Hey BFRBCanada followers! I’m Nichola and today I’m going to attempt to explain to you how I got Trichotillomania and why having a BFRB awareness week is so important to me.
I have had Trichotillomania for 6 years, I was 13 when I first began hairpulling, my Trichotillomania began when my absent father informed me that he was moving to another country, during this time I was also getting bullied and losing a lot of friends and going through a lot of stress. My family life was confusing for me, my friends were never there for me and school was a nightmare. I was only 13 but the sadness was starting to swallow me whole and I felt like I was completely losing control of my life.
Then one Easter break I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling crying after some particularly nasty comments on the last day of school and I started twirling my hair to calm me down. When I was little I ALWAYS had my hand in my hair! Twirling my hair was just something I always did to occupy my hands. Part of it was also comfort though; playing with my hair was just soothing for me! I even used to play with my mum’s hair too all the time. And then before I knew it a good section of my hair was on my pillow. It was terrifying I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it or anything, but the worst part was that it helped, it gave me a sense of control and it calmed me down.
It was strange to wake up the next morning and discover all the hairs around my pillow, simply because I though doing as much damage as I was doing would hurt. I thought, ‘I can’t be doing that much or it would hurt.’ I pulled a huge triangle in my hair out in 2 weeks.
The worst part was my mum’s reaction. See Trich is not a well-known disorder so when someone has it it’s hard to know what’s happening and what to do. One of the hardest part of having Trichotillomania is how your family and friends react to it. They try so hard to help but they can’t and they end up saying the wrong things, which can be really hurtful! Most of them include things along the lines of:
“Just try and stop!”
“I understand that it’s hard but you have to stop now”
“Why are you doing this to yourself?”
“Put your hand down!”
“It’s hard to concentrate with you doing that”
“Your bald patch is going to be huge!”
“Well it’s your own fault”
“Do you think this is going to create sympathy for you or something?” (Said with genuine curiosity.)
“We need to get you out of this habit”
“Would you mind listening to me rather than pulling your hair?!”
“Nichola please just stop!”
And various others. I know that they are just trying to help me but no matter how many times I’ve tried to explain it to them they can’t seem to grasp the fact that I don’t have control over this! It’s very frustrating at times and I do end up repeating myself constantly. But looking at it from their perspective it must be incredibly difficult to watch someone you care about go through something that you can’t just make better overnight. And it must be so hard to think of the right thing to say to someone about an incredibly sensitive topic.
However as my mum and I didn’t even know what Trichotillomania was at this point, when I started doing it my mum freaked out. She kept demanding that I stop, she didn’t seem to understand that I couldn’t stop anymore because it had become so addictive, she just shouted and screamed and cried and it scared me even more but I coped by convincing my mother that it wasn’t a big deal and that I didn’t care.
As you can imagine going to school looking like that was not fun. Everyone kept asking what I had done and laughing when the saw me because I didn’t know how to cover it up. I got bullied more and more but I just couldn’t stop pulling; this went on for 2 and a half years. It got so bad I nearly transferred schools and on more than one occasion I contemplated suicide. But I stopped pulling in easy to spot places and started pulling in hidden places instead my fringe grew back, but I was still pulling.
It all came to a head really when I was 16. It was my last day of high school so all the torment was over right? Wrong! After our last day an exceptionally mean girl posted a picture on Facebook of the back of my head and people in the comments started laughing.
After that comment and a screaming match with my mum, I finally discovered why I was pulling out my hair after researching it myself, but I still struggled to find much information on it and even found doctors unsure of what it was.
I began looking for ways to control my Trichotillomania, however the main solution everybody seemed to come up with to help me was “stop.” This was because no one else really knew about how to help someone with this disorder so no one else really knew how much damage it did to tell me to stop all the time.
But as I still didn’t know much about my own disorder. I felt like it was my own fault that I was unable to follow these instructions, when in reality it was just an impossible task that someone with my disorder cannot carry out.
So to me this is why BFRB awareness week is so important to me, because with more awareness I could have understood my own disorder a lot better when I first started pulling and it would have made my own journey a lot smoother. Having a disorder that is rarely talked about made me feel like it was my own fault for having this problem for 2 years whereas if I had heard about Trichotillomania I wouldn’t have felt too isolated and alone for those 2 years. I would have found this amazing online community sooner and could have gained the support I needed when I desperately needed it. Which is why this week helps so much because the more people that know about Trichotillomania and other BFRBs the more chance someone who has just started to develop one will get of finding the support they need.