My name is Gessie and I am 16 years old from the United States. I have trichotillomania. I recently had to write an autobiography for English class, and one of the sections we had to include was about a significant accomplishment of ours. Here is that section, exactly as written.
One of my greatest accomplishments that I am certainly proud of is how far I have come with my trichotillomania, which is a compulsive hair pulling disorder. I first started pulling my hair when I was 11 years old, but the disorder really started to have an impact on life only within the last two and a half years. However, in that time since then, I have made more progress than I ever thought I would in my entire lifetime.
At times the pulling has been so bad that it has resulted in significant hair loss and bald spots. I also pull from my eyebrows and at one point they were almost completely gone. The worst part of having trichotillomania (also called trich for short) is the extreme amount of shame it causes. I used to feel like I was living a double life because I put so much of my energy into trying to hide such a big part of who I was. I would do everything I could to appear “normal”. I was constantly on edge, and fearful of anyone finding out my “biggest secret”. No one seemed to understand what I was going through.
Two years ago I found out about the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC), an organization that has truly saved my life. What I discovered is that there are millions of other people like me, and I’m definitely not alone. Last year is when things started to turn around and I began the road to recovery. I have learned to love and accept myself unconditionally. I’ve realized my hair (or lack thereof) doesn’t define me, and neither does my disorder. By now, I have told just about all of my family and friends about my trich and am open about it. To my surprise, most people have been generally pretty supportive and accepting when I tell them. This year in April my mom and I spent a weekend in Arlington, Virginia to attend TLC’s annual conference. We had known about the annual conference for quite some time and I was excited that we were finally able to go this year. For the longest time I wanted nothing more than to meet even just one other person with trich. Well, at the conference I got to spend three days with 500 other “trichsters”, as well as parents, researchers, and mental health professionals. I was overcome with such profound emotion; it was really quite surreal. I encountered people of all ages, who were at all different stages in the recovery process. Although I was a bit nervous at the start of the weekend, by the end of the conference I had made so many great friends. I still keep in touch with them regularly. These friends are so special because we have something that instantly connects us, and they understand me in a way that no one else does. I am now part of an amazing community of some of the most beautiful, compassionate, unique individuals.
For five months prior to the conference, I had been using a product called Toppik on a daily basis. Toppik is essentially a shake-on powder that conceals bald spots and areas of sparseness. On the second and third days of the conference, I chose to go “au naturel” and skipped using Toppik. It was the first time in my life that I have ever gone out in public without covering my bald spots, and I must say it was very liberating. Many of the other attendees had also chosen to take off their hats, wigs, bandanas, etc. while at the conference, so I felt like I could just be myself in a safe environment. We stayed an extra day after the conference ended to go sightseeing in Washington, D.C. Now it was just my mom and I. I was no longer amongst my fellow trichsters, yet I still decided to leave my bald spots uncovered. Walking around our nation’s capital, feeling the wind in my hair, I was finally free. (I still to this day can’t help but smile with tears in my eyes every time I think back to that moment). Going to the conference has been the single most life-changing thing I have experienced.
When I returned to school after the trip, I went back to covering up my bald spots. But something deep within me had changed. I finally found the voice I had been trying to reclaim for so many years. I chose to no longer be a victim to trichotillomania, but to be victorious. Now I am dedicated to spreading awareness about trich. I love sharing my story and knowing that I can inspire other people by giving them hope and making them feel less alone. At the conference I had learned about an organization called Hair Club for Kids, which provides hairpieces to kids under the age of 18 with hair loss conditions, completely free of charge. At the end of May of this year, I got a hairpiece put on. Prior to that, my hair was the thinnest it’s ever been. Although I have already become at peace with having trich and have accepted my hair loss, the hairpiece allows me to finally feel “normal” again, which I never could have imagined would be possible. For all the suffering and loss trich has caused me, I have also gained just as much from it. I have ultimately become even stronger because of it. It has made me into who I am today, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.
I would not be where I am today without the help of organizations like TLC and CBSN. I would just like to say that life can get better, even living with a BFRB… And I wouldn’t say that if it were not true.
My name is Gessie and I am 16 years old from the United States. I have trichotillomania.
My trich blog is: trichsters-support.tumblr.com