As defined by Wikipedia, “Trichotillomania (‘Tric’ for short), also known as hair pulling disorder, is an impulse control disorder characterized by a long term urge that results in the pulling out of one’s hair.” In my case, I picked out my eyelashes and eyebrows. I still cringe when I think about it, you can cringe with me, I know. It’s still embarrassing for me to talk about, but at the same time there’s this dying need for me to write about it to raise awareness and smash the stigma.
When My Tric Began
It was summer 2006, and I had just turned nine. I was sitting in my living room when I picked out a good ten eyelashes from my eyes. I was surprised so many could come out, and I remember my Mom saying it’s not good to do, which I quickly understood. But after that day I continued to do it. In fact, it continued for six and a half more years.
My main time for doing it was at night while lying in bed. I would literally pull my eyelashes out until I could feel nothing but smooth skin across my eyes (the cringe continues). It was definitely compulsive because I didn’t want to do it, but the urge to do it was so strong it was like I had to do it, As if someone other than me was controlling my hands. And those of you with tric get what I mean. It’s ridiculous and disheartening most of the time. As soon as I’d pick one out, or even five out, I felt dreadful and guilty.
I’d feel horrible looking in the mirror afterwards. What young girl wouldn’t want to go to school with beautiful long dark lashes? I certainly wanted to! The thing with trichotillomania is it’s controlling, and leaves you feeling powerless.
You do it because your mind and body are itching for relief from some subconscious emotional turmoil (in my case, my anxiety). It was my school anxiety that was causing it. It’s not like I wanted to do it, because I didn’t want to. I just…did.
Trichotillomania In School
I did get questioned at school as to where my eyelashes and eyebrows were, but it wasn’t very often. I was asked maybe two times, and I wasn’t bullied for it (thank God). Family members asked the most out of anyone. In fact, when I told my friends about it they were all pretty accepting. It kind of just went over kid’s heads.
I didn’t want anyone to know about my Tric because it’s embarrassing. It felt too intimate to talk about, and still does. But it was kind of hard to hide because it was right on my face, for everyone to see. So how could people not see it and be curious as to why I had no eyelashes and eyebrows? I knew people questioned it, I’m just glad no one made a big deal out of it. I could work through it without being questioned by teachers, peers, strangers, etc.
Seeing A Psychiatrist For The First Time
While I was clinically diagnosed with Trichotillomania, I was also diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which you can read further into on My Anxiety Story.
In grade 5 my parents took me to see a psychiatrist. She suggested things such as:
~Wearing an eye mask at night to pick less.
~Put Vaseline on my eyelashes and eyebrows to make them slippery.
~Journal about emotions I was feeling on a daily basis.
~My parents also bought me a DS (remember those? haha) to distract me at night so my hands were busy rather than at my face.
Nothing worked. As soon as the DS went off, my hand went up. I’d just wipe the Vaseline off. And the facemask – I’d just slip my fingers under the fabric. I literally needed a metal plate welded around my eyes so I couldn’t get to them, it was that bad.
How Tric Made Me Feel About Myself
I do think it contributed to low self-esteem. I just want to state, I’ve always been a girl who genuinely thinks I’m beautiful. That physical flaws are really just beauty scars to remind us of the difficult experiences we’ve overcome. But I’m not going to not admit I had periods of doubt in my physical attractiveness, and that I didn’t feel beautiful all the time, because I didn’t. And with lacking facial hair around my eyes, at times it was demoralizing, especially as I matured and I saw more girls wearing mascara.
I think one of the hardest things about trichotillomania is, half the time you don’t even realize you’re doing it. So when you don’t want to do it and you want to stop the habit, you have to try and get yourself to notice you’re actually doing it, and from there you have to try and pull your hand away. You can tell yourself to stop or to not do it no matter how badly you don’t want to, but you just do because you can’t pull your hand away. You can’t stop and it drives you crazy because you feel like you’re being pulled two opposite directions. Some days I’d be sitting there picking and telling myself to stop, but I’d keep doing it. The strong urge to do it kept me locked in place. It’s hard to stop yourself once you start.
Growing Out of Tric
In grade 8 my Mom and I mutually thought it was a good idea I got bangs cut to hide my lack of eyebrows behind. Thankfully, within the following year I just magically began to pick them less for unknown reasons, and they slowly began to grow back (I remember my physiatrist saying some kids grow out of it, so maybe that was the case for me?) But I continued to pick my eyelashes.
Fast forward two years later, when I started homeschooling in grade ten, and six and a half years of eyelash picking had stopped within 2 months. I’m not even joking. I left high school middle of September 2012. My eyelashes were grown halfway and I had worn mascara for the first time in my life in the middle of November 2012. I then concluded it was school anxiety that was causing my tric. I think I got lucky in terms of resolving it, but at the same time I know so many girls and guys still struggle with this, and those are the people I want to speak out for and share my story for, because I understand how hard it is and how alone you can feel in it.
My Trichotillomania Today
Here’s the big question, now, at the age of twenty, do I still pick my eyelashes and eyebrows? Here’s the thing.
I don’t feel an urge to do it like I used to, sometimes when I’m stressed I feel that same tightness in my chest I’d feel when I picked, but I think I’ve just made it a habit to not pick at my face. I have noticed occassionally my hand will go up when watching tv, but I don’t pick. My hand will just be touching my lip, or my eyebrow, but I won’t actually pick. So essentially, I don’t pick anymore. I think growing out of it was a big factor and understanding my stressors. I will be honest though, I have seen it come back but in different forms. When I had really bad panic attacks in 2015, I’m pretty sure I had a bit of dermatillomania because I would literally pick at my lip until it bled. But I’ve come out of that as well after two years of it. I just pray that tric will never come back as strong as it was when I was younger.
Today, I honestly rarely even think about Tric. I definitely used to define myself by it, but today I can proudly say I don’t. Sometimes I even forget I had it. Thinking back to when I did pick, it feels like I’m thinking of an entirely different person than myself. And even if you currently have tric, it’s something you shouldn’t define yourself by. You are never your struggle. We are what our struggle transforms us into for the better.
Looking through this post, I admit I don’t believe I’ve fully healed from my Tricotillomania experience, just because I still feel embarrassed and hyper-cringy talking about it. I feel healed in terms of me having it better under control, but not in terms of how it makes me feel. But I accept I may not be fully healed from the experience, it’s just something I need to work on and that’s okay. We all have things we need to work on, this is just one of mine. I don’t even talk about this with my parents anymore really, so for me to post it online is a big step, but a step I feel is needed in the process of me learning to let it go and accept it for what it was.
Breaking The Stigma
About a month ago, I searched on YouTube “Trichotillomania,” and I was absolutely amazed to find how many girls and guys had it just like me and still have it. Growing up I was the only one I knew who had this, and now through the use of technology I realize this whole time I haven’t been alone. In fact, today I view it as more of a normal thing than anything.
People are increasingly stressed and anxious, and we all need our outlets. When I was young, this just so happened to be my outlet. I think something important to consider is to try to stop resisting it. With tric all you do is resist it. You don’t want to give in and do it, you want to keep telling yourself to stop and fight against it. But sometimes I feel like stopping the resistance takes the edge out of it, and you’re not putting as much pressure on yourself. By resisting you’re fuelling the trichotillomania.
If you suffer from Trichotillomania, I understand it’s easy to feel ashamed for doing it. But I think when we do it that’s our subconscious telling us there’s a void that needs to be filled. Belittling ourselves, feeling guilty, and embarrassed about our appearance does nothing to fill in that void, or remove the ambiguous distress. I recommend this with anything, but make the most of it (simple, but really think about this). If you are to do something about your Tric, there’s no point in making it worse by hurting yourself with negativity. Give yourself a good break. 🙂
Comment down below and share your Trichotillomania story. I’d love to hear from you guys, as well as any tips and tricks you’ve acquired over the years to counteract your Tric.
Here’s some additional links to further read about Trichotillomania: