On Saturday April 21st, 2018, our co-founder & chief trichster, Aneela Idnani, had the honor of delivering the Keynote speech at the 2018 TLC Conference Annual Family dinner. With tears and joy, Aneela proudly shared her story of overcoming trichotillomania, the trichotillomania treatments that worked for her and the making of the Keen smart awareness bracelet.
This is her speech.
Hi my BFRB family!
My name is Aneela. I am a member of the TLC BFRB community, and I have pulled out my hair for more than twenty years.
I’m truly humbled to speak with you tonight, because a few years ago I wouldn’t dare disclose that I pull out my hair. For most of my life I’ve hidden my BFRB out of fear of being caught and fear of being shamed for what other people see as “doing this to myself.”
But the last few years have been life changing. I found TLC, and faced my BFRB to become my own hero. Like a time-traveling superhero, I wish I could go back in time 26 years or so to save my younger self. I know what I would tell myself. With TLC as my companion, I’ve made peace with my hair pulling disorder. And this peace was also made possible because I changed my inner dialogue, I built a force field of self confidence, and I refocused my energy from hiding to healing.
I wish I had this playbook years ago and hope that by sharing the steps I took in the last few years, it will ease your journey and inspire you to face your BFRB and be YOUR OWN HERO.
Before I could face my BFRB, I first had to stop caring what other people thought about me & my hair. This was really hard because, like hair pulling, the negative thoughts were so automatic and started when I was pretty young, letting my elementary school classmates tell me who I was: a nerd, ugly, poor, weird.
When you hear something enough, you start to believe it. Even well into my twenties, the labels stuck, masking who I truly was. I had become my own worst critic, focusing on all my mistakes, big and small, and ignoring all of my successes. Doing good wasn’t enough. I was pulling uncontrollably to cope with this personal pressure and work stress.
Recognizing I needed to change or I would stay unhappy forever, I read about self-improvement. I armed myself with an arsenal of daily affirmations. Even when waves of insecurity rush toward me, I say them anyway: “I am happy, health, kind, love, loving, creative, talented and GOOD ENOUGH!”
And the more I affirmed it, the more I believed. I found that my words have power. Like a superhero I defined who I was and what my strengths were. And I grew closer to being able to face my BFRB. If negative self speak, stemming from your BFRB or other insecurities, applies to you, please know you can turn it around with practice. You can change your inner dialogue.
Listen to how you – and others – are talking about you. If you don’t like what you are hearing, change the dialogue. Write down what you do want to be hearing and say it out loud each day. In time you will wash off the mask others have mucked onto you.
Changing how I viewed myself meant I began to care less how others viewed me. Like a superhero, I had built a force field of confidence, able to deflect others’ people’s judgement. But, a part of me still cared & was still scared – Which meant I was still hiding my hair pulling because of the stigma associated with BFRBs. I just didn’t want other people to think lesser of me because of my so-called “choice” to pull.
But the fear of rejection had less power over me because of the force field of self confidence I had built up by changing my inner dialogue. One fateful morning in 2013, Sameer, my husband of three years at the time, caught me before I had a chance to hide my late night pull session with makeup. I was confronted and questioned. And in that moment I didn’t want to lie anymore. So I told Sameer the truth: I pull out my hair and it’s called trichotillomania.
Most heroes have someone who knows their true identity, because even superheroes can’t keep their biggest secrets to themselves. Superman has Lois Lane. Batman has Alfred. I had Sameer. It was his curiosity and questions that helped me let go of the baggage I’d been carrying for nearly twenty years. Sharing my BFRB secret brought us closer in ways I could have never imagined. It gave us both an outlet to share what was going on in our lives, our pains, our hopes, and what we wanted for our future family.
He also encouraged me to see a psychologist — not just any, but one from TLC’s listing, someone well versed in how to treat BFRBs. Talking with her was like having coffee with a best friend – I unraveled my childhood, found peace with my father’s illness and passing and was able to shine a light on my BFRB.
It was really scary to let my secret out & let Sameer & my psychologist in, but it wound up being the best thing that could have ever happened. It was a weight lifted and I realized keeping my BFRB secret was my Kryptonite, destroying me from within. Hiding my BFRB was keeping me from being my best self. I don’t want it to keep you from being your best too.
Release the heavy burdens you are carrying. Be open to conversations and remind yourself that your loved one’s curiosity, while it may sound accusatory, is really coming from a place of love and understanding.
When Sameer realized that his tone affected my response, he changed it up. Instead of asking “did you pull today?” He would ask, “did anything happen today that created urges?” When we can meet each other in this way, vulnerably, lovingly, we can replace judgment with compassion.
With my force field of self confidence and my secret out in the open, I no longer had to hide – and could begin to heal. The time and energy spent sweeping my hair pulling under a rug, figuratively & literally, was refocused on talking with Sameer and accepting his support.
Sameer helped me become aware and helped me find healthy ways to manage my BFRB.
When we were together, he would gently reach for my hand when he noticed I was pulling. Those sweet, simple (& sometimes annoying) gestures of his love gave us an idea of how I could develop awareness of my pulling. That idea evolved into us creating a solution, a discreet, programmable bracelet that alerts its wearer when they are engaging in body-focused repetitive behaviors, which we call Keen.
As we developed the first prototype for our Keen awareness bracelet, Sameer and I were united in the cause. He & I would scientifically and objectively discuss my pulling. For the first time in 20 plus years, I could identify my triggers and achieve the awareness to take control and choose healthier behaviors. I replaced pulling with deep breathing, drinking water and walks around the office. Like a superhero honing her new found powers, I refocused my energy spent pulling and hiding on to healing instead. For the first time in 20+ years I found meaning and purpose in my trichotillomania. It was to overcome it and create a healing tool for myself & others.
While both TLC’s supportive community and the awareness honed with the Keen bracelet have been extremely significant to my recovery, I’ve also found peace by owning who I am.
To do this, I changed my inner dialogue, created a force field of self confidence and refocused my energy. I truly believe you can take these same steps to find peace too.
You can change your inner dialogue. Take all that time and energy spent telling yourself you are worthless because of this disorder and shout out loud “I am worthy!”
No seriously, Let’s hear it!
You can create a force field of self confidence. Take all that time and energy spent hiding in fear, and share your BFRB baggage with someone you love to lighten your load and your mind.
You can refocus your energy. Take all that time locked in a bathroom pulling, picking or fighting with wigs or makeup and channel it to healing from within.
You are meant for bigger and brighter things than hiding and battling this disorder. You are meant to find things that give your life meaning and fulfill you. You are meant for a life where your BFRB doesn’t consume you. I know this to be true because I’ve lived through it.
Honor the hero within you by becoming your own hero!
Christina, Jen, Leslie, Corinne, Kaprece, SAB, TLC! – Without your organization I would never have known this was a mental health condition. Thank you for welcoming me into your family after nearly two decades of not knowing where I belonged. I am honored and truly humbled to have this opportunity tonight to share my BFRB journey.
To my BFRB family, thank you for your time and attention. I hope I planted a small seed of hope and courage when you are ready, in your own time.
I can’t wait to see the heroes you become and the good you create in this world.
I wish you all love, strength & awareness on your heroic journey.
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When I received my Keen, I trained it for twirling and hair pulling on the left side of my head and for skin picking on the top of my head. I really appreciated the option to change the detection settings depending on my body position, since I usually do my habits most when I’m laying on the couch or sitting at my desk. I hardly ever take Keen off! When my Keen is charging, I still wear the strap as a reminder to help train my brain. I even wear it to sleep!
In today’s guest post, our Keen family member, Amber Bodeur, who’s been “Conquering with Keen, now shares how she found the courage - and the support - to start a support group in her hometown.
It's important that Keen fits snugly. Here's a quick guide to help you decide which bracelet size to order:
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