Over the years I have been in contact with many people – both ex-hair pullers as well as those who are still working through their hair pulling condition. In these exchanges I realise that exchanging stories is an important step in healing. We can take both solace and encouragement in knowing that we are not alone, that it is indeed possible to stop our obsessive compulsive hair pulling, and that others have done so. Therefore I would like to hare my own hair pulling story with you. I hope that by sharing this with you it can help you in your own dealings with hair and eyelash pulling.
I suffered from both hair pulling and skin picking as early as I can remember. I have a vivid memory as a child saving all of my eyelashes in a metal box, totally oblivious to how strange this was until people started wondering why I had no eyelashes. Looking back I have no idea if this was related to a stressful childhood, or just that I was predisposed to the hair pulling condition, but in any case I continued to pull, sometimes more and sometimes less.
As I hit my twenties the condition got much worse. While modern society idolizes being young, many young adults find it a difficult time in their lives, as did I. However I was still unaware that I had a veritable problem and continued to pull out my eyelashes and eyebrows, spending time to conceal the patches by searching high and low for an eye pencil to fill in my brows and lashes and other disguises. I was so envious of the other members of my family who had lovely, long lashes that seemed to mock my own bald patches and made things even more frustrating for me. If I could only stop, just LOOK at the lashes I’d have.
Emotionally, living with my hair pulling was a constant heaviness in my life. It weighed down on me, always there, in the back of my mind, whether I was fighting with the urges, making sure my eyebrows were filled in, dealing with the frustration or puzzling over what was wrong with me. I was living a continuous battle with myself. Every morning and every evening I would give myself a pep talk, telling myself that I would quit, I would “just stop” (yes, unbelievable, I said those very words to myself, over and over again, those words that others say to hair pullers and that are so terribly frustrating to hear), believing that merely having some self-control would put an end to my hair pulling, that surely I was an intelligent person and I could do such a simple thing. I would convince myself in the morning that ‘THIS DAY WOULD BE MY LAST DAY I PULLED MY HAIR’ only to then be faced with myself and bald patches that evening, having failed YET AGAIN. The mixture of frustration and damage to my self-confidence was deeply rooted and misunderstood, even by myself.
Despite the lack of eyelashes or eyebrows, I continued with my hair pulling which was really very much out of control. However crazy as it sounds though, amazingly I didn’t even realize that I had an obsessive-compulsive hair pulling ‘condition’. But one fine day, much later in life, I mentioned in passing to my doctor that I had a place that was continually itchy and where I was ‘losing’ the hair (I was too embarrassed to admit that I was pulling it out, even to my doctor who I was asking for help). She took one look at me declared that I was suffering from a condition known as ‘Trichotillomania’ (what is THAT? Even the name of the condition is strange) and I should consider starting therapy.
That was both a terrible day (“I have a ‘HAIR PULLING CONDITION’? I don’t want a ‘condition’”) and a wonderful day (“So, I’m not crazy. There is a legitimate reason to this. And if this is truly a condition, then I can then find a ‘treatment’ for my eyelash pulling that works.”).
I immediately went home and started to do some research. Putting a name to what was happening to me and identifying the condition as Trichotillomania was the beginning of a huge change for me. Once I started reading up on my condition, while I felt ashamed, I actually felt a sort of freedom. I experienced all sorts of emotions, from denial (“I am a ‘normal’ successful person, I can’t suffer from hair pulling disorder!”) to shame (‘there is something wrong with me’) to relief (‘there are others out there just like me! And there is a reason I do this. I’m NOT crazy, and I’m NOT alone). In any case, at least there was a reason behind my actions. That was a turning point for me. I think that awareness and true understanding is absolutely essential for hair pullers to advance.
Armed with this information and encouragement, and loathe to get outside help, I began a process of gathering research and ideas for helping me through my condition. Initially for my own treatment, I tried many different methods and put together a system that gave me a reassuring structure to work within. After trying products such as Nioxin and Latisse, I also searched high and low for an all-natural product to use in my treatment (having used essential oils and homeopathic treatments with much success throughout my life). Not finding anything, I created my own Trich Stop all-natural hair growth oil using olive oil and plant essences from my own garden as well as those produced organically around me.
And then I began applying all the methods I had found, testing and refining them until I eventually worked through my hair pulling disorder. During this process I met many people and had many enriching exchanges, until one day I realized that others suffering from these conditions could also benefit from the work that I had done. So I decided to view this experience as a way that I could give to others. That I would not have suffered from this condition in vain. And so I put together the Trich Stop System for hair pullers.
I am often asked if I ever have any relapses. The answer is that I still do feel occasional urges and I still have a hotspot that often acts up. However I am now able to control the urge to pull out my eyelashes and resist hair pulling. But that just serves to remind me how much progress I have made and that I am indeed the one in control. Each and every victory makes me stronger.