*To get caught up on this series, click HERE to read part 1.
It all started with a single strand of hair.
I can't recall exactly how this single strand of hair ended up in my hand. It may have came from my hairbrush. It may have been hanging loose on my shirt. I may have even pulled it out, but I really can't remember. All I know is this particular strand still had the follicle attached to it, and something about that hair root was intriguing to me. So, I pulled another piece out of my scalp to inspect it. And then I pulled another. And another. And another.
I was 10-years-old when this happened. I was entirely too young to even come to the conclusion that pulling my hair out was a form of harming myself. I wasn't thinking about the fact that I was becoming addicted. I wasn't telling myself that I needed to stop. I wasn't even able to realize that pulling my hair out would ultimately lead to thinning hair on my scalp. All I know is I began to pull strands of hair out daily.
I still remember exactly how my parents discovered what was going on. I was sitting in the recliner in our living room watching TV and my mom came up behind me to put her hands on my shoulders. She stood there for a couple of seconds, and all of a sudden she started touching my head and said, "Oh my gosh Randa, you have bald spots on your head!" I just remember being overcome with this sense of panic, almost like my mind was putting two and two together for the first time. I immediately knew that it was a result of pulling my hair out, even though I hadn't seen the damage myself. My mom began asking me questions, and I eventually told her that I was pulling my hair out but I didn't know it was wrong. That day, she made me promise not to do it anymore, and I promised her. I thought I could stop.
It wasn't that easy though. I know that I really did try to stop, but it was like I had zero control over actually being able to quit. After I realized what a negative thing it was, I wanted nothing more to bring the pulling to an end, but the situation actually worsened. The stress of knowing I had bald spots and the realization that this wasn't a normal thing caused my anxiety to worsen and I compensated for it by pulling out more hair. My parents would beg me to stop, and I knew that they were constantly watching me so I would always wait until I was alone in my room to do it. I would even sneak off to be alone in order to pull a few pieces out.
I would pull until my scalp burned, and my mom could always tell when I had been doing so because the area of my scalp that I had been pulling from would be red and irritated. My parents always knew what area of the floor to check for large amounts of discarded hair, so I would try to make sure and clean up all of the areas after I was finished pulling to keep them from finding out. Talking about the situation only made things worse, and I began to hate myself because I just didn't understand what was wrong with me. I didn't understand why I couldn't just put the habit to rest. I remember constantly comparing myself to other girls my age. I became envious of their hair, and their ability to be "normal." I hated myself because of this strange "addiction."
It became more and more difficult to keep the disorder a secret. Most of my family knew. My teachers knew. My hairdresser knew. So many people knew, but they all helped me to try and keep it a secret from my peers. I never talked to my friends about what was going on, because at the age of 10, you aren't really at the maturity level required to understand obsessive compulsive disorders.
And just because you try to keep something a secret doesn't mean you can always hide the obvious. Kids weren't afraid to point out that I had bald spots. One of the most upsetting events that happened during this time period took place in the lunchroom at school. I heard the two girls behind me in the lunch line laughing, and one of them dropped something on the floor by my feet and asked me to pick it up. Being the nice person I was, I did. The second I bent over far enough to where the top of my head was visible, one of them laughed and said to the other, "See, I told you she was bald! Gross!" Their laughter continued, and I turned back around in the line and fought back the tears.
My mom did her best to help me hide what was going on. She would wake us up early enough to spend some time arranging my hair so that the bald spots weren't as noticeable. She bought me tons of those bandana headbands that were popular in the late 90's, and I wore them everywhere that I could. Her and my dad both were so supportive, and never stopped trying to solve the problem and make it easier on me.
The rest of my family was amazing as well. My aunt who is a nurse would always find new things to bring me to keep my hands busy. I had an entire basket full of stress relief balls and other related items. Everyone did their best to help me find new ways to channel my anxiety so I wouldn't turn to hair pulling. My Granny and Grandpa even bought me a pair of gold cross earrings. The note that was with them said something along the lines of, "Every time you feel like you want to pull your hair, just touch these crosses and remember that everything is going to be okay." I was too young to really understand how amazing my family was back then, but as I look back on it now, it makes me so incredibly thankful.
I'm going to end here since this post is already extremely long, but come back tomorrow for the third and final part of my story. Thank you so much for taking the time to read! It means the world to have support as I share something that has been such a negative up until this point.