Part of my trichotillomania is an obsession with having everything look and feel "right." The poor tiny eyelashes and eyebrows that are just trying to grow back in again are subject to my wrath, because they don't feel "right." You can see how this turns into a vicious cycle.
Like many trichsters, this compulsion for everything to feel right is not limited to hair. Many people with trichotillomania are also skin-pickers. I am one of them. I'm not as bad as some, who constantly make themselves bleed, but I'll pick at skin that has any sort of irregularity: pimples, scabs, dry skin, even just little bumps on my skin that aren't any of the above. Additionally, if I break or chip a nail, I have to stop everything and fix it, or I can't concentrate on what I was doing before. Today's been a bad day for epidermis issues. I'm having a lot of trouble concentrating at work because of them. I need a Pop-tart.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
I'm sure my fellow trichsters know what it feels like just before you pull. I was about to type that it likely feels similar for most people with trichotillomania, but upon reflection, I'm betting that it varies. I imagine, for example, that it feels different for a scalp puller than it does for an eyelash puller like me. What does it feel like for you?
Mine starts with a textbook description of trichotillomania, in the way that people who don't have it try to describe it. The way that psychiatrists describe it is with a tension that is relieved through the act of pulling. At the most basic level, this is true. But this isn't a very detailed examination into the physical nature of the tension and relief.
For me, the pulling urge often starts with a slight tingling sensation on the edge of my eyelids where my eyelashes grow. If I try to delay the pulling, I experience symptoms of general anxiety, including slight shaking, shortness of breath, and a feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind you get when you're really nervous or stressed out.
If I give in and pull, the tension only eases for a moment, while I'm pulling. I lose one hair. The feeling returns, and I pull again. I lose another hair. The cycle of anxiety-relief-anxiety continues until my self-loathing overpowers the pulling urge and I angrily grab a jar of Vaseline and try to soothe my screaming eyelids.
Check out this quote. If you replace the word "obedience" with "pulling," is this not an apt description of the physical struggle we trichsters face?
As I grew older, I learned to delay my obedience, but each moment cost me dear — in breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, and other complaints. I could never hold out for long. Even a few minutes were a desperate struggle. (Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted)
If you've never read Ella Enchanted, I emphatically recommend you read it. It's classified as a children's book, but it's one of my favorite books. It's a humorous twist on the Cinderella story written in 1998. The premise is that a young girl named Ella had a curse placed on her at birth which forces her to be obedient. Whenever anyone gives her a command, she must follow it. The above quote is the physical reaction in her body when she tries to ignore a command. The story follows her as she tries to break the curse.
Although I never connected this book with trichotillomania when I read it before, I can see now why it resonates so powerfully with me. This book is about a struggle for freedom from a personal barrier that holds Ella back from being the woman she wants to be. The same struggle that we live with each day.