Monday, February 9, 2009

That Trichy Feeling

pulling out my eyelashes
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.


Penny said...

That is interesting. I think I feel differently to you. I never 'shake' or anything, but yes I get the tingle. It draws me to my head. then sometimes I feel stressed, sometimes more frustrated, when I try not to pull. It is not too often that I get these feelings luckily. But when I am bored I seem to not even get the feelings but still pull. I can't even explain it!

Thandi said...

:( now I know that I've got it too.Just had a shocking look in the mirror and realsied I had more blank than lashes.Been going on for a few months and ...Only found out it had a name this morning.


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