This past Tuesday, advocate Angela Hartlin was featured in a webinar with the Trichotillomania Learning Center giving tips on how to “come out” about your BFRB. She gave a number of tips, such as having information ready in case people don’t understand or question the legitimacy of what you’re saying, being prepared for a range of good and bad reactions, or maybe even writing a personalized letter/message to whomever it is you are telling. There are a number of different ways to go about telling someone you have a BFRB and many things to consider when doing so, but there is one thing Angela shared with us that I completely agree with and think is something important to remember.
You are in control of how much you tell people.
This is not emphasized enough, and also goes for if you haven’t decided to “come out” and are just being asked invasive questions. You don’t owe anyone anything. You get to tell them however much or little you would like, regardless of whom this person is or what they want to know. This is you trusting them enough to share your secret with them and they should respect you wanting to share at your own pace. In her webinar, Angela worded it as something along the lines of, “Just because you open up doesn’t mean you have to justify the rest.”
I think this is important to remember because sometimes the fear is that things will get out of control and that you’ll be forced to answer a million questions, but that’s not how it has to be. When asking for advice on telling loved ones, people will often simply say just be prepared for different reactions and questions, but that implies that you have to answer those questions. You don’t if you’re not ready to do so. Maybe for right now, you only want to share a little bit, and that’s perfectly okay. If you go in with the mindset that you only have to share as much as you are comfortable with and are prepared to be firm with that, chances are you’ll feel more comfortable with the situation.
You can’t control how people will react, which is probably the scariest part of the whole ordeal, but you can at least control this little part of it. Actually, it’s a pretty big part, because it’s a part of your story that you’re sharing. People will likely be naturally curious and want to know more, but maybe ask them to just wait until you are comfortable with telling them more, or even give them some sources of information to read in the meantime that can help them understand a little more. Then next time you are ready to tell them, maybe they’ll have more of an idea of what you’re sharing with them.
The truth of the matter is, you don’t have to tell anyone about your disorder at all. True, it might make certain situations, like romantic partnerships, easier, but it’s your choice. Not to mention that one of the only ways there will be a better understanding and more knowledge about these disorders is if people share about them, but you are not obligated to do that. If you want to share, that’s great, too, just remember that you are entitled to do it at your own pace.
It’s your choice to share at all, so it only makes sense that it’s also your choice to share however much of it you want to. Take back some of the control from the chaos that can be these disorders. Your disorder. Your story. Your choice.