Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Have Trichotillomania

I Am More Than Just Trichotillomania 

Experience Project~ She touches her hair in a certain way. It’s very particular, very deliberate. Almost as if she is searching for one specific strand. But she’s only half conscious about what she’s doing. Found. Beautiful, fingers glide and caress and twirl. The flirting becomes violent, like a drunken man whose moves are rough and brash. Eradicated. The fingers move on, and more strands are stolen from their roots. In the emptiness, the gratifying yet anxious churning that follows, she becomes fully aware. And in that lingering moment, a little part of her dies, too. This is not the first time. It is not the second, or the third, or the tenth. It is not the last either.

People talk about failure as a way to grow from mistakes or disappointments, determined to work harder to avoid repeats of such incidents. What if failure came the same exact way, over and over again? You guys know exactly what I'm talking about—that’s the beauty of posting my story here, because so many people understand. You don’t just feel sorry, you actually know what it’s like. And for those feeling desperate, I know what you’re going through.

At this point in my life, I have struggled with trichotillomania for almost eight years now. Only aware that it was a mental and neurobiological disorder for one year, I spent the other seven heavy with the burden of believing I was a vain freak unhealthily obsessed with hair. In the sixth grade, I became “the girl with the bandana,” every single day of that year unfailingly sporting a style I secretly despised, because I didn’t even have enough hair to “naturally” hide a loss I couldn’t explain. I did not understand why I pulled; I hated myself for being unable to stop. Trich affected aspects of my lifestyle more than I realized, things I did to hide are more than I can share now, since I am still walking down memory lane, picking up the pieces of me that have been tainted by my…condition.

Last November, when I finally came across an article about trichotillomania, my world flipped upside down. I cried for days, shaking under seven years of guilt, confusion, loneliness. Partially in denial, I didn’t want to be labeled as “diseased” either. But as each bitter tear burst forth, I began to feel somewhat relieved. I began to understand.

Failure is not a label. The pulling, the urges, the constant, recurring failure do not define me. Hair does not define me. Failure is meant to shape, to strengthen, but it does not make us who we are. The key to growth is accepting our imperfections and issues, and knowing that the condition is not all that we are. We ought to love ourselves for whatever array of problems we have, to realize where our identity truly needs to be placed. Failure will be inevitable—in any form— but it’s a matter of how we perceive it; we are made up of how we react to such uncontrollable events, not by the experiences themselves.

Since learning what was “wrong” with me and recognizing what it means, I haven’t magically stopped. Oh, I only wish it were that easy. I have had some major relapses even soon after learning about trich. Even now, the reality is that I’ve just pulled a few hairs before typing this, and a good fourth of my head is in tufts. But my emotional relationship with the disorder has transformed. Initially I was afraid of the truth, but really, it has set me free because I allowed truth to be a blessing. The key to trichotillomania is not about settling with fact that there is no cure to the urges; neither is it about the treatment of hair loss. True healing is about the perception and the acceptance. Perhaps this is how we ought to live our lives: how we ought to treat ourselves and others, and how we deal with problems we cannot avoid.

I know we are all stronger, we are all more than just a disorder. You know what else comes with acceptance? Sharing. Not just here, where I'm anonymous, but with your closest friends, family, or mentors. If you want to break down the walls that trich has built in your life, do it first by letting people in; hiding this secret in shame is still allowing it to control your life.

Support is key – to have a community that loves you for your struggles, even when they can’t entirely understand what you’re going through, love is a force to be reckoned with. And that’s what I hope to do, with this newly gained knowledge about myself and the fact that there are others like me. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and while God did NOT give me this form of suffering, I know he has allowed it to shape me in to a person that can help others with trichotillomania. Perhaps one day I can offer more when I’ve actually conquered it, but for now, I hope what sharing I have done has been able to provide encouragement or solace.

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