It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about this illness or disease or compulsion or whatever it is. So, I suppose it’s time for an update. If you’re just tuning in, and don’t know what that long T-word is, it means that I often get an overwhelming urge to pull out my hair. When I get that urge, I usually act on it, pulling out hair from my head. I also have the compulsion to pick and scratch at my scalp, targeting (and sometimes causing) any scabs or imperfections I find.
I know you’re probably thinking this is gross and weird and uncomfortable, but I’m talking about it anyway so that hopefully it becomes less gross and weird and uncomfortable. Talking about my trichotillomania is all part of my goal to remove the stigma around mental illnesses. So, here’s how I’m doing lately.
I noticed that when I was in the outpatient therapy program and was regularly working on my basics, had a tight self-care regimen, and was on the right meds, my urges to pull my hair decreased significantly. As my anxiety lessened, and my self-care increased, my desire to pull my hair or pick at my scalp decreased, too.
When I went back to work full time, the urges slowly came back. It’s not as bad as it was before going through the therapy program, but it still comes up on those stressful days. So, maybe that’s enough evidence to link stress and my urges to pull/pick together. Maybe trichotillomania is the red flag waving, saying that I’m stressed out and need to do something about it. Hopefully, if I can catch myself in those stressful moments, I can use better self-soothing techniques that I’ve learned, instead of actually pulling my hair out. But, like this whole process of getting better, it takes practice. It takes practice to learn new habits and impulses and to get better.
Hopefully, soon, my new impulse will be a healthy response to stress. Until then, my goal is to be gentle with myself, and not ashamed, because there's nothing to be ashamed of. This illness is a part of me, but it doesn't define me, no matter where I am on the spectrum of recovery.