*To become familiar with this story, catch up by reading part one and part two.
By the time my parents decided to seek medical attention for my pulling, the situation had become pretty drastic. If I was alone, I was pulling. It's like my hands were automatically drawn to my hair. I wouldn't even realize that I had been pulling large amounts out until there was a pile on the floor or the bed in front of me. It's like I would go into a trance, and then panic would ensue when I would realize how much damage I had done.
With my pediatrician's help and advice, my parents felt that the best option would be to put me on an anxiety medication for a temporary period of time. I began taking Paxil, which is used to treat depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorders. The medication helped put an end to my obsessive pulling, and my hair began to grow back for the first time in months.
The hair growth process was a slow one. The majority of the top of my scalp was lacking in thickness, resulting in a crazy looking hair style as the strands began to grow back. People went from asking me about my bald spots to just asking me "what was wrong with my hair." The top half was extremely short, and created something similar to a mushroom effect. Before pulling, my hair was extremely straight. When it began to grow back in, it came back very wavy and fluffy. This weird transition between being bald and having normal hair was almost as bad as the pulling itself. The picture below is just one of many where my hair is looking quite interesting. You can see that the shorter pieces on top of my head created a conehead effect. I would say it took close to two years for my hair to get back to a normal state. During this time, I would always tell people, "Oh, my hairdresser just gave me a really bad haircut. I'm so mad!" The funny thing is the excuse actually worked the majority of the time, ha ha.
Eventually, it did indeed look like normal hair again though. The questions about baldness stopped. The funny looks stopped. The constant worry that my parents had been going through stopped. Everything that I had been dealing with for so long ended. With everything going so well, the doctor gave me the okay to cease taking Paxil.
After I was off of the medication, I was pull free for probably around a year. It's almost like my brain had just decided not to think about it. Then, high school began and new stresses came along with it. I felt myself wanting to fall back into the habit, and I began to give in and pull a few strands every now and then. I had a particularly bad relapse in my room one night, pulling at least 25 strands of hair out of one section of my head. I remember running into the bathroom and crying as I inspected the damage, which luckily wasn't even really noticeable because I have such thick hair.
After that relapse, I realized that my the fight that I had thought was over was really nowhere close to being so. I kept myself as busy as I could, but the want to pull would always overwhelm me when I was alone. I spent a great deal of time battling my own thoughts, and getting upset with myself because I thought I was being weak. What I had to learn to realize, and what anyone who lives with trich has to realize, is that the inability to completely stop isn't a sign of weakness. It isn't a reflection of the type of person you are.
Trichotillomania isn't easy to beat, but it doesn't have to ruin your life. If I could only give one piece of advice to those who pull their hair, it would be that. You are much stronger than you think. Something else I am learning lately, is that talking about trich, and confiding in others who are in similar situations, actually helps to lessen the burden on yourself. There is no reason to be ashamed. Don't let anyone tell you that you are weird, or strange, or crazy. That's not the case in any way, shape or form.
Something else I also feel that I should mention, is not everyone who is affected by trich pulls the hair on their head. Others pull from their eyebrows, their eyelashes, their arms, their legs...anywhere you can think of really. I don't know if this necessarily applies to everyone who suffers from trich, but it seems like pulling certain hair from certain areas provides a bigger feeling of "accomplishment." Maybe that's just an aspect of the obsessive part of the disorder...spending time distinguishing between a good pull and a bad pull.
So, you're probably now wondering, what is going on with my trich today? Well, it certainly hasn't disappeared. You may find it hard to believe since I obviously have a very full head of hair, but I actually pull at least once a day. Just as always, it tends to happen when I am alone or really stressed out. The reason that I am nowhere close to bald, or even having a bald patch, is because I have what I have labeled a "pulling system." I only allow myself to pull if I feel it's completely necessary, and I only pull from one specific place on my scalp...a spot that is located on the lower left side of my head. Furthermore, I don't allow myself to pull more than two or three strands, and I make sure that I'm only pulling out shorter strands, or "new growth."
I'm not by any means condoning a pulling system. I'm not proud of it, but it is certainly better than letting myself go crazy. Sharing this story is the first step of my attempt to go completely "pull free" again. I know this is possible, and while I'm not happy that pulling is still a part of my life, I am confident in my ability to quit. I know how trich can ruin my life, and I'm not willing to go that far down the road again. More important than that, I know that God has my back in this. Through prayer and trust in Him, there is no way that I am going to fail a second time.
Besides the pulling of my hair, do I have any other residual side effects? I do actually. I attribute my shy and introverted personality to trich. It is the reason that I tend to stay to myself. It is the reason that I am so quiet. It is the reason that I overthink every single thing in my life. It is the reason that I seem to have an "obsession" with my hair. I worry constantly about what it looks like, wondering if it's falling right, or looking thick enough. I touch it constantly, and what I view as a "bad hair day" can ruin my entire demeanor. The first thing I notice about a person is their hair. I compare my hair to the hair of every other female that I come into contact with. It's not a vanity thing. It's not even a reassuring thing. It's just something that I have become accustomed to.
Despite all of this though, trichotillomania isn't "me." It's just something that I have. It is no longer going to define me. It is no longer going to make me feel guilty. Starting today, right now, trich is going to be a blessing in disguise. It is no longer my secret. It is no longer my burden.
My heart is on my sleeve, displayed for all to see. I can't say thank you enough to those of you who have read and commented on these posts. Your support is evidence that I am doing the right thing in sharing. If you are someone who is secretly struggling with trichotillomania, please don't hesitate to contact me. I want nothing more than to talk with you and try to help you understand what is going on. I promise to be a listening ear, a provider of support, and a help with further research. And if you're not affected by this disorder, I'm here to answer any questions that you may have. Thanks again. I am feeling beautifully free of burden.