Hair Pulling (Trichotillomania)
At eleven years old, I started to pull my hair out. At the time I don’t think I was aware of why I was doing it at all. The only knowledge I had was that pulling strands of hair out relieved some kind of pressure that had built up inside me and that I couldn’t release in any other way. I pulled out my eyebrows, my eyelashes and ( this is so cringey) my pubic hair.
I found the shaft of my hair ( the bit that had skin on) quite relieving to eat. The hair was then discarded. There was something in eating that bit ( the skin bit) that was deeply satisfying. I am yet to understand this bit, but no doubt, with the internet and the knowledge that it brings, maybe one day I will.
I found this bit deeply shameful ( and still do) I don’t think this was a cry for help, but more a coping mechanism. It released a feeling inside me that couldn’t be released in any other way.
My parents eventually noticed the bald patches on my head and I remember going to the doctors together with my Mum. He had no idea how to deal with this, and he put me on anti depressants at the age of 12. This wasn’t helpful as I found myself just crying, and eventually after probably a few weeks I stopped taking them.
I became more anxious about fellow classmates noticing the bald patches and the tufts of hair growing through. I would hate it if someone stood behind me whilst I was sitting down. The terror of the moment of them ridiculing a bald patch made my life even worse, and through this shame, I eventually gave up the habit, replacing it with smoking!
I have one awful memory, where I yanked a whole load of hair out in front of a couple of friends. Again, I had no idea why I did this, but now I can see it was a cry for help.
A year and a half later, I managed to tell my mother, out of total fury and a feeling that it was my only way out, that I was being sexually molested. It was a moment where survival meant more than covering up for the perpetrator, and probably one of my bravest moments in my life, even though I am 55 years old now. To be honest, I’d had enough and just couldn’t take it anymore. Instead of freezing in the situation, I shifted to fighting. I don’t know how that happened but I am so pleased I managed to shout it out to my Mum.
And in that moment, My dear Mum put a stop to it. The sexual molestation stopped, and slowly I got my life back. I still find it hard to this day, to actually recognize the damage that was done to my view of life in those 18 months.
I still feel disconnected to that time but my view on this is that pulling my hair out; eyelashes; eyebrows might just if I was lucky, make the perptretator feel I was so ugly that he might have left me alone. The pulling out of my pubic hair might just have been about me saying “I don’t want to grow up – please let me go back to a time where I wasn’t sexually attractive”
The perpretator has been long forgiven. We have talked about this episode and both been very upset. I have total forgiveness for him, and can see why this happened. He had suffered his own sexual abuse outside our family unit and was trying to make sense of it. To be fair to him, he brought the subject up and he is very sorry for what happened.
There is still a hangover from those times. When I enter into a new relationship, I am often very very scared. I get re-traumatised extremely quickly ( which I try very hard to work on) when we have sexual intercourse for the first time. I can be back in that place where I feel I am too young to be experiencing a sexual relationship and I still wonder whether I would rather be a girl of eight years old, without the pressures of sex. I do my best to work on this.
Today I am happy on my own. I have been in a marriage of 17 years and learn’t how it is to have a loving sexual relationship. That relationship broke up, and I have been through episodes of great promiscuity, but am happily settled on my own now and enjoying the three children I created, and now the four grandchildren I have.
I yearn for a loving relationship with another, but have also found a loving relationship with me. I am my best friend and have no-one to argue with!
11 years ago, I began my journey to become a counsellor. This was due to my dear Mum dying at 72 from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 72. She had trained to be a counsellor herself and had been in practice for many years. My Dad had inscribed on her headstone these words “The Listening voice is silent” When I read these words, I knew that I couldn’t let the listening voice be silent, and within a year I was studying to be a counsellor myself.
Isn’t it strange that after 5 years of deep reflective study and a degree in counselling, I am aware that not one of my clients has presented with Trichotillomania in the ten years that I have been in private practice!
So today, I am openly inviting any “Trichs” to just know that I deeply understand your shame. Your story may be very different to mine, but I don’t feel that it matters. You don’t have to hide behind that shame because I deeply know it, so to me , nothing is shameful. There is a story behind everything, and I hope you can feel at least a beginning of trust that I understand at least a tiny bit of your journey.
I have to say that writing this has been extremely scarey and thought provoking.
I write many blogs, but this is one that I can only share with the “Trich” community.
If you feel I can be of help to you, please contact me. I can offer skype sessions or one to one if you live in the south London area.
Please do not suffer with this alone.