Hi! My name is Maddie Lapp. I am 17 years old from St. Louis, Missouri. I have been to one TLC Conference. I am also a part of the TLC Millennial Task Force. My journey with these baffling disorders has made me who I am today. Although I have prayed to god every night for the past 6 years asking for hair and to not have BFRBs, I become thankful to have these disorders when I remember all of the people I have met that have changed my life along the way. I have been dealing with trich for 6 years and derm for 9. Notice I said the words “dealing with” instead of “struggling with”. Because that whole time, I was not struggling. This is my story on how I accepted and am recovering from trich and derm.
I began picking my skin when I was 7. I remember being in class and scratching one spot on my arm that I did not like. From there, it was pretty contained for about 5 years. It was not until my Bat Mitzvah that it begun to spiral out of control. My journey with trich started in seventh grade. It was April and my 13th birthday and Bat Mitzvah were approaching. Although the preparation of the event did cause me undo stress, it was not more than any other anxious child. I have one vague memory of the beginning of my trich. I was in my Pre-Algebra class. I was pulling the hair from the left side below my ear and near my neck. I do not remember much because I did not think anything of it. It was not an issue or something that held me back. I did not even think in my head, “I’m pulling out my hair.” That never crossed my mind! Fast forward to about 2 weeks later. I was standing by my right closet door. I thought to myself, “Oh, I haven’t done it for about a week.” It. I still thought pulling out my hair had no importance. I did not really care. I thought that was a thing that I did for a week or two. One day after school in 7th grade, I stumbled upon the TLC article titled, “50 Ways to Stop Pulling Your Hair.” The one way that I tried was the one where you were supposed sit in front of the mirror and tell yourself, “Every hair belongs on my head.” Again, I thought doing that would stop this 2 week “habit”.
Fast forward to 8th grade. I had so little hair on the left side that I had to wear my hair in a ponytail for 9 months. This whole time, I knew what trich was! I had been secretly going on to TLCs website and researching my condition. On an early evening in March 2013, my mother and I were going to the grocery store. As we stepped out of the car and headed for the double doors, I was walking in front and my mother was following closely behind. A few steps in, she stopped me and was shocked to find that I had a bald patch about two inches big. At that exact moment, I broke down. After three years of hiding and constantly feeling ashamed of myself, the dreaded reality of someone noticing struck me harder than I expected.
Right after I was formally diagnosed, I started seeing Dr. Laura Chackes. She introduced me to the new BFRB support group she was starting that Saturday. I decided to go, but by no means, apply what I was learning.
By the time I was 15 and a sophomore in high school, I was completely bald. Imagine going home for Winter Break with hair, and coming back with none. That was not the beginning of my bullying and isolation for trich, but that is certainly when it began to become unbearable. Everyday, I would have to take off my wig and put on my swim cap in the locker room; in front of 30 other girls! I also had to wear a swimsuit that revealed much of my scarred back. If that was not horrifying enough, the comments that came after were. But from that experience, somehow I became stronger!
I decided to take the first step and tell someone about my BFRBs. I told my best friend, and she was more than accepting! I was not expecting that reaction at all. After that, I felt even more motivated! But that does not mean the swim team bullying stopped. So I decided to tell my swim coach, and she also was very accepting! From there, anyone who asked me, or that was my close friend, knew what trich and derm were. Then, I also decided to take the tools I had been learning in support group for the past year seriously. That is when everything changed. I began to be proactive during my talk therapy sessions and determined to use and apply new coping skills.
Three months later, I went to my first TLC conference. I still cry to this day when I think about it; because it was hands down the best three days of my entire life. The people I have met have truly changed my life!
From that conference forward, I decided I was going to do more than tell people about my BFRBs; I was not going to let them control me! With the help of TLC, Dr. Laura Chackes, and my AMAZING friends, I did something that I never thought was possible: accept my BFRBs. I wore a different wig everyday to school, and some days, no wig at all! Sharing the words of Rebecca Brown, “Baldness doesn’t scare me.” Granted, I still pull and pick to this day! But I know that by the end of the day, no matter what my hair and skin looks like, I will be okay! I am currently 5 months in remission. I say it like that because everyday I still deal with BFRBs, but I pull and pick much less because I no longer let them control me. I am living proof that although it can be trichy, it is possible to accept BFRBs!