College is a journey, where you’re supposed to find yourself. By the end of my freshman year the journey I found myself on was not one I particularly enjoyed.
This is thanks to trichotillomania. The transition and adjustment to college is hard enough, but having a BFRB only complicates things, however I eventually learned, not to let it.
I thought I was doing relatively okay keeping the pulling under wraps. Apparently not….questions and stares became common occurrences. I tried lying to myself saying only someone significantly taller than me would notice the large bald patch on the top of my head. Being only 5’2 almost everyone is taller so this is quite wishful thinking. After getting sick of the prodding from others, I finally came up with the fantastical excuse that I got gum in my hair over spring break. This worked for awhile, until my friends kept bugging me and I ended up explaining the truth to them…oh what an interesting conversation that was at 2am on my dorm room floor. Then through some poor decision-making on my part I decided to get a few colorful keratin extensions as part of a fundraiser for a club. There is no worse feeling then having two stylists gawking over your hair in the middle of a busy student union building. My friends laughed and tried to have me shrug it off but the embarrassment surged through me for longer then the ten-minute experience. Soon after, finals ensued and along with that was the chaos that became my hair. I knew I would be going home for the summer and my parents would discover my mess. I somehow got away with my façade for two weeks.
One morning when we were on vacation I overslept and my parents came in my room to see if I was ready. I hadn’t styled my hair yet and they were mortified. They frantically questioned me ” DID YOU DO THAT YOUSERLF?”, actually correctly assuming that I had pulled it out. If this whole situation wasn’t mortifying enough my sister and one of our friends witnessed this ordeal. Two days of prodding and I finally told them the truth. It was amazing how the power of information can change perspective. Initially they would yell and get mad when they saw my hands wander to my hair. Then after they did research (especially on CBSN and TLC) this became only an occasional occurrence. They now support me and try to help me in anyway they can. This allowed me to be more outspoken and comfortable with dealing with trich. In fact next week I’m giving a presentation on trich in one my classes, something I could have never imagined doing.
I realized sometimes I have to just laugh at it. I decided to get tape in hair extensions. I felt so confident, and some parts of my hair that became hard to reach and started growing in! Yay! Everything was fine until they got adjusted before I went back to school. They began to fall out which made my hair look uneven. It was so bad that one day when I was standing in front of a class of thirty students I ran my fingers through my hair and quite a few strung out. I suddenly had to stealthily throw wads of taped hair in my bag. A year ago I probably would have left the room hysterically embarrassed. When it happened I actually laughed for a really long time. And then until they all eventually came out it became a common thing for me to have to randomly shove hair in my book bag.
Living in a dorm room (a small space) with another person can cause enough problems, but trich can bring that to a different level. I very casually slipped it into conversation with my roommate one day and she was so great about it! I’d say 95% of the people I have told have been positive and eager to learn more about BFRB’s after I tell them. She particularly tried to make me feel better. That day the extensions came out in class, a lot more had come out later in the day and I was kind of upset by it. Two minutes later she had my roaring with laughter. She told me: “Imagine residence life’s faces if you just left all that hair on your desk when they checked our room?” This really made me feel better about the situation. This is why telling someone or just educating them a bit is so powerful. It makes you less alone and makes them aware that BFRBs are very real and very common. I hope by sharing these moments, someone else can resonate with them and understand some of the hilarity. I am also so incredibly thankful to the powerful and wonderful work that CBSN and TLC do.
I don’t let my BFRB get in the way of doing things I love. I don’t let nasty remarks get to me for a long time. I don’t let those who don’t understand get in my way. I am not my BFRB, I may have a BFRB, but it is not my most defining characteristic. I am me, for me not the way my hair looks. Hair does not change anyone’s, passions, talents, pursuits, dedications, loves, hopes and dreams.
Thank you for reading! 🙂
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