Trichotillomania and BFRBs are hard to talk about, hard to read about, and hard to learn about. Accurate information that does exist is difficult to find and frequently neglects the day-to-day challenges of the average trichster. In an effort to bridge this information gap, we're interviewing everyone we can and sharing their stories with the world. This is the first in an ongoing series of interviews.
Country and Province: Canada, British Columbia
My problem is eyelash and eyebrow pulling. It first became a problem when I was around 5 or 6. I went through extreme sexual and physical abuse as a small child, and blocked out the horrible memories until I was around 12 or 13. Sometime during the PTSD I started pulling at my eyelashes subconsciously. I would do it while watching tv mostly, and then it progressed and I couldn't stop. I would run out of eyelashes and get anxious because I had nothing else to pull, so I started on my eyebrows. It was hard as a young girl, because nobody knew why I was doing it. Anxiety wasn't recognized, especially because my doctor was 70 years old and stuck in his ways. They tried acupuncture, different diets, group therapy (that actually made things worse). My friends would always ask about it and I didn't know what to tell them, I would just say something along the lines of "Oh I just don't have them". I started wearing strip lashes at age 16 and have worn them every day for 5 years. It's helped with my self confidence, and it's helped with random pulling in the daytime. There have been many times where I thought I was done with it, but then I'd relapse and wake up with no eyelashes again. It's like smoking, it relieves me of all anxiety and it just feels so damn good.
I have always had horrible anxiety, and with that I suffered from clinical depressive disorder. I've always thought of my trich as a side effect to my disorders, it wasn't until I found google and realized it was a disorder on its own.
The hardest part for me I think is telling people who only see me in the daytime. Such as a new boyfriend, it's always really hard to say "oh hey just so you know, when we wake up tomorrow I will be completely hairless on my face". It's never been a problem, they've always understood. But it does bring a whole other conversation to the table, like why I actually have this problem. No, I wouldn't say there is any silver lining to having trich. It gave me major self confidence issues, and going to school everyday knowing I'd be asked about my eyelashes was extremely stressful.
I've tried many types of therapy, including group therapy, counselling, CBT. I tried acupuncture when I was young. None of these helped, if anything the therapy made it worse. I found that being in therapy angered me, especially group therapy. My mom died when I was 10, and she was my rock. In group therapy the kids had parents going through divorces, someones grandpa died, stuff like that. I felt so incredibly angry that I had to be subjected to these people while going through all that, because at the time I felt I had it so much worse than them.
I think that my pulling is worst when I feel alone. Throughout my teenage years I didn't feel like I had much in terms of support (because I didnt) and I felt incredibly lonely. When i'm lonely the only thing that made me feel relief was the feeling of my eyelashes ripping out. It made no sense to me, and I hated myself because I didn't know how to cope and i knew it was wrong. When I'm happy, in a relationship, doing well at work, the pulling hardly happens. There have been times in the past few years that I've had probably 30 eyelashes on each eye, but it only takes one crappy night for months of hard work to be gone.
One way of coping that Ive found to be very effective is marijuana. I don't particularly love smoking it all the time, but boy does it ever help. If i've had a horrible day and I know that i'm probably going to be up all night anxious, I'll have a bit of an edible and I don't even get the urge to pull for the whole night. I really hope one day I'll be able to handle this on my own, and the fact that I've improved over the last few years is at least a step in the right direction.
If you would like to share your story, email matt at slightly robot dot com.