Thursday’s Blog Every Day in May: Something difficult about your “lot in life” and how you’re working to overcome it.
I feel ridiculous writing about this ‘difficult’ lot of mine, because when I think about the lots of so many others, I’ve had a wonderful life that warrants no complaints. But so the prompt stands and here I go.Trichotillomania. An impulse control disorder. The irresistible urge to pull out hair.
I have it.
Or, I deal with it.
Only a handful (maybe 2) actually know I struggle with this, but if you’ve ever been in a room with me for more than 5 minutes, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed.
I can’t tell you how I felt reading this article about actress Olivia Munn. With every line I just kept thinking, ‘Yes! Me too! That’s me!’ Sometimes it feels so good to identify with someone, and that’s why I’m choosing this ‘lot’ to write about. Because if she can help me, maybe I can help you. We’re all in this together.
It all started in 3rd grade with picking out my eyelashes. Since then it has grown into eyelashes, eyebrows and the little hairs on my chin. Fortunately, I’ve never had the urge to pull my head hair or to eat it, but I know others do, and I understand why you can’t just stop like everyone wants you to.
Besides ‘I love you’ and ‘Show ’em no mercy’ (on the soccer field) I’d say the most repeated phrase in my house growing up was ‘Stop picking,’ ‘Get your hands off your face,’ or my personal favorite ‘Katie Carroll I’m going to cut your fingers off.’ Always said with love of course.
I’ve been been in counseling as a child, tried wearing gloves, kept charts of how many hairs came out per day, found objects for rubbing to keep my hands occupied, jelly to keep my fingers slippery, plain ol’ self control and much more. But alas, I’m now 26 and still pick, pick, picking away.
Growing up there were many times I had visible chunks missing from my brows and lashes. I’ll never forget the day in 7th grade when a boy asked me why I was missing all my eyelashes on one side. He was just curious and meant no harm, but that was the day I realized, ‘Oh, other people notice I do this.’ It’s also the day I got really good at applying eyeliner to both my eyes and brows. I’m an expert filler-inner! I still struggle every day. Under normal circumstances, I’ve somehow managed to control which hairs I target. I’ve trained myself to go after the stray eyebrows that I would pluck with tweezers anyway. Or the little chin hairs that shouldn’t be there in the first place! But under stressful circumstances, all hairs are free game, and my fingers go to town. In the last 2 weeks for example, I’ve almost decreased by eyebrow size by half, but more than likely you’d never notice. I’m an expert with eyeliner, remember?
Picking for me is both pleasurable and destructive. I love, yes love, the way it feels when that tiny hair pulls out of my face. The deeper the root, the better it feels. Some might even call it pain. There is something in me that has to get that hair out. If I find one I want to pull, I can’t think about anything else. Every ounce of my focus goes into that hair for however long it takes. And it feels so good. It’s a relief. And then I start over and over and over. But when the stress is high and hairs are flying every which way, it becomes destructive. Because I hate the way I feel afterward. I hate what I’ve just done, no matter how good it felt.
And the truth is, while I have my trichotillomania under control in the sense that you could look at me and not notice, I would love to stop. Completely. And I’m assuming my parents want that, too. My hands constantly so close to my face causes breakouts. I feel unprofessional when sitting in a room full of adults, and then there’s me clawing at my face like a cat with a ball of yarn. But mostly, I think I’d just like some control.
But really, I’m not ashamed. Or even embarrassed. It’s just who I am and what I struggle with. We’ve all got something, this just happens to be mine. And yours happens to be yours. Good thing we’re all in this together.
The other reason I wrote about this topic is selfish. In college I wrote this article about goals and accountability. (Don’t laugh/cringe at my writing. I’ve already done that enough.) I vividly remember wanting to quit halfway through training, and the only thing that kept me going was that article.
So maybe, just maybe, when I feel like picking that little brow that no one can see but me, I’ll think of this post and resist the urge. Accountability. And that little win will turn into a major victory. And the only plucking I’ll do will be by way of tweezers. Right after I press publish, of course, because nobody wants to know how many eyebrows lost their life while writing this…PS. I owe a thank you to my parents, who for almost 20 years now have not given up on helping me. The amount of breath they’ve spent on telling me to keep my hands off my face is exhausting to think about. A thank you to my few friends who have the courage to say ‘Stop picking’ because they know it’s what I need. But also a thank you to those friends who just let me to pick, allowing me to be me and face it at my own pace, not theirs. And to Walker who does both, but who you should ask to pronounce ‘trichotillomania.’ It’s worth your time.