This title might be shocking to some of you, but to others, it's a totally normal part of everyday life. Those with trichotillomania suffer with compulsive urges to pull their own hair out. Each sufferer has their own trigger, routine, their own story. Each person suffers in a different way, but there are general trends which we all have in common. One of these is the feeling that pulling out our own hair leaves us with. This post will hopefully clear things up to those who do not have the disorder or do not know much about it, whilst offering a little bit of familiar comfort to those who do. So, here's what it actually feels like, from someone who's been doing it for nineteen years!
Firstly, for me anyway, my trigger is feeling across my lash line or eyebrows. This is certainly a habitual thing, and something I find myself doing when I am bored or concentrating. In doing this, I find odd hairs that stick out of place or feel different, for example, spiky little eyebrow hairs that are just starting to grow back through are my ultimate downfall at the moment. The searching for these odd hairs is comforting and soothing, allowing me to focus easier.
However, when I find one that sticks out of place, my whole body and mind fills with a relentless surge of anxiety. It's difficult to describe, but almost as if a wave has come over you and fixed you in place; I can't do anything until that hair is gone. It's a flaw, an imperfection, and I will do- I have to do- whatever it takes to get rip it out and restore normality. I cannot think of anything else whilst I am aware of that odd hair being there- it fixates me. So, the feeling for hairs is all good and comforting until one stands out, and then it all turns for the worse.
Often, if I don't have a pair of tweezers to hand, I will pick and pull until my fingertips get sore and I won't care who sees me. On the bus, in the office, no person's stares will put me off my quest to rid my face of hairs that don't belong there! I know others don't pull so much in public as they get put off by the idea of people staring and thinking they are weird, but nothing puts me off anymore!
After picking and plucking at these little hairs for what can often be a long time (my whole body tenses up too which leaves me feeling horrible and achy afterwards, especially my jaw which I seem to clench a lot), the feeling of finally getting it and pulling it out is honestly one of the best feelings in the world. Part of me thinks I shouldn't promote how good it feels for fear of encouragement, but I have to be honest. It feels amazing. All that tension and stress is lifted, you are restored to normal and you can finally give your poor, pained fingers a rest after all their picking!
A good comparison I think is popping a spot; we all do it so I think it is most relate-able. You've got a huge spot that's been brewing,- growing each day on your face, a real big'un that you just can't wait to squeeze. Sounds gross, but I'm sure you all know what I mean even if you don't want to admit it! Imagine those days of it building up on your face, you can feel it- you notice how it might hurt, how it looks and how much you can't wait to get rid of it. And when it's ugly head appears and you get your chance to squeeze it and BAM. Popped. All over with. No more dull pain and you can look forward to it healing knowing it's gone. The relief! You may not be proud of it, but you're so glad it's gone.
This is exactly the same as pulling hairs out. The relief felt when you finally get that annoying, spiky little hair you've been feeling for ages. A wave of calm descends, and I can carry on with whatever I was doing beforehand, knowing that I don't have to feel anxious because none of the hairs stick out- I've dealt with them all. What's different from the spot analogy though, is the feeling that comes afterwards. You feel disgusted with yourself because you know you shouldn't have done it. You've let yourself down after promising that this time you'd let them all grow back and you might one day overcome this disorder that is eating you up. You frantically try and cover the damage with make-up, you cry and your reflection after noting the extent of the damage, thinking you are ugly, worthless, a failure.
It's this which makes trichotillomania different to other habits like nail-biting (which people LOVE to unfortunately compare it to). It's more than just a habit- it's an addiction. Addiction to that rush of pulling the hair out, the good feeling. Only to come crashing down straight after. That constant cycle of pulling and not being able to stop yourself because the hair needs to come out, or because that good feeling is just so comforting, good and familiar. We can't just stop. It feels good to pull your own hair out, but it also feels like being imprisoned in your own addictive mind.
Do you experience similar feelings? How would you explain to a non-sufferer how it feels?