I thought I would share my story in the hopes that others may understand that they are not alone. I don’t want this post to be a sad one, or depressing, and let alone a sob story. I just want to think that by posting my story, it could help someone out there that’s going through a similar thing. I wish I had gone and asked for help sooner, because 3 years is a heck of a long time to deal with it myself. I was too shy and worried I would get laughed at if people didn’t understand, especially the doctors, but I finally did it. Although it’s taken me a few years, I finally booked an appointment and asked for help. I knew exactly what I had, but the doctor just confirmed it for me… trichotillomania and depression.
So I’ll start from when it all began, 3 years ago. It all started out fairly innocent and tame at first, I would pull out a few eyelashes here and there. However after telling my closest friends about it, they took it the wrong way and things went pear-shaped. I felt like I couldn’t trust my friends anymore and I was stressed, I was falling down into this dark pit that some may know as depression. I wouldn’t wish depression upon anyone, I was finding myself crying, becoming reclusive, and not wanting to do anything. Every day after school when I would step off the bus, I would climb into bed and cry until I fell asleep. I began to eat less, some days at the weekend I wouldn’t eat at all. I was in a state, and I would get angry at my parents when they suggested I needed to eat more. I have never felt more alone than how I did then, I weighed hardly anything and I looked so ill. I had spiralling down days, not able to get out of bed, not able to be motivated, and unfortunately, some thoughts of ending it. It’s not a great thing to talk about, and while I am not ashamed to say so, I am just so thankful for the help that I’ve had from friends and family.
From all that was going on at the time, my trichotillomania got worse, and I had turned towards my eyebrows for relief. My friends didn’t understand what I was going through, and neither did I either to be honest. All I knew was that it was a horrible experience to go through, and it was heart-breaking facing it alone as they thought I was hurting myself on purpose. The truth is, I had no control over the pulling, and even now I find it hard. Quite often I find myself mindlessly touching my eyebrows without myself even realising at first.
When it started to become noticeable, I had to find a way to cover it up. I started using eyeshadow to fill them in, except at that time the closest colour I had at the time was a copper/red shade so it didn’t really blend in and I felt like people knew. Once I managed to find the perfect eyebrow pencil, it made me feel a little more normal and less like a freak, and the phrase “I’m just putting my eyebrows on” became a common expression among my family.
I started to avoid walking outside when it was raining, and I hated going swimming up until a point where I stopped going completely. I carried an eyebrow pencil around with me at all times, because I’d think that they might smudge/get rubbed off if someone gave me a hug etc. Anxiety when receiving a hug… that’s not how it should be. All these events are still pretty vivid in my mind even now, because trichotillomania has had a massive impact in my life.
I remember feeling embarrassed and disgusted at myself because I couldn’t stop plucking my eyebrows, even to the point when I even broke the tweezers in half and binned them out of anger. Of course this wasn’t going to stop the trichotillomania. Instead I’d find myself using my nails in an attempt to pick and pull out the hairs. This obviously wasn’t good for my skin, and as a result of using my nails I would end up bleeding where I’d scratched too much.
I remember having to fake-smile a lot, and there are not many photos of me around this time either. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me, so it was a very sucky number of months. It was at the point where I had only half my eyebrows left or less, and I realised how it was having an effect on my self-esteem and of course my appearance. When I finished that school year for the summer, I began eating more and also talking to my family more, so by the time I started College that September, I was a happier person. I’m proud of myself for staying strong during that time in my life, and I’ve achieved everything I wanted to so far. I finished College with one of the highest grades in my class, now currently studying Computer Information Systems at University, I’m with the greatest partner I could ever have, and weigh a healthy weight for my size.
No, I’m not cured of trichotillomania as unfortunately it’s not that simple. For me, my condition is very mild and usually keeping my hands busy does help distract me, and with supportive friends and family around me, I know I can get through this. I don’t pull nearly as much as I used to, but I still have very low self-esteem and social problems. I would just like to note here, that although I have spoken a lot about hair pulling, I do also suffer from skin picking. I know most people pick their skin, but I mean in a way it causes tissue damage (can sometimes end up scarring). This is still a very much on going problem, but I thought I would just mention it as it is directly related to trichotillomania too. I’ve tried banning myself from plucking/picking before, but it usually makes things worse (bingeing at the end) or feeling very guilty if I can’t manage it, so I wouldn’t suggest attempting to go “pull-free”.
I am going to leave this post here, and reach out to those of you who suffer from trichotillomania, depression, anxiety, or any kind of mental illness. I was surprised how easy it was to write it all down for the first time, although very nerve wracking to actually post it. Although I am lucky to have so much support and nothing ‘bad’ essentially happened, it isn’t easy to put yourself out there.
Kate from The Minted Beauty really gave me the confidence to post this, after she blogged about her own depression journey. Also a huge shout out to Beckie (YouTuber) for sharing her story through vlogging, and for keeping me sane for the last few couple of years knowing that I’m not alone. Feel free to leave a comment, or contact me in any way if you wish to (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).