The Sopranos is not only a beloved show for many people, it is arguably one of the best shows of all time. Take a moment to Google the show and you'll see a ton of articles saying the same thing. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?
The Sopranos first aired in 1999 which meant I was waayyyyyyyyy too young to watch it (I was 7 turning 8) but my parents did and I remember them looking forward to watching a new episode every week. Because of their excitement I knew I was going to watch the show when I was older and I did!
I instantly fell in love and one day as I was watching, I saw something that made my jaw hit the floor. A character pulled out her hair.
The episode is called "University" and the moment I'm going to show you and talk about isn't part of the main storyline. The character in the photograph above is Caitlin, Meadow's college roommate. You only see her a few times during the show and if you've already seen it you may have forgotten her altogether but because she has trichotillomania she instantly stuck in my mind.
I couldn't believe my eyes! The second Caitlin's hand started scanning her scalp, something clicked inside me. I recognize that! I do that! I sat on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next and when I saw it my stomach sank. It isn't like that.
You can see in the video above that Caitlin pulls out a substantial chunk of hair. In my personal experience, and from talking to others in the community, pulling out a chunk that large is extremely uncommon if done at all. People with trichotillomania often pull out one hair at a time. Why? Because when we scan our scalp we are looking for the perfect hair to pull (the hair that "doesn't belong" because it is a different texture or because our brains just tell us to) and when we find it, we pull it out and then complete our ritual (looking at the root, rubbing it across our lips, pulling the root off, etc). When we are done with that hair we go back and look for another one. The cycle continues. There can be moments when we pull more than one hair at a time but the amount Caitlin pulled out is unrealistic.
Meadow's reaction to Caitlin made me think, This is exactly how it feels. Her visible disgust and lack of understanding is something I have faced many times. When people see things happening around them that they don't understand, they typically aren't going to feel curious and want to ask questions. Instead they'll become angry to mask their fear and lash out, just like Meadow.
"Well, just stop it all right? You're gonna to be bald. It's obsessive-compulsive."
Caitlin's response, "It's just a habit" is something I can relate to as well. I would go to great lengths to brush off or downplay my trichotillomania. I would say anything as long as it meant the conversation was over and my trichotillomania wasn't brought up again. Some of my favorite excuses were: "I got my hair caught in a hairbrush and had to cut it out" and "I fell asleep with gum in my hair and had to cut it out." At other times I would just completely deny any involvement with my trichotillomania. Saying things like, "They're just like that" when someone asked about my patchy eyelashes or eyebrows. I didn't want to explain it to anyone because I felt like nobody would understand. I didn't want another person to react to me the way Meadow reacted to Caitlin.
Although I didn't love Caitlin pulling out a big chunk of her hair, I did love that an incredibly famous and adored show like The Sopranos had a tiny scene about trichotillomania. Millions of people would tune in every week and I'd like to think that millions of people saw "University" and thought about Caitlin's hair pulling. Maybe they Googled "Why would someone pull out their hair?" Maybe they saw themselves in Caitlin, I'm not the only one. Maybe families, like mine, with daughters and/or sons who were pulling out their hair realized for the first time, My child isn't the only one. Even a scene that is under a minute has the ability to change lives.