Many of us have times when we're tempted to pull out our hair. Most people don't act on those temptations.
I do. I have trichotillomania. I've had it since I was very young.
No two cases of trichotillomania are necessarily alike. For me, it's something I do without thinking. If I realize I'm doing it, I can stop. Some people pluck eyebrows, eyelashes, and other hair sources, but I only pluck the hair on my head.
Trichotillomania is thought to fall on the Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) spectrum. It is an impulse control disorder and is related to stress and anxiety. Everyone has stress and anxiety, and there are times in all of our lives when stress and anxiety are more of a problem than others.
I'm pretty sure I started pulling my hair out when I was a baby, which means I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Most days my mom didn't get me up in the morning or from my nap very promptly because she was busy with my twin brother. I believe I started pulling my hair as I waited for someone - anyone - to take me out of my crib.
My intention here is not to demonize my mother, but to try to help you understand how this started.
My mom lost preemie twins a little less than 2 years before my brother and I were born. When my twin and I were born, he was 6 pounds and 9 ounces, while I was 2 pounds and 2 ounces.
He was a roly poly baby. I made my mother nervous. She bonded more with my brother initially. Eventually my mother and I bonded too, but by then, I was already pulling out my hair on a regular basis.
School was, for the most part, a place where I was happy. I succeeded academically and was usually treated well by teachers and peers. One event, which happened multiple times each year, left me disconsolate each time it happened - head lice checks.
Head lice checks made my hair pulling worse. The ladies checking my head were so insistent that I had lice that they usually convinced me I had them, and I would pluck hairs out of my head at two to three times the rate I normally did. I would then check each root and all along each hair shaft for the presence of a nit. I never found one, though, which was most likely a very good thing because the pesticide shampoos probably would have been very painful on a scalp with so many open wounds.
The person checking heads would almost always be so horrified by the condition of my scalp that she would call my mother to leave work and come get me. I can remember sometimes hearing my mom's voice even as someone from the school nursing staff talked to her on the phone. She'd plead with them and insist it was normal for me, but they would want her to come to school despite her protests so they could show her what they were talking about.
She already knew, but she came anyway because she had no choice.
One time as my mom was taking me home and looking at my pock-marked scalp for probably the tenth time, a school nurse very condescendingly said, "For God's sake,you're a psychologist and your husband's a doctor. Why don't you do something with her?"
My mother shrugged as she walked out with me. Once we got inside the car, she began to cry. I recall just sitting there on that November day as my mom sobbed into the steering wheel of her car, thinking what a horrible person I was to make her feel this way.
Even though in some ways both my brother and I were like the proverbial peddler's children who ran around barefoot in relation to our own parents' professions, in fairness, they had taken me to my pediatrician, an allergist, a couple of dermatologists, an equal number of psychologists and psychiatrists, a naturopathic physician, and even a pediatric neurologist.
There didn't seem to be any fix that would not have left me virtually comatose and drooling. When the cure is worse than the disease, sometimes you have to live with it. They never gave up trying to find a cure, though.
For a while, my mother even made me drink goat's milk because a lady at church swore by it as a cure for plucking, picking, cutting, and all manner of self-injurious behaviors. Mom and Dad eventually gave up on goat's milk because I was suffering from both dehydration and malnutrition. I couldn't keep any food down if I had to consume goat's milk along with it.
The goat's milk didn't seem to slow the hair pulling anyway.
When I used to get my hair cut, the person cutting it would invariably comment on the condition of my scalp. I never knew what to say in return.
I would beg my mom to cut my hair herself. But she always refused, which may have been her way of punishing me for pulling my hair out. My mom used to talk about how nice it feels when her hairstylist shampooed her hair. I didn't know if she said it because she thought it might motivate me to stop pulling my hair, or if she said it to make fun of me because she knew no one would ever willingly touch my scalp.
I wear my hair long and trim it myself now.
I've just finished my first year of university. Things happening around here right now have caused me to stress.
I'm recovering from a minor car accident that left me with broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and awful bruises in unmentionable places.
There's little I can do other than watch bad TV and pull my hair out.8 Comments