This blog has helped a lot with this process. Choosing to become more open about trich has allowed me to settle within an online community of people who have the same experiences with the disorder. Posting photos of myself with my trich there for the world to see has boosted my confidence. As I soon learnt that many other people don't too, I started to feel totally at ease with the fact that I have no eyelashes or eyebrows.
Considering how long it has taken me to reach this point of acceptance, you can understand my disbelief (and hurt) when upon returning to my family home and slobbing about with zero make-up on my visage, to hear the following comments from my brother: "Jesus! You look ugly without make-up!".
Now, I know younger brothers aren't always the most supportive of people, but to hear these remarks when he is fully aware of my (essentially) life-long battle with trichotillomania made me a bit lost for words. He knows how much it has affected me, and how paranoid I used to be about my appearance, so it felt like a bit of a cheap dig. Aside from sibling bickering, it made me think, why do other people feel the need to comment on my appearance? I'm fine with wearing no slap and happy within myself, so why do others think it's OK to criticise what damage trich has done to my face?
I spoke to my mum about this later in the day, and asked her what she thought about his comments on my appearance. While she disagreed with the way he articulated it, she didn't necessarily disagree with the message at the heart of his comments (not that I'm ugly, but that I look noticably different). These are the people closest to me, who I've spoken openly about trich with, who have seen the disorder crush me at points, so these opinions really struck me as surprising.
When I probed further, asking her if she thought I did look ugly without my eyebrows drawn on or my eyeliner perfectly winged, her response was surprising. I expected a 'you look beautiful no matter what' motherly response, but instead I got a hard kick full of brutal honesty. Obviously, I know I look different without make-up - as my mum said, eyebrows and eyelashes frame your face and highlight your features. Your face will naturally look different without these.
Just because I look different it doesn't mean I look ugly or bad. She continued to explain that people would probably stop and stare if I went out sans-makeup because trich made me look ill, that strangers may assume I have a physical illness. I do want to say that in a way I do appreciate the honesty from my mum- it is good to have open discussions about things like this and how other people perceive illnesses. It's just the manner in which you have these discussions which is important. She went on to explain that lack of awareness around trichotillomania is at the root of these judgements and assumptions; there is still a clear stigma around mental health illness (and particularly the physical manifestations of them) in contrast to physical illnesses.
Frankly, I don't really care about how other people think I look. I've accepted this disorder and it only affects the way I look, so I don't quite understand how it should concern anyone else. When you get comments saying you're ugly, look weird or ill, or that you're a freak (yep, I've had that one in the past), it's almost as if people are trying to make you feel bad about your own appearance or for having this disorder. Luckily, I've grown resilient enough to shrug these comments off, but not everyone will be able to.
So, whether you have trich or not, please stop judging others on their appearance. Whether they're confident or insecure, it is not nice to stare at someone because they may look a bit different to you. Having bald patches, no brows or patchy lashes doesn't make you ugly at all - you're just as beautiful as the next person. Besides, there is so much more to life than appearance (and especially what other people think of it).
You draw your brows on and they don't necessarily look natural? WHO CARES?! You think people who draw their brows on look ridiculous? WHO CARES!? Maybe, instead of judging them, you should think about why they may draw their brows on. You'll probably find your comments on their appearance are making their life far more difficult. Instead of ridiculing, perhaps stop, turn that comment into a complement, and brighten someone's day.
JUST SHOW SOME LOVE, PEOPLE. LOVE YOURSELVES.