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Trichotillomania in Life & Beth

A few years ago there was excitement in the body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) community around Amy Schumer's new show, Life & Beth, because of her portrayal of trichotillomania, the hair-pulling disorder. Unlike other portrayals of the disorder, this one was special because as it turned out, Amy herself has trichotillomania.


I had seen trichotillomania in the media before, I have an entire section of blogs dedicated to it, and I'm often disappointed. I'm looking for more accuracy. I'm cringing over the amount of hair being pulled. I end up feeling uneasy and thinking to myself, It really isn't like that. I was so excited to see if Amy did the disorder justice. Spoiler alert: she did.


 

If you'd like to watch the episode before you read my opinion and see recordings, you can find it on Hulu. Season 1 Episode 9.


 

Below are clips from the episode that I recorded myself. The first time I watched them I was in a state of shock. I cried! You'll see why.


Scanning and a Bald Spot


If someone told me this clip was of me I'd probably believe them. This is exactly what it looks like when I am scanning to find the next hair to pull. It is a detailed search, my index finger making its way along my scalp, until it finds the "right" hair to pull. I am pulling one hair at a time, not a big chunk!


Even the bald spot is spot on (pun intended). That is what my bald spots have looked like. Hidden behind hair yet if parted a certain way it becomes visible. Hair growing within the bald spot and hairs of different lengths around it. My index finger searching while also assessing to feel what "damage" I've done.


The Trance


Wow! I love this clip so much. Talk about scarily accurate! I could get pulled into the trichotillomania trance at any moment. Even though I didn't want to pull out my hair in front of people, sometimes it felt like I didn't have a choice. I found myself pulling during class, in front of my friends, and parents without even realizing what I was doing. I was in my own world. Only after I was out of the trance did I kick away all of the hair that accumulated under my chair or across my lap and feel all the blood rush to my face.


The only thing that doesn't exactly match my experience is that after I pull out a hair I rub the root across my lips.


Needing a Wig and a Parent's Worry


This clip is filled with things that made my heart ache. The idea that your pulling is getting so bad that your only option is to get a wig, going to the hairdresser or wig shop and hoping they don't shame you, overhearing your parent's worry and feeling their fear, learning you have a disorder that has a long scary name, and having to go to school the next day with a wig. Wow! Talk about heavy stuff for a child!


I love that the hair stylist in this clip has background knowledge of trichotillomania. Imagine how many people would feel more comfortable at salons if this was the case everywhere! I love that she validates Beth's mother's feelings while also making it seem not as scary by saying things like, "My niece has it" and "a lot more people have it or some form of it." I love that she reminds Beth's mother that this is not her daughter's fault and that she can't "just stop." I wish I had a moment like this back when I first started pulling!


So now that you've seen the clips, do you see why I cried? This showed the world what it is really like to have trichotillomania. I remember once it aired there were tons of articles and people sharing their experience. It felt like because Amy shared, others felt comfortable sharing too. She opened up the minds of people without trichotillomania and validated those with it. I will always be grateful for her honesty and vulnerability. Thank you, Amy!


Also, I made an Instagram post thanking Amy and I don't want to brag but... the official Instagram account for Life & Beth liked it. Pretty cool, huh?

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