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How does pulling make you feel?

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.

The full prompt is: I feel both pain and pleasure when I pull out my hair. Pleasure because I am able to scratch that "itch" but pain because I know I am going to ultimately have a bald spot. I go through a cycle of guilt and shame yet I cannot stop. How does pulling make you feel?

I love looking back on my old responses and comparing how I felt then versus how I feel today. I've answered these prompts many times because I use My Trichster Diaries during Sharing Our Stories. That's why it is so great to keep a journal! You're able to see your growth over time.

I apologize if you can't read my handwriting. My students would often tell me how nice it was as I created anchor charts for our classroom. I had to remind them that that was my teacher handwriting and my real handwriting was much, much worse.

Pulling makes me feel satisfaction.

I (will most likely always) feel pleasure when I pull because there is a satisfaction that comes with removing the hair that is "bothering" me- the hair that feels different from the rest. As my fingers run through my hair they are looking for the hair that feels coarse and/or wiry. Once I find it there's a little celebration in my mind and then I pull it out. There are days where it seems like every hair is bothering me and during those days I use every intervention I know to keep my hands out of my hair. Sometimes I'm able to stop and sometimes I'm not.

Finding the hair that bothers me is similiar to finding a word you've been looking for in a word search. Once you finally find it your heart races and you feel satisfaction wash over you but it disappears as quickly as it arrived. You then begin looking for the next word, and the next, and the next, so that you can feel that little rush again.

Pulling makes me feel tender.

In the prompt I talk about emotional pain but there is a physical pain component to trichotillomania as well. The act of pulling out the hair doesn't hurt (unless I pull an eyelash with a huge bulb that makes my eye water) but there is a tenderness in the aftermath. Eyelids are red and puffy. Sections of my scalp can feel tender to the touch. There can also be scabs or cuts.

I know that I need to be gentle with myself both physically and emotionally after a pulling episode.

Pulling makes me feel reminded.

When I notice that my hands are constantly in my hair I am reminded to take care of myself. I know that I don't want to sit down and pull out my hair all day. That's not what my trichotillomania is trying to tell me. Instead, it is serving a purpose but for what? I need to ask myself a list of questions to get to the bottom of it: What am I doing right now and what should I be doing? Do I need to hop in the shower? Do I need to start a craft to keep my hands busy? Do I need to reach out for help? Do I need to drink water or do some deep breathing? What am I feeling?

Pulling makes me feel connected.

I am happy to annouce that the guilt and shame cycle I mention above no longer resonates with me. That cycle was why I stayed silent and suffered for most of my life. It told me I was ugly and that if I told anyone about my trichotillomania they would laugh at me and/or not want to be in my life anymore. It took away my confidence. And the real shame of it all? It kept me pulling. The cycle of guilt and shame kept me trapped and made my pulling worse. Now that I no longer feel any of those things I pull less. I'm not driven to the mirror after every eyelash I pull out to see the "damage" I've done and pull more. I still pull but I now have a community that I can turn to during those tougher days. I didn't have that before.

Through my work I get to meet others in the community and learn their stories. I can't begin to tell you how life changing that was for me- it quite literally changed my whole entire life! I learned so much about myself and my trichotillomania by getting to know others. I learned tips and tricks. I learned that my trichotillomania isn't the worst part about me. I learned that I can be loved and cherished for being me- trichotillomania included. Is there anything better than that?

Photographs by: Lena Mei Photography


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