BFRB Awareness: Story #2

Hello! The next story in this blog series comes from the lovely Sian. I have a lot of time for this lady, who I actually met though blogging. She has been so incredibly supportive, from the very first trichotillomania post I ever published and always radiates positivity and kindness. It's people like her which make me so glad I ever decided to start this site, as I probably would never have had the pleasure of being introduced to such a wonderful human being. She also has a brand new blog, found at, where she shares her journey of learning to be kinder to yourself. Please go and check it out if you're looking for inspirational words of wisdom and a regular ray of sunshine in your life. Anyway, enough fan-girling, here's Sian's experiences with BFRB's...

Sian suffers from trichotillomania and has been pulling her eyelashes and eyebrows since she was around 7 or 8 years old. One of her first memories of trich, she explains, was "watching a TV advert, presumable for mascara, where the actress pulled off her eyelashes (false ones, as my older brain now appreciates)". For Sian, there is no one reason why she pulls; "the longer it's gone on, the stronger the habitual connections in my brain have probably become. One thing that is for sure, is that none of my family or friends nor anyone I associated with had any coping mechanism like this, so I didn't 'learn' it".

A common theme that many of us hair-pullers can probably relate to is succumbing to the urges when we're idle. Sian's experiences are similar, saying "it seems to happen most when I am trying to force myself to focus on something (such as reading, studying or working on the computer", but also adds "I pull when I perceive there to be a risk of being a disappointment (not learning quickly enough, not writing something accurate...) and when there is a time limit, that also fuels the fire. In a nutshell, it's pressure related. The intense phobia, almost, of disappointment". As someone who also pulls under these circumstances and never linked it to the idea of disappointment, her comments are hugely interesting to me. But she says, if she could go back she would tell herself you're "allowed to feel anxious, under pressure, don't have to be anything, nor is there any pressure for you not to disappoint others".

Her description of pulling itself is something I just totally get. She says "it's a sort of comfort to relieve the pressure of getting rid of the 'bad' hairs, such as ones that are growing straight or pointing downwards, stubby ones, ones that aren't completely black, and then I become obsessively over-focused on making them all feel or look 'right' or 'perfect'. But, given the nature of how hair grows, Sian admits that "the only way of making them all look the same, is to have absolutely none".

Speaking of what having the disorder has taught her, Sian mentions the beauty industry, and how central eyelashes and eyebrows seem to be, and how a lack of them makes you feel so "alien and ugly". "I constantly wear eyeliner, without fail, and have so many pencils stashed everywhere". The impact on how not having hair makes is feel is clearly incredibly profound, and one of the most critical elements of trichotillomania. "I won't read around others for fear they will see my side profile or from the front with me looking down", Sian explains, "which is the reason why hosting meetings, having someone in the car whilst I drive, or ever having to sit near anyone for any reason is a fear-evoking experience."

I, for one, am glad that I am not the only one who experiences paranoia about what trich has done to my appearance, as Sian says, "I constantly wonder if people notice, I won't go swimming, going to the hairdressers is a scary experience and I can't join in conversations about mascaras or eye makeup. I won't go to any beauty related events and struggle with opportunities like spa days. I don't like sleeping in the same room as anyone else in case my eyes look weird when I'm asleep". There are endless little restrictions that trich brings that most people don't even think twice about, but they can have a profound effect on our lives. Although Sian is open about the disorder now, for a long time, she hid trich and now reflects on how it "constructed [her] as a liar" because of all of the excuses she had to give in order to avoid those activities that would potentially reveal her trich, or make her feel uncomfortable.

Although trich has taught her how to be a whizz at applying false lashes, on a serious note she comments that it is "tremendously isolating...I feel ashamed for 'doing it to myself' and not being able to stop, and am desperate to know what it feels like to put mascara on to a lovely full set of eyelashes. It frightens me to think that may never be achievable". That said (and I totally agree), she recognises that battling the disorder can bring positives to your life. "I have far greater humility, acceptance and compassion for the struggles of others (and in more recent times, myself), and it's connected me with some incredible people".

Whilst combatting BFRBs are so personal, Sian shared some of her top tips with me that help her in her day to day battle. She says speaking to others about it rather than keeping it stuck inside her head has proved to be quite therapeutic for her, and the potential for educating others gives a greater positive focus. "Anything I can do to occupy my hands is a great help"....such as cuddling one of her (incredibly cute) dogs, and jotting down any mini achievements helps break her thought cycle. But most of all, "kindness and compassion; these two concepts are the biggest contributor to me maintaining even a sparse scattering of eyelashes and eyebrows. I would highly recommend reading Paul Gilbert's 'The Compassionate Mind'". The last point is probably something we can all do with! From a beauty perspective, Sian's a gal after my own heart as she loves false lashes. Kiss 'Shy' and Eylure 'Solitaire' lashes are two of her faves, and she loves Revlon's 'dark' glue and GOSH's Velvet Brown eyeliner pencil.

All in all, Sian emphasises that "you are not the condition. You are managing it as best you can and it is valid, it is credible as a medical issue, and finally, you are absolutely, completely not on your own. We fight this battle together".

A mahoosive thank you to this wonderful woman for allowing me to share her story, which I hope will resonate with many of you! If you wanted more Sian, find her at the following:

Instagram: @mylifeoflearning 

If you wanted to share your story (anonymously or not), please get in touch!

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