mindset.
I made one very small shift from:
Keen helped me build my awareness muscle and learn where my hands were. Without even realizing it, I began working my awareness muscle into three other areas of my life. It was almost as if a light bulb automatically clicked in my mind, "If I can control my pulling what else can I do?"
Number 1: Awareness at Work
Typically, if working on a difficult assignment, I would get up and walk away from my desk. I'd grab a snack, or make a cup of tea, or, I’d stay at my desk and check out the latest shoe trends on the internet. After using the Keen smart bracelet, my awareness muscles started noticing this pattern of procrastination. It was an ah ha! moment and just like my hair pulling, once I was aware of this pattern, I could choose to sit down and be productive, or choose to get up and procrastinate.
Number 2: Awareness at Home
When my youngest daughter got home from school I would ask her, “how was your day?” and she would reply “Fine." and that was that. She’d run upstairs to her room and close the door. I would think, "We don’t have a good relationship."
With the power of awareness now permeating my life, I was able to make a small shift. Instead of asking “How was your day?” I said, “Tell me about your day.”
Feel the difference? She did and she would tell me one or two things about her day which would lead to a pretty good conversation. That lead to more good conversations and eventually she began staying downstairs and doing her homework at the kitchen table. (By the way, this works with husbands too!)
Number 3: Awareness of Self & Soul
Noticing my overall disposition has been the biggest shift the power of Keen awareness has created in my life. As I began writing this, I realize that my awareness muscle has strengthened my overall disposition. For four decades I lived with my BFRB (Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior) controlling me. I also lived with wondering what else could go wrong, always second guessing good things that came my way.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have a choice at how I look at my life. Awareness is a powerful tool. Being aware allows us to learn what works for us and what doesn’t. We can then choose what to keep in our lives, and get rid of what isn’t serving us - what isn't sparking "joy!"
When I’m stressed I used to lean towards, “What if this goes wrong?”
I'm finding it feels so much better to lean in and ask, “What if this goes right?”
In using Keen's power of awareness to acknowledge my hair pulling and learn about my hand movements and triggers, it has transcended to a higher level of awareness of my mentality. Allowing me to change my mindset. This change takes time, patience and practice.
If you are up for giving yourself the time and patience to practice, here is my Keen Awareness challenge for you:
Identify one tiny thing in your life that you’d like to change beyond your BFRB. Keep it simple. Then define what you'd rather be doing, or thinking, instead.
For example, it could be swapping coffee for water, or paying attention so you can catch yourself doing something right, instead of focusing on your mistakes.
Take the time to notice this tiny thing in your daily life and to CHOOSE your healthier behavior. As you continue this practice, I hope you will see it become ingrained, in the same way I have. And I hope you'll share with me here how "Keen" Awareness goes beyond your BFRB.
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: