Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Sharing the Secret"

I'm interested in how, when, IF others have shared their 'secret' of trichotillomania.  Since it is a very shame-based disorder, many choose to keep it a secret, if possible.  Sometimes the pulling is so obvious, it is impossible to keep that secret.  But not all folks pull in obvious areas.  For instance, if one pulls in the pubic region, one's body hair or an animal's fur.

I realized something was 'wrong' when I was about 11 years of age.  I was into adolescence and was feeling strongly compelled to pull in the pubic region.  I also was strongly compelled to pulling my eyelashes and rubbing the hairs in my right eyebrow.  I recall going and getting my mother's tweezers, then reserving the bathroom (which I had to share with 3 other siblings) for total privacy.  Due to my adolescent age, much support was lent by my mother, especially, to ensure I had my privacy time.  Little did she know that I had just raided her bathroom medicine cabinet to attain her tweezers~!  Then?  I would strategically pull the lashes, one by one, with the tweezers.  First the right eye.  Then the left eye.  There was a 'snap' of my eyelid as the bulb of the hair was removed from it.  It hurt in a sense, but it also felt really good, too.  Relieved would be how I would explain the feeling.  I had removed the hairs that, somehow, 'felt' like they 'needed to be pulled'.  I don't know why some felt they needed pulled and others were purely benign and unnoticed, not giving me any sensation whatsoever that they needed removed.

I would take each hair as it was removed, tap it against my lower lip, then when it felt 'finished', simply flick it away.  By the time the pulling session was over, I would then review the line-up of all the pulled hairs surrounding the sink.  More importantly, I would review my eyelids and right eyebrow, checking for 'damage done'.  Often, it was shocking.  Worry would overtake me and I would wonder how would I ever hide this mess?  Surely someone would note it.

Then came the necessity of returning my mom's tweezers, ensuring they were back to their special spot on her medicine cabinet shelf.  This was sometimes pretty risky as, having 3 siblings and my parents' bedroom being their private space, I had to sneak around to accomplish the tweezer's return.  Once again came the onset of great stress which far outweighed the momentary satisfaction of the pulling session.  Yet?  I knew that, surely, I would pull again, repeating the very same process.

Over the years, the places I pulled would change as my living situations changed and I grew up, moving out on my own as a young adult.  But, the secret remained.  Until the age of 38 years old, the secret of pulling remained.  Finally, I told someone.  Someone with whom I shared a home.  The 'cat was out of the bag', finally~!  I recall that conversation lasting for hours.  My friend was so interested, hearing about this behavior I did regularly.  Interestingly, my friend was also a mental health therapist, yet had never heard of trichotillomania.  I was lucky.  I had a kind, sensitive, genuinely interested and supportive person as my audience.  For the first time since I was 11 years old, I felt relief that I had told this huge secret I had held for 27 years.  We even laughed.  Not at me, but just because it was so 'different'.

And from telling one person, then I began to slowly tell more people.  With each person I told, I felt more relief.  I didn't feel weird, creepy, odd.  I felt relief.  And with each revelation of speaking my truth, I continue to feel relief.  I don't blast it to the world.  But when it feels appropriate and important, I tell my truth.  So, I can attest that, for me, the truth has set me free.  And it will continue to set me free as now that I've gotten a piece of that 'freedom pie', I want more~!

Sending out my thoughts of freedom for any/all who are right now suffering from this disorder.  It's surely not fair.  But, I do believe and have experienced, there is Hope.  I hope relief for all.

J.T. Bean


  1. That is very similar to what I do. I pull from the top of my head; often, I pull hairs that are slightly different colored or textured than others. Sometimes I just pull random hairs, especially during really bad pulling "sessions." Then, I drag the hair across my top lip and toss it away. I don't pull around other people, unless the urge is extremely bad.. being an only child leaves (too much) privacy and time to pull. In middle school I told one boy whom I noticed had bald patches in his hair. As I suspected, he also has trich and gave me some tips on how he deals with it. A few years ago I told about 4 of my close friends. My pulling was bad enough for people to notice, but few actually knew why I had bald patches. Thankfully, none of my friends reacted in a repulsed or horrified manner; they were all pretty supportive.

    1. Hi again, Anna...Lee~!

      Thanks for posting again~! The compulsiveness of this disorder reveals itself in the repetitive pattern you follow (and me, too). It just really 'has to be done a certain way', doesn't it? Otherwise, there's not a sense of 'feeling complete and relieved'.

      Yes! Being an only child would probably lend to too much time alone, giving you all sorts of opportunities to just 'disappear', relenting to a 'pulling session'.

      Have you found that the "slightly different colored or textured" hairs are as a result of the hairs having been pulled repeatedly? Are they your 'target hairs' especially because they are differently colored and/or textured?

      How did you approach the boy in your middle school, surface the topic with him? And, what were his "tips" to deal with it? Did his tips work for you? Do you still use them? Have you created your own coping mechanisms?

      Also wondering, when you told your 4 close friends, who initiated the topic; you or them? How was the topic brought to the table for discussion? Do you still discuss this with them? What does "pretty supportive" mean?

      If you had to state where you are right now, in this moment, with your level of pulling, where are you? How much does trich affect you in your daily living?

      Do you have what you would term 'specific triggers' that compel you to pull? Or, is it more just a random building of stressors overall, and then you have a "session"?

      Ahhh. Lots of questions~!! I hope that is OK with you. If not, just 'say the word'. But? I find you so brave and willing to discuss this. Believe me, it helps me lots. And I'm sure that anyone who reads these posts, simply by virtue of knowing ......there are OTHERS who have this, too.......are experiencing their paths to be carved more positively in some fashion for each and every person. That's pretty cool, don't ya think?

      I like to perceive of it in this way; it's not weird, it's just unique to each of us as individuals. It does NOT define us. It is merely a facet of us.

      Looking forward to your next connection, Anna....Lee~!

      Hoping for many others to join in, too. Together, we can assist one another in taking the 'tricky out of trich'.

      J.T. Bean

  2. Hi I have trichotillomania my self and everybody makes fun of me about it. also, when i am at home by myself, i need somthing to keep myself busy so i am not sitting there, pulling my eyelashes and brows out. Do you have any ideas of what i could do?

  3. Hi, lollipop1~!
    Thanks for your post~! I want to state that I had quite a long reply written to you.......and to my dismay, I hit a wrong button and.....poof, it disappeared. However.........I am a bit out of time to craft such a long response at the moment, but i want you to know that I will write more within the next few days.

    For starters, though, let's just say that there's a wonderful saying that goes like this, "If you can't accept me at my worst, then you certainly don't deserve me at my best". In other words, for those "everybody" people who feel a need to make fun of probably don't really need them in your life. They do not sound like kind, compassionate people and, frankly, life is far too short to let knuckleheads occupy any time in your life. Believe me, they have their own issues, too. Perhaps theirs are just not quite so obvious outwardly as those of a trichster.

    Creating movement when you're pulling......changing your behavior from pulling to a positive surely a change for the positive. You will modify the brain chemistry by starting a new activity, and you will stop yourself from pulling. Even if all you do is get up and walk around in circles, that actually changes the brain chemistry and also stops you from pulling. Sedentary situations, especially when one is alone, are danger zones for a you surely know.

    For now, if I may ask, are you aware of when you are pulling? Or do you pull without realizing that you are pulling, then come to the realization that you are pulling?

    Let's keep this going. I hope just a bit of info......and becoming discerning of 'who matters/who doesn't', may give you a starting point.

    I'll be in touch again.......real soon. Surround yourself with folks who accept you........for whomever you are and whatever you do (presuming it's legal....:)) The others, truly, are not worth renting space in your head to them.

    Peace and No Pulling wishes for you, lollipop~!
    J.T. Bean

  4. HI, I just found out that this thing I do (pulling) has a name, I've done it since I was a teenager, the places I pulled have changed but the top of my head has been the worse since a few years ago, I have a massive amount of hair so I always tell my self it will go unnoticed but I've had bad episodes and little bold patches have gone visible, I always manage to hide it. I always pick just some hairs with different texture and I feel that those are like bad, ugly hairs that need to get off of me. The thing is I'm an only child so I spend a lot of time by my self just pulling... sometimes I get stucked in front of the mirror pulling for several minutes. I also have dermatillomania so my face, chest and back are full of little scars. I've always felt different and completely alone and I've always known that the pulling and scratching are not something normal but I always accepted it as a part of me, It was until yesterday that I found out that more people do it, and that it has a name. It has been really hard to accept and I feel really lost. When I read your post about telling other people It completely freaked me out, I felt the most irracional fear. I can't stand the idea of anybody knowing this about my self. Even so, when I found out it felt like something I couldn't bare by my self, so today I told someone, the person I trust the most, he got really angry... his reaction was really painful so I don't think I can do it ever again, which only makes me feel more and more alone. (sorry if my english is not so good)