Last week I (Sarah, CBSN Founder) had the pleasure of asking Mrs. North Carolina 2013, Josie Sanctis, a couple of questions related to Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder, TTM, Trich) which she has had since the age of 9. The soon to be 29 year old, is an incredible advocate for the trichotillomania community and is using her crown to educate/promote awareness about trich & other BFRB’s. She has been named TLC’s (Trichotillomania Learning Center) Awareness Ambassador & is constantly dedicating herself and time to teaching others about trich across America. Having trichotillomania and putting herself in the spotlight as Mrs.NC is a remarkable act of bravery, and goes to show that trichotillomania doesn’t control, limit, or define how life will turn out. She is a true role model for the young girls and women who may feel insecure about what trich can take away. Josie is a heroine for our community. Thank you for all you have done, and continue to do! All the best on the road to Mrs. America!
Sarah: How did you feel growing up with Trichotillomania? Were there any experiences of Bullying?
Josie: I started pulling when I was 9. At that age, I wasn’t aware that I looked different from everyone else. It really wasn’t until other people started asking me about my eyelashes and eyebrows that I became self conscious. I tended to be private about my pulling and didn’t like to talk about it. The lack of communication about my hair pulling disorder was because I didn’t know it was an actual disorder AND it even had a name. I was definitely teased by classmates and peers on the bus. It was really hard! I was already ashamed and did what I could to cover my lack of eyebrows and eyelashes, so when others would tease me about it I was mortified!
Sarah: What would you say to young girls and boys who are feeling embarrassed about the way they look because of Trichotillomania/Dermatillomania?
Josie: Hair pulling and skin picking is just something we do. It’s not who we are. My most liberating moment from TTM was when I decided it doesn’t define me and I am not going to let it dictate what I can or can’t do because of the way I look. I learned to give myself grace for pulling and love myself equally when I have a full set of eyebrows or not a single hair on my face.
Sarah: What would you tell parents of young children who may be experiencing low self-esteem due to Trichotillomania/ Dermatillomania?
Josie: I truly believe that the supporters of those battling with trich have it tough. As a parent, it is natural to want to fix the problem for your child. It becomes frustrating when everything you have tried fails. The best advice I can give a parent is to just be the best support system you can be. More specifically, ask your daughter/son what you can do to help. How can you bring pulling or picking to their attention in a way that will be effective?
Sarah: What did your family/friends do to support you when you were having difficult times dealing with trichotillomania? Were they understanding?
Josie: For a long time my husband Andrew thought he was helping me by telling me to stop pulling every time he saw me doing it. NOT HELPFUL! Haha! At any rate, that was something we had to talk about and come to a solution that felt comfortable for both parties. Being understanding and remembering to give grace and unconditional love during difficult times with trich is the best thing any support system can do. We have both accepted that TTM may be something we deal with in our lives forever. Why let that take away from other awesome things life holds?
Sarah: What would you say affects young people with trichotillomania/dermatillomania the most?
Josie: What affected me the most was the stigma around trichotillomania and dermatillomania. A big struggle is trying to explain your disorder to someone who just doesn’t get it.
Sarah: Who is your inspiration/where do you get your confidence from?
Josie: My inspiration is the trichotillomania community and the millions that still need a name to their disorder. I love being able to spread awareness on a higher level using my title. It is the reason for doing the Mrs. North Carolina America pageant in the first place. It’s funny because I may appear confident on the outside, but I don’t always feel that way. I think the courage to speak openly about my story comes from God.
Sarah: For those who are scared to attend Peer Support Meetings, what would you say is the most beneficial thing you’ve gotten out of being part of a support group?
Josie: The community! Support group is the one place I can go and be in a judgment-free zone! Everyone just gets you, and it’s nice.
Sarah: Why is it important that Canadians learn more about Trichotillomania and other BFRB’s?
Josie: TTM affects 1 in 50 people. With that said, I am sure there are many people in Canada who are suffering from TTM or other BFRB’s that need support. Educating yourself about BFRB’s allows you to aid in spreading awareness!
Visit Josie’s Facebook Fan Page here: https://www.facebook.com/MrsCharlotteAmerica2012
Watch Josie speak about her journey here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbB0piuq910&feature=youtu.be
TLC’s Website: www.trich.org