My battle with Trich

For those of you who do not know what “Trich” is, it is short for Trichotillomania- a psychological disorder in which a person feels compelled to pull their own hair. Because pulling hair is something that used to be associated with folks who have “gone mad”, the term “mania” is tacked on the end. Ho hum.

I started playing with my hair and twirling it when I was very young. I am not sure why or how it began, but it is a coping mechanism to deal with stress. Somehow I taught my brain that pulling a hair out would ease the stress I was feeling. But once it was pulled out, I would want to pull more. It was like scratching an itch. So easy to just reach up and scratch the urge. But in this case, I was literally pulling hairs out.

I do remember that at one point when I was young, I was starting to go bald in the spot where I pulled the most- behind the ear. Between my young years and my working adulthood, the habit did not create enough of a bald spot to be very noticeable. I am sure I kept doing it, but staying more active and not having to concentrate for 8 hours a day on the same thing, it was not as much of an issue. When I entered my job as a finance professional, spending oodles of time behind a desk concentrating, my pulling reach new levels and now my hot spot was right in front.

For a number of years now, I have been ashamed of my trich issues. I rarely talk about it. I hardly ever get my hair cut because I don’t want to be embarrassed and have to explain to the stylist why my hair is so thin in front. I think I have only mentioned it to my husband of 13 years maybe once or twice. But last weekend, the bells went off.

I began my coaching certification course and everyone in our group is on a video conference. I was panicking the entire time about how thin my hair would look on camera. I spent so much time worrying about it and then I broke down two times that day- once on the phone with my sister and once with my husband. Everything poured out! I talked about my anxiety over my issue, the fact that I don’t go for walks on sunny days since my head will get burned, how I cringe if the fire alarm goes off at work in case we have to go stand in the field and everyone will see my thin hair in the sun, how I have to wear a headband every time we go to the pool because my head will get burned, how I had to recently order some fancy hats for an outdoor wedding, how I think about it day in and day out and I’m SO TIRED OF IT.

It was so relieving to let it out after so many years of resisting. That was an eye-opening experience. I do not usually allow myself to be vulnerable, to ask for support, or ask for a hug. But it strangely felt more EMPOWERING. That’s because I was finally ready to be honest with myself and to create AWARENESS. Awareness is always the first step in creating change. I know that intellectually, but to actually practice it is not so easy.

Once I created the awareness, I began coaching myself. I acknowledged and clarified my thoughts, feelings, and actions and how they were driving my current result. And then I created a future outlook for myself, one in which I had no desire to pull my hair any longer. It starts with a daily practice of reciting a drama-free thought: “My hair belongs on my head.” I repeat it in my mind as I enter work (where I pull the most) and any time I feel the urge pop up. I do not resist the urge, I simply acknowledge it, repeat my sentence, and then let it go. Sometimes I imagine that urge as a little furry creature that needs a hug. I hug him and then let him go. Whatever works, eh?

Guess what? I have not pulled for five days. I cannot remember the last time I could say that honestly. It feels SO GOOD to be starting this path toward recovery. And even if I slip during this process, I will not judge myself. I will move ahead.

This process can work for so many habits. I am super excited to be experiencing it right now with my trich because I cannot wait to apply it to other habits I would like to change. Here we go, world!! Watch and see.