I was in year 6 and I was the only one in my class who had ever heard the word Trichotillomania. Or so I thought!
It was my secret and I was terribly ashamed.
I could not pronounce the word Trichotillomania. So I called it the Trichy monster. I hated, hated, hated the Trichy monster. It came with me everywhere I went. I wish I could have escaped from that dark, evil monster. But, at 10 years old I could not.
It is now twenty long years later...... and when I woke up this morning I wanted to climb onto my rooftop and shout at the top of my lungs 'I have not pulled out my hair for ONE HUNDRED DAYS'.
Well.....Instead of doing that I thought it would be better to sit down to write out my thoughts. If I can help even one child suffering from this painful malady then this whole article will be worthwhile.
So here is my story......
I don't remember how it started or why it started but at some point, before moving up into high school I started pulling out my hair. One hair at a time. I couldn't stop.
My mother was devastated. My thick blonde locks were getting thinner and my beautiful hair looked scrawny and lank.
I remember wanting so badly to please my mum and stop doing it. So I tried my hardest to stop...but I just couldn't.
Thus began the Doctor's appointments. My childhood memories are full of different waiting rooms. I can still smell the musty odor of those dreadful places. I can still feel the tremendous shame when those hated Doctor's whispered things to my mother.
They told my mother that I had a mental illness and so I started seeing therapists. As I look back It sickens me to think of some of the damaging things the therapists said to me. I had many therapists and I can only remember one of them being any good. She would give me small tasks to complete before I saw her again and I enjoyed the challenge. This was a form of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Whilst working with her I temporarily improved. In other words, I was able to go for a few hours at a time without pulling out my hair.
Going to school became a nightmare. I had bald patches and looked weird. Most of the kids laughed at me and called me names. A few of the quiet girls were nice to me but I was never in with the in-crowd. I became withdrawn and depressed.
The Doctor's completely misdiagnosed me. They said that I was a withdrawn and depressed child and therefore I pulled out my hair either as a form of self-harm or to soothe my emotions. They gave me anti-depressants and fidget toys to distract me. I tried absolutely everything.
It is so painful for me to write this because not one Doctor understood me and because of that, I suffered for many, many years.
Now, twenty years later, with one hundred blessed days of freedom from the Trichy monster, I want to share with you the mystery of why I have spent my life pulling out my hair.
I am not mentally ill. I do not suffer from depression. Yes, I was unhappy at school because the other children laughed at me, but that was not depression. I did not pull out my hair to self-harm blar blar blar......
THIS IS WHY I PULLED OUT MY HAIR.....because It felt good to me. I liked the feeling so I did it. It was that SIMPLE. Then, it became a habit, then it became a bad habit.......then I became addicted to the good feeling. In other words, my brain started producing urges for me to pull out my hair so I could experience the pleasure it gave me.
This is my truth and I realize that what I am proposing here is highly controversial. I am taking a complicated disorder and simplifying it BIG TIME. I am not saying that this is true for all Trichotillomania sufferers. THIS IS MY TRUTH.
I would love to hear your opinion on my conclusions of my trichotillomania. If you think I am right or completely wrong please let me know. Leave your comments below and together we can suss out the mystery of people who feel compelled to pull out their hair until they go partially bald.
Here are the things that helped me the most when growing up and the reason why I have finally got one hundred days of freedom from pulling out my hair.
My gorgeous mother would massage my head with oil (almost) every night at bedtime. I loved the closeness with my mum and the massage felt so good. My head would get oily and make hair pulling impossible. This helped me to keep most of my hair apart from a few bald patches.
During high school, I went horse riding every Sunday morning. Amongst the horses, I felt un-judged. I loved sitting on the horseback and stroking the horse's mane. This was my lifesaver during those years of bullying.
The thing that gave me the most confidence during those years was a type of alternative hair called Toppers. Wearing a wig to high school was terrifying. Bald patches were better than that. Toppers are like hair extensions that go on the top of your head and they look really natural. The other kids in school never ever noticed my toppers, even when we played sport. I still wear toppers today.
I have been practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, and yoga. I have also been eating whole foods, avoiding sugar and alcohol and getting a few early nights. I am finding other ways to feel good so I do not crave the feel-good factor of the hair-pulling as much.
I highly recommend 'hair pullers anonymous', which is a 12 step program.
Support groups have helped me a ton because suffering alone is the worst thing in the world. Incredibly, there was a boy in my class who suffered from a form of trichotillomania called trichophagia. He would pull out his hair and eat it. We sat side by side and suffered alone.
Tomorrow when I wake up I will have 101 days of freedom from the Trichy monster and I think that I really am gonna climb onto the rooftop and shout out loud in pure excitement and joy. 'I FINALLY BEAT THE TRICY MONSTER!'