BFRB Awareness: Story #3

The official BFRB Awareness Week may be over, but I want to continue sharing stories in hope that they help others with the disorders, and aid in spreading the word about BFRBs. Today's story comes from Ruby; a huge thank you to her for speaking about her battle with trichotillomania and allowing me to share it on this site.

Ruby was around 11 years old when she first started pulling her top set of eyelashes. She reflects, "I only used to pull out a couple of eyelashes, then it ended up being chunks at a time until I had no top eyelashes at all". Whilst she doesn't pull her bottom lashes at all, she later progressed to pulling her eyebrows until she had none left. Around 2 years ago, Ruby started pulling from her scalp too. "I suffer from anxiety and depression so at my most anxious/ lowest points is when I pull the most", she explains. "I can sit for hours at a time and pull strands of hair out. I always seem to feel around for hair that feels uneven or thicker, or eyebrows and eyelashes that are out of place because when I pull these types of hair, there's a bigger sense of relief".

It's interesting how trich is such a secretive disorder for many. Ruby mentions how she always tried to hide the bald patches because she didn't want anyone to find out.  "My Mam noticed one night that I had no eyelashes and confronted me about it, but as I would always use false eyelashes to cover my bald eyelids I blamed the eyelash glue and said that it pulled my eyelashes out. It wasn't until months later that I came clean about it to my parents and close friends. They hadn't heard about it before so it was (and still is) really difficult to explain why I do it and why I can't stop."

Even now, she isn't open about her struggles, but if people ask her about it she will happily talk to them about it. "I am still pretty sensitive about my trich but I've accepted it's a part of me. I do get a bit offended when I hear loads of people saying things along the line of 'I'm so stressed I want to rip my hair out' etc, but I understand that not many people know that trich exists. When I have no make-up on or talk about hair loss, people assume that I have alopecia."

Speaking of covering gaps, Ruby uses make-up to hide the bald patches. She loves the new Kat Von D lash liner, saying it's waterproof and lasts all day, even on her waterline. She also uses the Anastasia Beverley Hills DipBrow Pomade to draw on her brows, and Batiste dry shampoo in dark to make her hair look thicker and darken the scalp where she has thinner patches of hair. That said, at the end of last year she had her eyebrows microbladed. "It's fading already and is fairly expensive to upkeep, but for months it has been really useful as I haven't had to worry about getting up early to perfect my eyebrows before going to work". In the 9 years she's had the disorder, she's tried many ways to try and stop pulling without success. "I do think by keeping a bobble on my wrist, if I play around with it it keeps both hands occupied and stops me pulling", she notes. A deterrent that's worth a try!

It goes without saying that the effects of trich are both physical and emotional. Discussing the physical impact, Ruby explains "I always have to spend a long time making sure my hair is styled a certain way so that it covers any thinner areas. I've considered extensions, but I'm worried in case I would pull them too. I would love to know if anyone else has used extensions and their experience with them." Also, she mentions that her eyes are now extremely sensitive to sunlight and wind as she does not have lashes to protect them.

"I have found that not only does it affect my confidence (for years I wouldn't even go without makeup in my own house), but it's affected relationships. I don't like making eye contact in case people notice my lashes, and I won't stay over at other peoples' houses due to the thought of having to take my makeup off and someone seeing me with no lashes or brows."

A really common theme is not knowing trich is even a thing; "I hadn't heard about trichotillomania or knew that it even existed until a few years after I started pulling, when I was probably 15. I thought I was weird and that if I told anyone they would think that I was a freak. After I researched it and discovered that a lot of people do suffer from it, I didn't feel alone or that I had to be as ashamed." "I wish I had spoken sooner about it as I now know that it's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's better to talk to others about what you're going through rather than suffering in silence."

Thanks again to Ruby for discussing her story with trichotillomania and sharing it with us!

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

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