Monday, 17 June 2013

My occasional baldness

I have Trichotillomania. Believe me, that's a mouthful. When you say just that word, people assume it's actually some truly terrifying disease that is contagious... It's not. It's only an impulse control disorder regarding pulling out your own hair. I find that I tend to only pull when I'm stressed out, I mainly pull out my eyelashes and eye brows although the first time I remember doing it was head hair. It was sometime in either first or second year. I had grown out my fringe in previous years but there were still baby hairs that would tickle my nose or hover in and out of vision that annoyed me. Eventually I just pulled them out. They weren't important and they didn't leave a bald patch. Soon enough it just became a habit if I had a loose hair I would pull it out. I do remember noticing a small receding patch near my tiny widows peak. I didn't consciously think about hiding up that insignificant little patch, no one had noticed it. I just remember thinking, "Oh, I should probably stop that." I didn't really, I just stopped pulling in that area. Looking back I'm really glad that I can't stand having my hair in my face and always had it tied up when it was long otherwise it would have been a lot worse.

Other then loose hair, I didn't focus on my hair too much. After all it's just hair. I was too busy reading, studying and being a bit of a tomboy to be bothered with my hair. I also looked on in scorn at girls who would spend so much time on their hair just for it to get messy in the wind. What was the point? I only ever spent time on my hair if there was no chance of getting messy and in my face. More often than not I would have a bobble on me for when I got fed up of it floating around and in the way. The only people I admired for long hair were my older sisters, especially Alana as she was always brushing it and doing things with it. I remember when I was very young being allowed to play with and mess up both of their hairstyles by putting a thousand bobbels and clips in it and spending an hour or more brushing it. Somehow I never bothered to do the same with my own hair. As long as it was out of the road I was happy.

I have no idea how I coped with the horrific haircut I had from the end of 2nd year to the start of 5th year. It was a short severe bob haircut. Words won't do it justice so here is a photo.

It was not good. I loved it at the time, it suited me for my 'emo kid' phase. Looking back on it it would have been potentially acceptable if I had done something with it. Straightened it, curled it or even used hair gel. Instead I just let it sit there and look awful. Especially when I would just leave it behind my ears, like in this photo. Even looking now I'm surprised I left that bit of hair on my face alone. This is probably the most in control I ever was between that initial period of pulling out my hair and then when fifth year started it came back with a vengeance.

I have always rested my head in my hands when reading or working at a desk and I have always had my fingers on my forehead with my pinkie on my eyebrow. I started off simply rubbing the hairs. However as fifth year progressed and I became more and more stressed I started to do more. I would grip the hair between my thumb and forefinger and pull at it. Not pull it out, just pull it taut and let go. I would worry at my hair for hours like this while reading or working not fully paying attention to what I was doing until one day I must have pulled too tight and the rest is history. I never had a proper pulling fit until I was, at least, at the end of my sixth year. This time people noticed the bald spots as it was my eyebrow hair I was pulling out. Worse was to come though as I got into the habit of pulling out my eyelashes. 

For the duration of this time I had no idea that there was anyone else who pulled out their hair, much less that there was a name for it. Eventually I stumbled onto the videos of a girl on Youtube who has severe trichotillomania. She has had to shave her hair off repeatedly in an attempt to control her urges. After seeing her video I managed to control mine long enough to grow back almost all of my hair but then a lot happened all at once and I pulled almost every eyebrow hair out on my left and nearly three quarters of the right along with decimating my eyelashes.

The worse thing was that it wasn't just my family noticing anymore, it was so bad that my co-workers noticed. One of them was a trained beautician and I got talked into letting her tint my eyebrows and when it came to it, there weren't even baby hairs left for her to dye. That was also the first time she saw the state I'd left my eyelashes in and she was shocked. Another beautician came in and just couldn't grasp that I had pulled all the hair out. She seemed distraught that there was nothing they could do for my poor non-existent eyelashes when I was just delighted to have something to pass off for eyebrows. At least it was something that made me look normal again and people don't tend to notice the eyelashes as much anyway.

It was pretty bad but I could hide most of it for a glance by filling in my eyebrows and using eyeliner on my upper water line. That took some practice though, the first month or so I was using a light brown/ginger on my eyebrows and it just looked so bad. I also had to follow where my eyebrows used to be whereas most people just fill in between the hair, I had to pretend I had hair. This would sometimes result in some rather odd looking eyebrows. I don't know how it took me so long to notice that was the wrong colour and the wrong shape. It did result in some funny photos to look back on though. 

I had a similar hair pulling fit recently but my eyelashes seemed to suffer the most. This was just after I had moved in with my boyfriend and after being jobless for over 3 months I just got so stressed that I pulled all of my eyelashes out. My top lids were completely bald and more than half of my bottom lids. I had to put vaseline on my eyelids to stop them watering whenever I went outside as they had nothing to protect them from the wind and the dirt. It was fairly grim in the looks department as well and I started to get hair envy. I was envious of girls who could use eyelash curlers or mascara and just, in general, people with eyelashes. I started pulling on the hair to the left of my forehead but thankfully I snapped out of it when I started to notice all the bits of hair I'd ripped out accumulating around me.

The damage was already done for my eyes though. I inadvertently discovered that Vaseline helped my lashes grow back, it also made the new growth too slippy to pull out. Something I also found helps is that I am completely open about it. If people notice, I'm glad that I know what it is so I can tell them. It also means I'm not alone and if people hear about it they know they're not alone as well. I haven't ever been truly open on Facebook or Twitter about it but I've always been open about it on Instagram. It's because of that I have seen other girls who have it as bad as and worse than me and it seems to actually be fairly common. It's that some people are able to do it in moderation and others just hide it really well. However something that strikes me is that is these people don't open about it they soon develop other problems, such as depression, which is understandable because they feel like they don't measure up to societies standard of beauty, they don't get real sympathy as it's 'self-inflicted' and they then beat themselves up when they can't stop from pulling out there own hair. It's just a horrible thing to go through.

Thankfully, I'm really lucky as my family and friends have always been there to look out for me and support me. Even if it's really annoying when they tell me off for playing with my eyebrows. A common thing that people ask, when I tell them the first time, is have I told a doctor and yes, I have. There just isn't a lot of help out there for this problem. One time I went as I had no eyelashes left and I got eye drops and some websites to look at. I'm currently recovering from my last really bad pulling phase and the most difficult thing is to ignore the itchy feeling as well as the lopsided feeling on my eyes as the hair slowly grows back. Resisting the urge to pull out all that lovely new hair is almost unbearable but so worth it when I see how far I've come along. Here's hoping I keep it up.

No comments:

Post a Comment