Growing up, all I wanted was beautiful, thick, long hair, like all the girls on TV and in the magazines. I wanted long hair because it was beautiful and feminine. Because girls just have long hair and it was one of those things you just had as a girl, like breasts or bitchy friends.
When I turned 13, not only did I want long hair to twirl and flick over my shoulder at the boys, I wanted to pull it out. Well, truthfully I didn’t want to pull it out, I just did. I couldn’t help it, it was compulsive.
Over the years I graduated from one hair style to the next. The side part, to hide the crown bald spot, the half pony (Legolas style) to hid the back bald spot, a pony tail because my hair couldn’t be down anymore, a “hair band” (basically a hair pony tail band with faux hair around the band to make people think my hair was thicker than it was), and finally a buzz cut with a wig because I couldn’t hide my defeat anymore.
I wore that awful wig for two years. I sweated through two 40 degree Ontario Summers, a trip to the Dominican and Haiti and every other practical social event you could list.
I also avoided swimming, beaches, gyms (anything where I’d sweat, in general), the outside (again sweating), wearing hats (they messed my wig up!), windy activities, playing with kids (they pull hair), hair salons (because stylists KNOW when you’re wearing a wig), basically any activity which would result in me being uncomfortable in the stupid wig. That was basically everything.
I also get migraines, the netting of the wig would make my head feel like it had tiny ants crawling across it when a migraine would start. It was awful and took everything in me to keep the thing on in public, just to throw it on the dresser and hide under the covers when I got home.
I hid my baldness. It was unladylike, ugly. It ate away at my self-esteem until all was left was a little girl who could barely hold her head up from the shame and guilt she carried around under that stupid ugly wig.
In April 2013 I started attending meetings with other people living with BFRBs in the Toronto area. It took me five months after attending the meetings to really question why I wore the wig and what I’d have to change when it came to my perception of myself.
After months of contemplation, discussion with my CBSN family and some thorough self-reflection, I decided I was more than a girl with a wig… I was a trichster. I shouldn’t hide something so integral to my being. I have spent a long time hating myself, blaming myself for this disorder. I figured if I shaved my head, I didn’t have trich because there was nothing to pull, but the truth of the matter is I still have trich, the buzz cut just put me in “remission.”
On December 22, 2013, I decided the wig and I were done our whirl-wind relationship. I hung her up in the back of the closet and posted a picture of my new haircut on my Facebook, to soften the surprise that I’d “chopped” all my hair off.
Truthfully, the reveal on Facebook was a really great idea. It made it easier on the people around me who see me on a semi-regular basis and are on my Facebook as well. The harder questions and stares came from others whom I don’t particularly mingle with often: clients, coworkers or the office workers next door, for instance. “Why did you cut all your beautiful hair off?” I’ve heard that a couple times already. It takes all the strength and energy I have to not to tell them my hair had always been that short! But then again, that is none of their business.
None of their business, not in the slightest. This has been the best piece of advice I’ve been able to give myself throughout this entire endeavour. It isn’t their business why my hair is so short. Why can’t I like my hair short? I’m still a strong, vibrant woman, just…a little less hair to account for.
My new hair has given me accountability, an awareness that I I’ve got to be cognizant of my pulling sessions. I seem to know when I’m pulling now and the trancelike pulling almost completely stopped. I try to ration my pulls and accept that I need to pull sometimes. Everything in moderation.
I still spend almost every waking moment obsessing about my hair, I just found a new way to self-soothe. I find myself almost instinctively running my hands through my hair. There’s even times when I grab my hair and just pull on a handful lightly. My pulling has clearly become a coping mechanism and I’m trying to substitute that with my new head petting thing.
I still have bad days. I’ve done some damage in some areas and have resorted to using products to reduce visible spots, however overall I’m quite happy with my decision to shed the mask I’ve worn for the last 4 years.
Plus I kind of rock the pixie cut like nobody’s business.
Kala is the Peer Support Coordinator at CBSN and an avid BFRB’er. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org