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My name is Rachel. I started hair pulling at age 14, when I was subject to bullying and isolation in middle school. This habit-addiction-coping mechanism-comfort compulsive behavior has been with me for the last ten years.
It’s been quite the journey, and I feel like I need to share my story here.
I have tried everything I could afford to cope, from talking to therapists, medication, doctors, and supplements. I tried having support buddies or accountability. Heck, I even put myself on programs promising a great reward if I did not pull. These may have worked short-term, but always I turned back to pulling. I think it’s important to note that my pulling directly correlates to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Last year I hit rock bottom, I was in the worst depressive state of my entire life. I was in my senior year of college, about to graduate. On paper, my achievements looked good - I was a designer, I had designing experience for TV and theatre, and many people knew and respected me. But under the surface, I felt I had no sense of self worth or value, I felt incredibly lonely, and I was just frustrated with myself.
My first step? I needed to talk about it. Isolation, I feel, only led to more pulling. The more I talked about it, the less I felt ashamed of that part of me, the more I realized people loved me regardless of me having eyelashes or brows or not.
The second step was to find THE most incredible therapist. She was a bit of a hippy, but she was very blunt with me and straight up, which is what I needed. I opened up to her about my trich, telling her I didn’t feel “good enough” for x,y,z, unless I stopped. She basically reminded me that I essentially pull hair for comfort - self comfort and relaxation in my anxiety ridden world, and that first I needed to learn to accept and love myself (trich and all), and that at this point, my trich wasn’t the enemy.
That was a pretty mind-blowing realization for me. My trich did not define me. But my body/mind whatever it may be knew that I needed it to cope with whatever mental obstacles I was facing.
The next revelation came in the form of a book, called “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. Brené Brown has a Ted Talk named “The power of vulnerability”. She has done 10 years of field research on wholeheartedness and vulnerability, and the OBSTACLES to connection and happiness in our lives. Her research on shame resilience, connection, and especially on numbing - and why we choose to do it rather than face our emotions - really struck a cord with me. It made me want to change my life for the better.
I can’t tell you the exact “formula” or “process” for what happened, but as cheesy as it may seem, I finally developed a sense of self-love, something I’ve been lacking for a very, very long time. I know that this has been central to my trich-free journey.
The last thing I did was probably some form of cognitive self-therapy. I remember (two months ago now) I sat in bed, and had a moment wherein I visualized my trich and the urge to pull (as the coping mechanism/comfort habit that it was) and then chose to think “I have the love and wellness I need in my life, and I don’t need to pull to feel loved and valued. I have the love I need in my life.” Since that moment, I have not touched my hair. I haven’t felt the urge to. If I happen to find myself subconsciously touching my hair, my mind automatically goes to the thought of being loved and wanted, and not needing to pull to replace that. I am now two months pull-free, and this time it feels different than ever before.
Of course, I have taken precautions. Every time I have gone a month without pulling, without fail my relapses have come from giving myself permission to pluck my brows with tweezers. I no longer give myself that permission, since opening that door just a crack opens it fully for me. I know this for myself. I also chose to do a BWRT session (Brain Work Recursive Therapy), as an extra precaution.
This may not be the path for everyone, as no two cases are the same. It’s vulnerable for me to put my own story out there, because I am afraid that others will call my solution too simple, or not fully explored. But I’m not just pull free, I am happier overall, and I feel a need to share my story.
If you would like to contact me to discuss more, feel free.
Also, if you want to read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, I 100% recommend that, for it changed my life.