Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Lesson

Yesterday I attempted humour. I have discovered that I obviously suck at tone. Or maybe I just have some very intuitive readers who are thoughtful and caring to no end. They are an insightful group that saw past my lame attempt at a fluffy filler post. After spending two hours working on my next installment of my Top 100 albums, out of nowhere, there was a freak power outage. I went to bed in the dark frustrated as hell. I woke up and banged out a throw away post about spooky spirits that cause me to check multiple times on whether I have locked the door. This is the type of thing that makes me laugh about myself because, darn it all anyhow, I love to laugh at myself.

When I saw the support in the comments, I knew it was time to write the post that I don't want to write. You see I actually do suffer from a condition that is treated by medicine and therapy. It is something that is not widely known about or understood. In fact I've gone to several doctors and confessed that I have a problem. Not one has offered any solution. I am sure they would have if I pressed, but I feel shame, so I don't.

I was ten years old when my battle with a disorder referred to as Trichotillomania first began. It started innocently with making wishes on eyelashes. I sat in the back of my fifth grade class and pulled out one eyelash and then another. And then another. Soon the outer corners of my eyes were bald. I would be desperate to try to grow them back but when the short hairs poked through they irritated my eyes and I needed to get rid of the new growth.

Unconsciously I moved to hair below my knees. It completely cleared my mind when I picked the hairs one by one. I would lose all track of time. When I was tired or anxious I was more vulnerable. Sometimes I did it without thinking and there were other times when it was a methodical way to make me feel calm.

My missing eyelashes and the rash that would appear on my legs embarrassed me. I was not alone in my embarrassment. My family couldn't understand why I would do it and no one even knew that it was a condition. It was considered a bad habit that looked awful. I felt more shame. I was often disgusted with myself.

When I reached my twenties, my anxieties must have been at an all time high. I no longer had any eyelashes. No amount of make up could disguise this fact. For special occasions I would buy fake eyelashes that irritated my eyes. It was the only time that I felt pretty.

Thankfully not having eyelashes must be shocking because no one would question me. One summer I decided that I had suffered enough embarrassment. I wanted to see if they would even grow back. With much concentration on making sure that any hair pulling was elsewhere, my eyelashes returned. I vowed to never let myself get that bad again. With some new gained confidence, I thought I could conquer my pulling completely. There are times that I can control it but I always fall back into my ways. I have never received treatment but I know that it is an option if I felt that it was necessary.

Right now I don't think that I would consider taking medicine to stop me from pulling out a few hairs on a bad day. I know that many others have a much harder time with Trichotillomania. The shame, disapproval and guilt are a lot to take on when obviously there is a bigger problem to deal with. Knowing that this is a real disorder and that I am not the only person that is struggling with this condition helps immensely.

20 Singing the blues:

Stephanie said...

I've never heard of this condition before. Thank you for being so open about it.

bubandpie said...

So, um, ditto what I said yesterday? Everybody has a crazy door and it sounds like yours is never left more than very slightly ajar. We should all do so well.

Mother Bumper said...

I never have the right thing to say but (1) I saw the humour in the post of the ghost and (2) I've got a friend who is a cutter and a closer loved one who is a plucker (as he likes to call it) and I've seen the results of a stressful situation. I know this had to be a difficult post to write because it's so personal. But you aren't alone iin this and the fact that you were able to control yourself sans medication for that time just demonstrates the strength you posess. Strength that may not be there always but the fact that you can put a name to it must be help with the struggle. Okay, as usual, this isn't coming out right but I hear you, I hug you and I support you. You rock Baby Blue (eyelashes or no eyelashes and I meant that in the lamest funniest way possible).

chelle said...

I am in awe how aware of yourself you are. How amazing that you can control it. That take a lot of strength as does sharing it with us...

Chantal said...

Very strong of you to share this. I have a similar "thing" I do when I stress or am sad, etc... but I don't think I could share it.

You rock.

Mrs. Chicky said...

When I'm stressed (which is most of the time) I pick. Skin, fingernails, my lip, anywhere I can make some damage. It's not quite as full blown as your condition but I wanted to tell you that you weren't entirely alone.

Christina said...

I have similar bad habits, although not as severe as yours. I pick my nails down to painful areas, I pick at my lips, etc.

I'm also a hair puller. I never pulled out my eyelashes, but I've done a lot of damage to my hair. I feel for hairs that are too thick or too curly and pull them out. It's oddly comforting and I don't even know I'm doing it.

The hair pulling isn't nearly as bad nowadays. I never do it to the point of bald spots, although I do still have times of stress where I clog my vacuum with loose hair on the floor.

Thanks for telling us about your condition! We all have our crazy behaviors, and it is good to recognize your own.

Pattie the Domesticator said...


:) Thanks for sharing. I am sure it is not easy to write about something so personal.
Oddly enough, I have heard of this condition. I know someone else who suffers from it.

metro mama said...

We all have our "oddities" don't we. Sharing them makes us feel less alone.

sunshine scribe said...

Jana ... You have such courage. Courage to share such an intimate part of yourself with us. Courage to have such self awareness and really be with it.

I have a friend whose mother was diagnosed with this same condition. As the others said, you are not alone. But I can only imagine what it must feel like.

Thank you for trusting us with this. Sending huge, supportive hugs of admiration your way.

Andrea said...

Thanks for sharing. My crazy door is that when life is stressful, I feel an urge (but have never caved) to binge and purge. It's scary, messes with your mind, and adds to stress already felt. When I start to feel this way, I hide the toothbrushes (part of mine is that I don't want to use my finger and a toothbrush is usually handy in our bathroom) so I'm not tempted. My husband didn't know why I did this until very recently. Now he knows that when his toothbrush migrates to his drawer in the vanity, I'm stressing and doing everything I can to resist. After years of this, I don't know that I'll every become stressed enough to succumb. I hope not. For now, I have never given in.

Thank you for being so open about your crazy door (love that analogy).

Mom101 said...

You're so brave to be able to share this. I've read about it before but didn't know much about it. I'm so impresed that you manage to control it so well on your own. That must take a whole lot of strength. Hats off to ya, lady.h

And I did think your post yesterday was funny.

something blue said...

Thank you!

This was hard to write but I knew that in doing so I'd feel better. All of you make this bloggy world a really great place.

kittenpie said...

Jana, it sounds like you are doing pretty well at containing it on your own, not like someone who necessarily need medication at this point!

Like Mrs. Chicky, I'm a picker of anything un-smoothe, and also a nail- and cuticle-biter when I don't notice what I'm doing. Getting better at that, but not there yet, that's for sure.

penelopeto said...

very brave of you to talk about this - hope it helped alleviate some of the guilt.

do we not all do things like this, to one degree or another? i am a picker. my hangnails and cuticles, mostly, and if i don't have hangnails, i make some. my fingers are truly disgusting. i've been doing this for as long as i can remeber, but i do other kind of ocd stress-relief things too, like counting.

we all have a crazy door open a crack, no?

nonlineargirl said...

That was a brave post. Talking about our weaknesses, oddities or pain is not easy, but it does help to know that when we do people respond with support and love. (Even when we don't think we are talking about our secrets people amazingly respond with support and love!)

I send you my care. I am happy this condition is not taking too much of your self esteem, because you are great. (And funny - I loved the line about the ouija board.)

Fidget said... is filled with people who understand and have been trhough different treatment options. I don't pull hair but I obsessivly pick my skin to teh point of bleeding and scabbing. It is very embarrassing but I can not stop myself. It's a form of self soothing. When my stress is lower i hardly do it but with 2 preschoolers and a baby on teh way as well as a house under construction and a husband who just took a pay cut.. may arms aren't looking so hot right now

Heather said...

I don't know anyone who doesn't have some little quirk. One of my closest friends suffers from anxiety and it's frightening how debilitating it can be.

It's commendable of you to write about it - not everyone is so self-aware, and as others have pointed out you obviously are. I hope you're able to control it as well as it sounds like you have been. I'm sure it's very hard.

(and not to be an insensitive jerk making light of a serious disorder (I tend to have an absurd sense of humour) but the word trichtotillomania sounds like Mel Lastman or some skeezy used car salesman on late night TV should be yelling trick-toe-till-oe MANIA! on a commercial along with "prices so low you won't believe it!" and "even we can't believe how cheap this sofa is!") Gah I really hope you take this as it was intended (humour not jerkiness).

Izzy said...

It looks like previous commenters have said everything I may have considered saying so there won't be anything new and exciting here. Just thanks for trusting us enough to discuss this. Though I don't do it much anymore, I actually derive an odd amount of pleasure from plucking hairs from various places on my body. When I was a young teen, I'd sit and pluck my knee hairs, finding it strangely satisfying. See? We all have our quirks :)

krista said...

Oh my god. I have this condition.

I had no idea it had a name!

I am a compulsive skin picker, on my hands and feet. It is actually really disgusting, and when it is really bad even strangers ask me what happened to my hands because they are red and covered in bandaids.

I am so thankful that you posted this. I saved that site and I am going to read all about it.

Seriously, I am really grateful that you posted this.