In this blog post I will be responding to a question from my guided journal, My Trichster Diaries. Please feel free to share your answer in the comments below.
Finding out that my uncontrollable urge to pull out my eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair from my scalp was a disorder called trichotillomania was both shocking and relieving. I wasn't the only in the world who couldn't stop pulling out their hair even though it felt that way. I'm not a freak after all! Or am I?
I was young when I was diagnosed. Looking back I think I wanted the diagnosis to do more than just be the name for this behavior. I think I wanted it to cure me of things like shame and the behavior itself. If there's a name for this thing does that mean there's a cure? If there's a name for this thing does that mean I can get help from people that actually know how to treat this? If there's a name for this does that mean people will stop saying that what I'm doing is just a "bad habit"? I was hopeful that being given the name would change my life for the better.
My reality was this: I was given the name but nothing really changed.
I still went to doctors, therapists and psychiatrists who had no idea what I was talking about. Wasting hours of my life poorly explaining why I pull my hair out and how I desperately wanted to stop (I was a little kid and didn't have the language yet). It felt like I was reliving the same day over and over again but with different characters. I'd walk into the office with my mom, introduce myself, give my spiel and then I'd be met with blank stares or worse, a laugh. "Wow! What a mouthful!" or "Haha! Can you say that again?" or the dreaded "Can you spell that for me?" It got to the point where my mom and I would look at each other and send the same message telepathically: If they don't know, we go.
I still felt unable to share with friends at school because I was scared of how they would react. If medical professionals laughed why would kids my own age be any different? So whenever someone noticed my missing eyebrows, eyelashes, or hair, as they often did, I was prepared with lies.
"I'm trying new makeup!"
"I got gum stuck in my hair and I had to cut it out."
"I don't know. They just fell out."
I still felt alone because I hadn't met anyone else with trichotillomania and wouldn't for many years. I existed in the world with the name of a disorder hidden in the back of my throat. Looking around every room I entered hoping to see someone who looked like me. Listening to the words that circled my thoughts, You may not be the only one but it sure does feel like it, doesn't it?