What a week!

It’s been a week, one whirlwind, awesome, challenging- week. 

Amid all the crazy I don’t think of my mental health, which is a nice break. I get into a “get shit done” mode and generally just try and survive until sleep arrives.

Friday for example I worked from 4am until 9:30pm straight through and then went out with friends, cause St.Paddy’s Day arrives but once a year! Next day I committed to volunteering at 8am then worked until 10pm.

The hours are hard, the lack of breathing time exhilarating, the copious amounts of coffee-clearly not healthy.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. 

I love the challenge of testing my limits. It’s rewarding to be able to look back and say, “that was entirely too much” but also, “I did that! I survived that!”

It’s not all fun however, despite the outcomes.

My social media makes each 18 hour day seem relatively glamorous. Instagram shows a smiling face; coffee (who can complain about that?!); Twitter is engaging; and Facebook shows happy memories. Snapchat makes light of the hours, and is the only true perspective to the reality, one that only close friends get to see.

I volunteer, work two jobs, manage many volunteer positions in my spare moments, have pets to take care of, and try to gain some semblance of normalcy throughout it all. In all this other elements of my life suffer. 

The pets are cared for less, sleep doesn’t happen, relationships take a hit- far too much goes to the wayside.

So today, as I take the time to focus on #selfcare, finally call my parents back, and “reset my life” I remind you that what you see online isn’t always the reality.

Look beyond what you see on a screen to the reality of a human being.

A smile is easy in front of a flash. 

Take care of yourselves friends ❤


Join the conversation! Give this post a share, a like or a comment! Spread the word about mental health, and body-focused repetitive behaviours.<3 -A
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BFRB Network Haul

Had the urge to buy something for myself, for selfcare a few weeks back, so I took to the TLC Foundation website to see what I could find. They’ve got quite a fantastic selection of fiddle toys, books, bracelets and more!

It was my first time ordering from the site, and I have to say it was fantastic. Every purchase funds outreach, education and research for people living with BFRBs which was an added perk. Quick delivery, easy to order things and the items arrived with information about the organization and BFRBs which I thought was awesome! To add to the fun, my receipt had a hand-written thank you note on it with a ❤ and it made me smile-it’s the little things. 

Below is what I ordered and thought of the items so far.

1. Handmade Anxiety Spinning Ring

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I was really excited about this- mostly as it was simple and inconspicuous but functional. Intrigued by the fashion + functionality aspect of this ring it’s exactly what I was looking for. A few weeks later I’m still a big fan of it. Although the pearling on the beds has worn off making it look worn and aged I still like this ring and would definitely recommend it for someone looking to have a fiddle toy without looking like you have a fiddle toy.

 

 

2. Edamame Soybean Fiddle Toy

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HOW CUTE IS THIS!? I bought this not because it seemed useful, but because it’s just adorable. It arrived in a pack of two, the second one isn’t shown in the picture. I love them. I’ve been keeping one on my keychain which has been really helpful driving to work each day. Used it throughout meetings a couple weeks ago- super helpful. I love how this fiddle toy doesn’t look like a fiddle toy but rather a trendy keychain

3. Life is Tricky by Lindsey M. Muller 

I have just started this so a review will have to wait. Stay-tuned.

 


Join the conversation! Give this post a share, a like or a comment! Spread the word about mental health, and body-focused repetitive behaviours.<3 -A

 

 

Oh right, #SelfCare

I forget to take care of myself quite often. I like to help others, I like to keep busy, I fall victim to “hustle culture” all the time. I discuss this in my last blog Selfcare vs. Me, and although I’m bad at taking care of myself I do see the need. The past few weeks I’ve been trying to find ways to make both worlds co-exist and so far it’s been a beautiful journey.

My ambitious self, and my human self living happily together, through selfcare.

Below are a few of my current favourite ways to practice self-care.

  1. Baths- I’ve always been a fan of bubble baths, dim the lights, watch a movie and just relax- A glass of wine does’t hurt either.
  2. Time in Nature- This is new for me. I recently got a car, which makes escaping to where there’s no sidewalks much easier. I’ve loved spending more time observing the world, listening to the rustle of a tree, the tweet of a bird. I took a walk in Point Pleasant Park with the dog the other day, and left my phone at home- it was pure magic.
  3. Good Book- I’m not a reader, I used to be, but unfortunately university has made enjoying reading hard for me. Slowly I’m craving the need to read, in particular in the mornings while I enjoy my cup of coffee. Currently I’m reading Mona Awad’s “13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl” which focuses on the realities and struggles of body-image.
  4. Unplug- I’m bad at this, so very very bad, however when I do succeed at turning off my technologies I do love the sensation. It’s freeing and enthralling all at once.
  5. Fancy Coffee- I’m a big coffee fan-we get along like peanut butter and jelly, but sometimes my regular cup of joe is more fuel than it is sustenance. I love a good afternoon or evening spent in a coffee shop with a fancy latte. A treat in itself, but the people watching and environment also help to heal my mind and it’s very relaxing.
  6. Healthy Food- As of late I’m trying to eat more nutrious foods. Less carbs, more veg and certainly cutting out the dairy products, due to an allergy. I found dairy-free Mac n’ cheese the other day and it made me so happy!
  7. Sleep- Oh boy sleep, I love it, I hate it- we fight. Sometimes I want to sleep all day, other times I force myself to wakeup at 6am to be productive. I’m trying to get a minimum of 7hrs of sleep lately, and it’s been helping. My fitbit has been a huge part of tracking, and reminding me of this very important part of life.
  8. Working Out- I’m so bad at this. I see the need. I recognize the importance. I see the benefits. I just can’t seem to get my butt to the gym, or dance class, or for a walk. It’s a time thing, but also a lack of making time. Working on this but slowly it’s becoming a part of my habitual health.
  9. Time with Friends- Hold your friends close ❤
  10. Cooking-I made miso soup the other day, next up sushi! I’ve enjoyed putting on a random independent movie, drinking a good glass of wine and cooking as of late. It’s a necessity of life and honestly the distraction is nice.
  11. Going to the doctor- I suffered a back injury last summer, and finally I got it looked at- six months later. Turns out it was a sprain in one of my vertebrae, and now I’m besties with my physiotherapist. If something hurts- take care of it, don’t push through the pain.
  12. Critter Snuggles-When I get busy I don’t appreciate my pets as I should. We’re cuddling more and taking more walks right now. They are always there for a snuggle, listen to every rant and concerned by every tear. In return I’m working on being  thankful for every tail wag and nuzzle.

A reminder never hurts-take care of yourself friends. 


Join the conversation! Give this post a share, a like or a comment! Spread the word about mental health, and body-focused repetitive behaviours.<3 -A

#SelfCare vs. Me.

I struggle with the practice of self-care. I understand the need. I understand the concept. I love the glamorization of it- I’m just bad at practicing it.

I tend to live by the “hustle til’ you crash” model of life. I’ll volunteer, work, study, write, socialize, refuel on caffeine, eat too much dairy and eventually just CRASH. 

Sometimes that crash is manageable, a weekend of solitude or an evening with a book will do it. Other times my body downright fights back and I get so sick I am forced to to do nothing for weeks on end. It’s rather inconvenient. 

It happened this Fall following a busy summer, even crazier fall, a move, a trip and some other drama in my life. I fought through what I though was a cold for months, only to finally cave and go to the doctor discovering I had pneumonia. Three weeks on the couch, and now a few months later I can honestly say I am feeling healthy again.

Why does this happen though? Why can’t my body, my mind and my abilities keep up to the pace I want them too? Why can’t I just burn the midnight oil, wakeup at 6am, drink eight cups of coffee, run on take-out and thrive like I want to?

The answer is simple- I’m human. 

That’s the hardest pill to swallow. The fact that as much as I want to do all those things, and I want to be super-human- I’m not.

I’m trying to focus more on self-care this year, looking after me and my own personal health, both physical and mental. Stay-tuned for some of my favourite self-care tips relating to both general mental health and body-focused repetitive behaviours in the coming weeks.

Always remember-it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, it’s necessary.


Join the conversation! Give this post a share, a like or a comment! Spread the word about mental health, and body-focused repetitive behaviours.<3 -A

A Shiny New Year

It’s supposed to be sparkly, it’s supposed to be exciting, it’s supposed to be filled with newness and shine. Ahh a New Year. A day when, for whatever reason on January 1st we convince ourselves things will be different- but will they?


I love lists. We’ve talked about this before. So the concept of making a year-long list of “to-dos” is extremely exciting to me. If I were ambitious I could look back in old journals and see resolutions back to when I was young, when “spend more time with the neighbours dog” was a logical resolution. 

My ambitions have changed slightly since then. I’ve resolved to spend more time with friends, to eat healthier, to exercise, to actually do my laundry more than once every three weeks- you know, adult things. Every year I’ve enjoyed creating those resolutions. I’ve managed to keep them up, for about a month. Finding myself annoyed, disappointed and unimpressed come February, chanting in my head “next year we’ll do better!”

It never bothered me, until this year. 

I’m struggling with the whole “resolutions” concept this year. My mind unsure which way to turn, annoyed for the first time at this “new year, new you” mantra folks seem to have adopted.

“What should they be?”

“Why do they matter?” …”Do they matter?”

“Who said January 1st had to be the day, and whoever it was, how dare they tell me what to do!”

“What is a GOOD resolution?”

“Are my resolutions bad?”

It’s taken me half of January, a lot of brain power and even more time spent journaling to figure it out. 

So far I’ve come up with this…

Just because it’s January doesn’t mean a new goal has to be achieved.

Just because the gyms are packed doesn’t mean you need to be there.

Just because everyone is losing the “holiday weight” doesn’t mean you need to rush into it.

Just because it’s January 15th doesn’t mean you can’t make a goal now, you can make a goal on August 10th for all anyone cares.

Just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean you need to make goals, or be accountable to a list at all- give yourself a break.

What a new year does mean is a chance to refocus, to reinvest in YOU.

So this year that’s what I’m doing. Not making resolutions that I’ll do because I “should” or everyone else is. Rather doing what’s right for me. Taking the pressure off, focusing instead on what I need. 

Right now that means actually drinking water, eating no dairy products, reading more and detoxing from my phone.

Will these goals change next week? Maybe, but I’m alright with that.


If resolutions are your thing this year, and you want to take it “Up a Notch” take a look at Talking to the Void, my friend Nicole has something pretty fantastic planned!

When things are good.

Sometimes it’s hard to write when you’re feeling good. Sometimes it’ scary.

I’ve been struggling to write lately.

Struggling to find a topic, struggling to sit still and write, struggling to find the motivation. Partly I think it’s because I’m not struggling right now, things are good.

When I started blogging there was no goal. There was just a need to talk, to write and to reach-out. When I started blogging pulling was fine. It was there, but it was alright.

As the blogging progressed passed the first #7DayTrichster series it was alright, but things were also not fantastic. Stress, an odd time emotionally and other life events got in the way. Pulling was bad.

Listening to the stories of others is hard emotionally, rewarding yes, but hard on the brain. I found myself frustrated by the lack of awareness, of endlessly hearing of the lack of support. Of hearing others struggle I became exhausted.

Writing more meant dealing with more.

Every blog, every share made me want to pull more. Made me more frustrated, more sad.

Things have turned around now, things are looking up. Things are good. 

So now I sit here re-evaluating. Not only for myself but for all those with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours. Do I keep writing, despite not feeling it? Or do I focus on something else? Do I continue to share via this blog when the feeling strikes?

I don’t know.

I’m in a good place, but an odd one. Bare with me folks. I’ll be back.

In the meantime I’d love some inspiration- send me some ideas? 

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Let’s Connect! Want to collaborate? Suggest a post? Ask a question? Meet to chat? I’m all ears! Send me an email or connect via @AnaSmallwood on twitter or  @timetotalktrich instagram. 

 

 

That Conference Life.

 

I love conferences.

I hate conferences.

…We have a complicated relationship. 

I’m all about opportunity. Not one to turn down a chance to meet someone new, to broaden my horizons or to learn.

I am, however, an introvert. I do have Trichotillomania. 

I love the travelling, the flying, the exploring of new places. It energizes me, makes me feel worthwhile and gives me a fresh focus. What I do however struggle with is the constant need to be “on”. Ready to chat, ready to focus on the task at hand- collaboration, teamwork, networking, talking. Whatever you want to call it.

It’s exhausting. 

Adding in the need to share a room with someone new, and to spend social hours, not by yourself, but with others I find myself only relaxing when I sleep. Trichotillomania is hard to hide, but even more so when you are surrounded by people 24/7. Bathrooms, gym sessions and early morning hot tubs become your refuge.

This past weekend I had the privilege to attend the Girl Guides of Canada National Link Conference. The first of it’s kind. Bridging the opportunities, programming and smarts of young women guiders into one, ensuring we are supported and welcoming into the guiding world. Yet seeing as it was my first conference since I started blogging I felt it was an excellent opportunity to reflect.

Here’s a few tips for surviving your next conference:

  1. Find “you” time. Go for a walk, wake-up early and go to the gym. Actively leave a session a bit early. Take your lunch to go. Take time for yourself, not only will it help you, but you will be more effective at the conference if you do.
  2. Strategic Hair Styles will be your friend. Braids, hats, buns, whatever you need to do.
  3. Fiddle things. Eat candy, play with pens, hold cups of coffee, play with elastics. Do what you have to do to keep yourself occupied during those long conversations and presentations.
  4. Offer to be the group writer. It’s hard to pull when writing, or leading a group discussion. Offer to take notes to keep your hands busy. Or to ensure you have a role.
  5. Nom nom nom. I’m that person at conferences who is ALWAYS snacking. Sure I’m a university student and access to copious amounts of fruit and veggies is awesome, but also eating all the time is helpful for my urge to pull. Hard to pull when you’re chewing on an apple and wondering if it’s stuck in your teeth.
  6. Embrace who you are. You have a BFRB. It’s a mental illness. Just because you are with a group of individuals who may not know what that is, it’s okay. Share if you feel like it, don’t if you can’t. It’s okay. Be who you are.

Let’s Connect! My goal in this blog is to create a community, help others and in turn grow myself. This is not just about sharing my story, but those of others- Want to collaborate? Suggest a post? Ask a question? Meet to chat? I’m all ears! Send me an email or connect via @AnaSmallwood on twitter or instagram. 

 

 

The Cycle.

Those who don’t have Trichotillomania must wonder what it’s like. Do I constantly pull? Is there always an urge? What starts it? There must be a lot of questions.

Maybe here’s some answers.

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It generally starts with some boredom. A day in the car, a long movie, an evening by myself. Activities I generally enjoy, cherish even- but ultimately my Trich loves to take advantage of. It begins with a tickle, a slight urge, one pull. 

Other times it’s an effect of another symptom. A dry scalp begins a path of destruction. Picking a scab, starting another, one where once there was none before- skin picking. Repeatedly picking, healing, picking, healing- rarely healthy. 

On the daily I pull a few hairs here or there. Odd lengths, weird textures, nothing substantial. Sometimes however it gets a lot worse. Days when the world just doesn’t seem right, when I’m “not okay” for an undefined reason-lost in thought. Then is when I pull until it hurts my head, and my fingers ache. When I shake in realization of what I’ve done. When I feel so much hate towards myself, my own actions.

Most days things are good, I rarely pull, and picking isn’t a thing. 

Other times I stare in amazement at the bald spots I’ve been able to create. Baffled at how I’m going to hide another patch of short hair. Wondering if anyone will see the blood from the scab I just picked through my blonde hair. Vowing for the millionth time I will stop this time. 

Feeling once again- unattractive, unworthy, annoyed at myself.

There’s days I wish I could  just get rid of the itch, the urge, to pull. To take it from my brain and throw it to the floor instead of the hair that currently lives there.

Other days I welcome it as a distraction. For it provides control, it’s part of who I am.

I haven’t been in a welcoming mood as of late, and I’m okay with that.

I wonder what’d it’d be like to be pull free. To really feel like me, and not me + this friend I call a BFRB.

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Let’s Connect! My goal in this blog is to create a community, help others and in turn grow myself. This is not just about sharing my story, but those of others- Want to collaborate? Suggest a post? Ask a question? Meet to chat? I’m all ears! Send me an email or connect via @AnaSmallwood on twitter or instagram. 

Planes, Trains, and … Hair- Travelling w Trich

It’s been a busy couple of weeks! The past two weeks it seems I’ve spent equal amounts of time away, that actually at home. For the homebody in me, it’s exhausting,  but traveller me absolutely LOVES it! As I amp up for another adventure next weekend I’ve been thinking of ways I tackle Trichotillomania when travelling. Looking at the pulling I’ve been doing the past few weeks, some of caused by travelling, some by other instances in my life, I can honestly say travelling takes its toll.

As I’ve mentioned before in Day 2 of #7DayTrichster I pull mostly when bored, and the fact is travelling might as well be a prescription for boredom. Long flights, endless car rides, and bus trips equal an urge to pull, but also a tight enclosed space in which giving into said urge is sometimes impossible.

And so with the goal of helping others, and myself for the next bout of journeys, I’ve made a list of helpful tricks for your next road trip, plane ride or cross-country adventure!

  1. Prepare- When I’m stressed, and when I’m unsure or feel “out of control” I pull. Feeling like I’ve forgotten something or being worried about missing a flight makes this feeling much worse. To avoid such a feeling I tend to make lists well in advance, pack strategically and always, always plan to be early. Sure this doesn’t always work- but hey that’s life!
  2. Gum & Candy– This one is my favourite for plane rides. The whole “Chewing gum stops your ears from popping!” concept is a great excuse to chew far more gum and eat more candy than is probably healthy. Keeping my jaw busy for whatever reason helps me avoid pulling and candy seems to provide the same reward.
  3. Find a Friend– The introvert in me is not going to just talk to a stranger on a plane, of that I’m not suggesting. But a friend to text on a long car ride, or a bored friend to type a message to via Facebook in the airport has been helpful in the past.
  4. Fiddle Toys- When it comes to plane rides I’ve yet to find a fiddle toy, aside from the odd hair elastic on my arm that I feel comfortable travelling with. My favourite as of late Bucky Balls is essentially tiny magnetic balls which stick together and can be shaped into many things. Yet I worry travelling with it on a plane, and would rather not have it confiscated so it stays home.
  5. Hats & Headbands– As mentioned in Day 3 of #7DayTrichster I have a whole bunch of ways I style or hide my hair to avoid pulling- when I travel those coping mechanisms certainly come with.
  6. Naps on Naps- Sometimes trips are just best spent napping. I’ve been known to just fall asleep and wakeup when we get there. Makes the trip far much faster too!
  7. Give Into The Urge- Sometimes travelling is stressful, and honestly when the urge gets to me- I give in. Discretely I’ve pulled and felt better-off for it, and then able to get on with the trip.

This is by far a comprehensive list, I’d love your suggestions, fiddle-toy ideas or experiences!

Let’s Connect! My goal in this blog is to create a community, help others and in turn grow myself. This is not just about sharing my story, but those of others- Want to collaborate? Suggest a post? Ask a question? Meet to chat? I’m all ears! Send me an email or connect via @AnaSmallwood

The Dreaded Hair Dresser

I have never been one to find relaxation or joy in going to the hair dresser.

For me, and others with Trichotillomania, going to the hair dresser is not as simple as just well, going.

It makes me nervous, it makes me feel guilty, it stresses me out.

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I’ve often blamed my extracurriculars on my bald spots and short hair.  Some hair dressers have accepted my “oh up-do accident!” or “I accidentally burnt it on a hair straightener” excuse. Others have looked at me, laughed, and said, “sure hun”.

Regardless of their reaction I always feel vulnerable, I always feel guilty, and I always feel self-conscious. For when going to the hair dresser inevitably I’m forced to stare at my worst enemy, my hair, for hours on end. Watching a hair dresser dye my short hair pieces, struggle to hide them after blow drying my hair and worse talking about it.

It creates urges to pull, and ultimately guilt. 

Explaining to a hair dresser you have Trichotillomania is hard.

Someone who makes their living cutting and styling hair, understandably, finds the topic difficult to comprehend. Their reactions over the years have been mixed…

I’ve had hair dressers scold me for doing what I do,

I’ve had hair dressers ask so many questions to a point where I felt like hiding,

I’ve had hair dressers relate to other clients with the same illness,

I’ve had hair dressers acknowledge it, both the good and bad, and move on with conversation.

There’s been positive and there’s been negative, but above all conversation has been key. I used to just hope hair dressers wouldn’t comment. Spending the majority of the time anxiously waiting, waiting for my secret to be discovered. As of late I’ve been honest, and it seems to help.

Tips for the Appointment:

  1. Be Honest– Share what you live with, it’s scary yes, but will make the experience better when it’s out in the open.
  2. Hold Your Ground– Sometimes one side of my hair is shorter than another. This is because I tend to pull exclusively from one spot. Ive stopped hair dressers from cutting my hair really short to even it up. It’s your hair, you need to live with the cut.
  3. Do your research– Look for hair dressers with certifications, experience, and recent graduates from accredited schools, they are more likely to have taken classes talking about trichology.
  4. See the positives– Yes it’s stressful, and yes it’s not easy, but at the end it will make you feel better, even if momentarily. View it as pampering yourself, regardless of how your pulling is at the given time.
  5. Distractions-One of my coping mechanisms is holding a hot beverage, and that definitely applies at the hair dresser. I find relaxation in keeping my hands busy at the hair dresser, especially with hair in my eyes and free time to spare. I always bring a coffee or ask for one, and when I can’t drink it I play with my rings on my hand.

*These are just my experiences, not necessarily a comprehensive list or one that will work for everyone. 

Check-out this list from the Canadian BFRB Support Network of suggested BFRB Friendly Hairdressers

#FridayFriendDay- TLC BFRB

Fridays are for reaching out to others in the BFRB community and sharing their stories.

Today’s share is an organization based out of Santa Cruz, CA. The TLC Foundation for BFRB they run conferences, feature a lot of resources and are overall aiming to boost awareness of BFRBs. They just turned twenty-five years old as an organization too! Take a look at the ad they recently hosted in Times Square, NYC!


Website: bfrb.org

Twitter: @TLC-BFRB

Youtube: youtube.com/channel/TLCBFRB

Give them a follow, they do fantastic work. Happy Friday friends!

-A

Shhhh…NOT.

We can’t be quiet. 

We’ve been quiet for far too long.

Changes can’t be made if the issue is not known.

Businesses scan their environments for concerns, for threats and recognize strengths- and so to must we.

To improve we must talk, and talking is scary,

but not talking breeds stigma, and stigma breeds silence. 

Talking can cause concerns, talking can seem negative.

Voicing opinions can be seen as threatening.

That’s not the goal. 

Talking is the goal, and that’s all I aim to do.

For I want change, as do many others.

I don’t feel shame anymore, and that’s to be celebrated.

I feel anger in hearing others do, I’ve been there, hid there, it’s not fair.

My approach is to question, my approach is to share, all sides of stories I can find.

I’ll continue to do that, rallying those who want to join with me.

Talking until there’s no need to, because the issue, and those who feel silenced,

don’t feel silent anymore.

 

 

Don’t Silence Us.

Dear MSVU,

I’ve been a university student for almost six years. Starting at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2010. In January of last year I started at Mount Saint Vincent University, in a second undergrad. University is tough- it’s expensive, and there’s pressure to do far more than study and learn.

I’ve seen students struggle, I’ve struggled.

Yet in my experiences universities are trying to adapt, trying to support their students. UPEI’s Mental Health Week has created conversations among students, staff, faculty, alumni and the community. Campaigns at MSVU such as “I’m Feeling… ” and “#MentalHealthMatters” give me optimism.

There’s talk, there’s a movement towards change, and stopping the silence surrounding mental health on campuses…and then stories like this appear. 

MSVU Student Not Allowed To Tell Others He’s Suicidal Per School’s Wellness Agreement  via Global News Halifax

Mount Saint Vincent University’s wellness agreement forbid him to tell other students in residence that he was suicidal.

I’m a Mount Saint Vincent University student, in the Bachelor of Public Relations Program, I am in the same year as this student. This student is someone I call a friend, a classmate, and one day will call a colleague. This makes me sick. 

MSVU has been nothing but supportive in recent months of my ventures in the Mental Health community, they’ve shared my posts, attended events, hosted summits and held campaigns. From the outside, and until yesterday, from the inside, it seemed like MSVU was on track. We’ve got supports, hey we even have a therapy dog!
Yet this comes into light and I question what is going on in the minds of MSVU Administrators, people I look up to. There is no one better to understand someones struggles than those who are also in the same situation, peers. Then tell me where the logic is in secluding a student from talking to their peers…other students?

Someone, please explain, because I’m confused. 

I was proud of the school I attend, I was amazed at the support you’ve shown me. Then this? Now I’m not so sure.

You say you support us… Why then are my classmates frustrated? Why then am I concerned about hearing other MSVU students have been silenced? Why then do I feel fear in writing this? WHY.

I don’t have the solutions, but I do have a voice, as do all of you. Share this story, let Mount Saint Vincent University, and others with similar policies that this is NOT OKAY. We’d never silence a diabetic from sharing their struggles with insulin pumps, why then silence a student who is struggling with a mental illness?

Signed,

A Frustrated MSVU Student.

 

 

Dear Me.

Dear Little Me,

You with the long flowing golden locks. Without a care in the world but only to get to the beach as quickly as possible, and what the next book you read will be.

Now, but days later you’re afraid, you sit with a pile of hair in your hands. You’re questioning “What kind of monster rips out their own hair?” scared at first, then filled with hate.

Thoughts that fill your every fibrous being. Thoughts of hatred, thoughts of dismay, confidence basically none existence, thoughts of guilt, of shame.

Everyday you’ll wake and automatically reach for the tiny tuffs of hair a-top your head, instantly saddened, angered at what YOU, you’re own being has done. Feeling spikey short hair, feeling baldness, feeling everything but relief, until “pluck”.

With that rush of emotions, an ease, a release- the minute a hair, or several leave your scalp.

A release from the turmoil inside.

Turmoil that you’ve created.

Hating yourself, ashamed to even share with your  family what you can do, what you must do.

Little me, it does get better. There will be days when you’re mind races so fast, when your life seems so out of control that you simply can’t leave your room. There will be those days when pulling is all you can do to help. Yet there will also be days, weeks even when you don’t pull at all.

You’ll learn to craft eye-brows, apply fake eyelashes and you’ll rock awesome braids in your hair- gaining compliments along the way. Life will be different little me, but it is your life.

Draw strength from your perseverance, from your ability to cope and to continue despite what you hide. Focus on the good, not on the bad- you are not a monster.

One day you’ll reach out and share your story, people who thank you will make it all worth while. The relationships formed, and the stories shared will keep you going, even on the toughest of days.

Hang in there little me,

-Me.

Mental Health Week #GETLOUD

It’s Mental Health Week in Canada, and I’m pretty proud! Proud to live in a country that wants to loudly share it’s support for those with mental illness, proud to help share what mental health is. Presented by the Canadian Mental Health Association the week has been in 1951 and is celebrating it’s 65th year.

This week I’ve celebrated in a few ways. Mostly by learning an important lesson in self care, a diagnosis of a brachial and chest infection Monday, after being sick for two weeks hit-home the importance of taking care of myself, and forced me to rest. Something I’m not so good at. Thankfully I’m on the mend!

Let’s Keep Talking w Mental Heath Foundation of Nova Scotia

For many Canadians “Bell Let’s Talk Day” is one we are familiar with, but what about the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s “Let’s Keep Talking”? This year I had the honour of attending the third annual event held at the Spatz Theatre in Halifax. I’ve been a Board of Trustees member with The Foundation for almost a year, and of all the events the organization presents this certainly not one to miss!

Awards honouring caregivers, clinicians and those who live with mental illness were given. It was an honour to hear the stories of these individuals and see them recognized.  Also we were treated to performances by a live art painter, musicians, actors and dancers.

All of these individuals living with or tackling the conversation of mental illness. The finale, and most anticipated was keynote speaker Margaret Trudeau! Mother to the Prime Minister of Canada and living with bi-polar, and having suffered from depression. Still processing the evening, I’m in awe of the resiliency, and the humility with which Margaret spoke. Sharing wisdom, sharing struggle and weaving hope throughout it all. In a week that’s been difficult in many ways the evening was a fresh breath of air. See the social media synopsis and images shared by The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia here.

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Girls Guides #GETLOUD

On Wednesday night the Halifax South District 3rd Wednesday Brownies #GOTLOUD! I’m a unit guider for a beautiful group of twenty-three Brownies. We have tons of fun, and although our unit is nearly complete for the year this week we decided to tackle The Girl Guides of Canada Mental Health Challenge. Talking about mental health is something new for me, and talking to my peers and people I look up to about it is difficult. The prospect of discussing it with seven year olds was twice as daunting. For what shouldn’t be a difficult subject is one, it’s uncomfortable sometimes, and we still tread carefully as we talk.
We discussed the difference between anxiety and stress, which the girls grasped quite easily. They shared moments of stress such as family members illness’, not doing well at sports or failing tests. We also focused on ways to relax such as yoga tag and mediation. Completing the evening we built origami bricks and discussed our worries, contrasting the discussion with ways and things that make us happy. For an evening I was apprehensive about it was a fantastic evening and one I walked away from proud to have witnessed.

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To highlight the difference between mental health and physical health the girls drew on a tracing ways they’d fix a hurt arm, leg, eyes, and to treat cuts, bruises and headaches. We then had a discussion on how to help our mental health, the girls created the list below on their own. Reflecting now it gives me hope for future generations and that the stigma we now feel about mental health will be but a distant memory.

Ways to Help Your Mental Health by 3rd Halifax Brownies:

  • Take a nap
  • Play video games
  • Go for a walk
  • Talk to friends and family
  • Read a book
  • Play sports
  • Eat cookies
  • Colour

Although it’s not just about one day, one week or even a month, but 365 days of committing to talk about mental health, mental illness and taking care of one another. I’m glad as Canadian’s we can say we’re partaking in Mental Health Week and that much needed conversations are starting to happen. As Winston Churchill said, “To Improve Is To Change”, we’re improving Canada and here’s to much more!

 

 

Self Care- Not just for Sundays.

Life has a way of getting away from me. Like a train at full-steam ahead my life moves fast, and the ride is always ongoing. I volunteer with many organizations, manage a few committees, I work two jobs, I’m a student, and I try to maintain some semblance of a social life. I’m busy. 

Add all of this, a little bit of stress, caffeine, and an unhealthy attachment to my agenda and iCalendar and you’ve got all the ingredients to life lived by Anastasia Smallwood.

Being busy, never being idle, is a coping mechanism, but it also makes me happy. Idleness has never been something I enjoy. Sure a day or two is fine, but more than that and you’ll find me re-organizing my room, finding tasks where there weren’t any before, and finally, if idle long enough I lose ambition to do anything (a scary place).

Sometimes, perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of forgetfulness, I forget to put me on the top of my daily task list. Forgetting to eat properly, to exercise, to sleep. Giving much, taking little. Months of avoiding this can mean I run my weekly marathon on steam, and then on fumes, and then again on nothing at all.

Often times avoiding taking care of myself results in a need for a weekend of solitude, a few days to re-coup with some classical music, tea, wine and my thoughts. Other times, thankfully less frequent I end up sick, and I mean real sick-ick. Being sick is never fun, but with being stuck in bed comes a list of uncompleted tasks and that STRESSES me out. Nerves that make my stomach turn, sleep seem unnecessary and my hair pulling and skin-picking frequency jump at alarming rates.

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As I pick-up the pieces of my life post bronchial and chest infection, post-exhaustion, and after learning my lesson (this time anyways) remember to take care of yourself this weekend. For the biggest priority in your life should be you, regardless the day of the week ❤ 

 

Trichster-Shame. Hope. Awareness.

I’ve known about the documentary “Trichster” for years, a follower of YouTube blogger and Trichotillomania sufferer, Beckie Brown,  I’ve known it has been in the works. I’ve seen the trailers, I’ve followed online the crowd-funding and finally I watched it.

Yet Trichster was no different for me than the documentary “First Position“. A film highlighting the life and trials of young ballerinas competing in the Youth Grand Prix, the world’s most prestigious ballet competition.

“First Position” and “Trichster” were similar in that they were elements I understood- the ballet, and trichotillomania. The difference I’ve discovered watching Trichster, cup of tea in hand, was how much I could relate emotionally. Sure I was a ballerina for years, and understood some of the elements of struggle, but not the elite level, that element I could not comprehend. I did not live it. However, I am a Trichster through and through there’s no levels to that- you are or you aren’t. 

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Shame-a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong.

 

 

I focused on shame when I first shared my story in Time To Talk. Immediately friends and family members responded saying “don’t feel ashamed, there’s no shame in being who you are“. Although that may be true, and the encouragement was appreciated I’ve wrestled with accepting it.

What does one do when they’re ashamed of themselves?  Feeling shame in your own inability to stop what is hurting you, causing you regret, and damaging.

Watching Trichster I found solace in the theme of shame. Feeling for once that my thoughts of shame were not lonely. I’ve discovered over the past weeks I’m not alone in my journey with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours; and so to am not alone in my feelings of shame. The young trichsters in the film struggle with self-acceptance, feel uneasy with lack of confidence and feel shame. They feel shame in what they do, feel shame in how they do it, and feel shame in how it affects those around them.

There may be no cure, and there is very few resources, but as Trichster has taught me- it all starts with accepting yourself.

Please go to iTunes and consider watching Trichster! An eye-opening looking into the lives of those who live with Trichotillomania and the amazing accomplishments they’ve made in life. Join the discussion at Trich.org or visit Trichster.com

Looking Forward, Acknowledging the Past

A week of emotions, a week of self-discovery, and a week of learning.

I started this journey not with a goal, but with a desire to share. I’ve done that now, and it feels great. However now I feel the need to find a goal.  A goal that will make the voices of those who suffer with BFRBs finally heard, better understood. Those voices I’ve heard, those who hide, may some day they too may someday feel like sharing- unashamed.

A journey starts, but never truly ends. So to this blog will not end. I’ve still got questions to answer, qualms to share, and people to hopefully educate and influence. I’ll be looking for topic ideas, questions and guest writers so stay connected.

Thank you to all who helped with starting the journey, your support and love has meant more than I could ever say in words. For the those who have liked, shared, retweeted and reached out you have made this journey possible, and needed. Love you all ❤

Not the end, just the beginning.

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Not Alone- Day 7 of 7 Day Trichster

Mental illness of any kind affects more than the individual who’s mind it inhabits. It affects families, it affects friends, it affects romantic relationships, and it affects daily life.

This is the reality. 

Long and lustrous hair is the desired, perfectly shaped nails are the expected, and clear dewy skin is the ideal. It’s understandable that those with BFRBs feel shame and lack confidence when not fitting the mould. Compliments on my hair appease more to my ability to hide, and less on my confidence. A lack of confidence that has changed my perception of self, but also affected those around me. Shame- transferred to those relating to BFRB sufferers; family, friends and partners. 

There’s much fear in telling a partner, and any friend you have a mental illness, regardless of what it is. There’s fear of rejection, fear in a lack of understanding, in a lack of support. I’ve told partners and friend my story in the past, but never to it’s true reality. Trichotillomania is hard to describe, but also hard to understand. Often times it’s been easier to let leave the details aside, and say “I pull at my hair sometimes.” I’ve never divulged that I suffer from other BFRBs. Partners of the past have been ashamed, angered at my lack of wanting to speak up, and been frustrated “Oh just stop it already!”. I’ve tried, believe me.

Growing up BFRBs also affected my relationship with my parents. No one wants to see their child suffer, struggle and their confidence crash. It couldn’t have been easy to see your child in such stress and feeling helpless, especially as parents. Parents are supposed to be able to fix the problems of their kids, but what happens when there is no bandaid? My parents, particularly my mom had to deal with this. Begging me to stop, to find another habit, struggling to understand. I was hurting, but so were they. As I look back it was a lack of understanding on my part, on their part, and as a family a lack of discussion. We’ve talked about it now, and in the future I’ve no doubt the conversation will continue and bring us closer. 

Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours have tested and continue to test my relationship with me, with my confidence. There’s something about hating what you do, seeing it affect your appearance, unable to stop that kicks you down time and time again. Living with BFRBs cause questions in every part of life, and primarily makes you question your abilities.

“How can you, with bald spots in your head, wearing fake eyelashes, and yearning to pull, persevere?”

“How can you succeed when somedays they feel so un-confident it’s a struggle to leave the house?”

“How can you focus when you wonder if the person next to you in class is noticing your fake eyelashes, if the person to your left can see your tufts of hair and bald spot?” 

“How can you be confident, and stand in front of audiences, cameras and peers when all you want to do is hide?”

“How can you present when your cheeks hurt so bad talking seems impossible?”

“How can you grow feeling that those you love think what you do is shameful?”

“How can you attend an event or go to a party when you feel so unconfident you’d rather not move from the comfort and safe-haven of your room?”

“How do you stand explaining a short tuft to a hairdresser for the fifth time before finally just saying it was a hair straightener accident?”

Somehow you do, you have to. You take a deep breathe, find the courage and move forward.

I have Trichotillomania, I have Dermatillomania, and  I have other BFRBs.

I am a Trichster, but I am human too, and I will succeed. I will persevere, despite this illness I live with.

For all the others out there: you are not alone, you will succeed, you will persevere, you are loved.

 

 

Common, but Unknown- Day 6 of 7 Day Trichster

I’m amazed at the amount of outreach, of sharing, and the courage of those who have come out of hiding since I began this journey six days ago. Those who’ve reach out, those who I was unaware suffered as I do. I’m not alone, as others aren’t either, we’re just…

HIDING.

I question why?

There’s support for the mental health movement, as a society we are moving towards being more open. It’s not perfect, we have a long way to go. Yet awareness for most afflictions is growing, and daily I see posts on my Facebook about self-care, and even many speaking out about their own mental health struggles. It makes my heart happy, but it also makes my belly burn with fire. So many live with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours, “2-5% of the Canadian population, or approximately 2 million adults and children” according to the CBSN. That is not a small number. Yet still most Canadians, mental health advocates, and even physicians have no clue what BFRBs are.

I’ve seen three psychologists since being diagnosed with Trichotillomania. Two of them have called what I have “a habit”, suggesting I simply “stop it” and fiddle with my hands instead.  One recognized my struggle, researched the disorder, and openly admitted she had no idea how to help. This. Is. Not. Okay.

One factor is awareness. The second is the way BFRBs are portrayed in media and popular culture.

Trichotillomania has been featured on ABCs 20/20 My Strange Affliction more than once. Featured along with those who love carpets, and a life-time witch who is afraid of water. Also seen on TLC’s My Strange Addiction Trichophagia, Dermatillomania and Trichotillomania have been featured as recent as last year. A show famous for displaying the oddities and lifestyles of those who suffer from addictions of all kinds, yet BFRBs are not an addiction? BFRBs are a mental illness. Finally, it seems BFRBs have been featured by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

Its no wonder those with BFRBs feel the need to hide!?

The culture that surrounds us is labelling us as odd, weird and unbelievable. If someone with another more well-known mental illness were to featured in such a way I find it hard to believe there wouldn’t be some sort of uproar.

BFRBs affect a significant proportion of Canadians from youth to adults. BFRBs hurt families, inhibit the ability of some to succeed, but mostly damage confidence and self-worth of all affected. It’s time those who are affected start to feel represented. The only way to do this is through speaking up, and sharing information about BFRBs.

Let’s Connect! My goal in this blog is to create a community, help others and in turn grow myself. This is not just about sharing my story, but those of others- Want to collaborate? Suggest a post? Ask a question? Meet to chat? I’m all ears! Send me an email, instagram or via @AnaSmallwood

So it’s like self-harm right? Wrong- Day 5 of 7 Day Trichster

No it’s not self-harm. It’s harmful to self, but harm is not the goal.

A question I’ve often had to answer in the past is “How BFRBs and Trichotillomania are different, or if they are, from self-harm”. Self-harm as described by The Canadian Mental Health Association  “refers to deliberate acts that cause harm to one’s body, mind and spirit.” I too used to ask myself if what I do is self-harm. Yet over the past few weeks I’ve learned this is far from the case. The Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Support Network (CBSN) confirms that BFRBs are a not self-harm defining the key difference being those who live with BFRBs don’t aim to harm, but rather to fix, correct or improve some aspect of self. Pulling, picking, biting are not seen as harmful, but relieving, helpful, and aiming towards a goal. The resulting harm is not desired.

When I pull hairs, I pull “weird ones” the thick, the curly, the darker, and the oddly textured. When I pick I pick at uneven skin, and imperfections be they hang-nails, dry spots or pimple scabs. Trichsters often look for hairs of specific quality, or in a specific location. There is no release by pulling, no sense of gratification. If anything the act of pulling creates more pain afterwards than during. Those who self-harm find release in their actions, Trichsters find release in giving into the urge, the harm to self is a by-product.

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This week hasn’t been easy- there’s been highs, and there’s been extreme lows. The stories I’ve been told, the thanks I’ve received, and the awareness of self I’ve gained has been overwhelming to say the least. Hard, BUT it’s far from over. Three more days and a lot more to talk about.

Stay tuned and THANK YOU everyone of you who has supported, shared, liked, retweeted, followed, commented and been here ❤

-A

10 #SelfCare Tips for Trichotillomania

Anyone with a Trichotillomania knows certain things that make our pulling better, others make them much worse.

Not often discussed however, is how to take care of ourselves in between. Below are my current ways to to take care of my trichotillomania. More tips to follow on cheek-biting and others. These tips are only my current ones, and constantly adapting. My experiences but I hope they may helps some! Feel free to add your own in the comments.

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1. Rosemary Oil– This has been a favourite of mine for a long time. I read somewhere once that rosemary oil, being an oil that carries heat is good for bruises. One year after an event that involved far too many barricades to move-I needed to get rid of some bruises. It works great for bruises but is also known to increase hair growth. I haven’t delved into the specifics of this, but it feels good, smells amazing and that’s enough for me! I put it on bald spots mostly or add into my hot oil hair treatments.

2. Coconut Oil- Hopping on the coconut oil train like everyone else. It’s awesome and is great for making hair feel soft but also nurturing.

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3. Hair Brushes- I admit sometimes I go full Rapunzel and brushing my hair repeatedly “…47, 48, 49, 50.” It makes my scalp feel good and is good for my hair too. Big fan of a bamboo comb like this one I bought at The Body Shop a few years ago.

4. Braids- More of a coping strategy, but they’re fun to do and great for when I need a brain break.

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5. Working Out- I’m not the greatest at this, but it does help clear my mind when I’m active. Arm days are great- hard too pull when your arms are sore.

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6. Outdoor Walks– Being in nature, experiencing nature and because I’m in Canada, and it’s cold half the year- hats and mits make pulling impossible.

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7. Hair Cuts- I’ve talked about the hair dresser before in The Dreaded Hair Dresser. Once I’m comfortable with a stylist however, getting my hair dyed and cute feels great and luxurious!

8. Fake Eye-Lashes- I’ve been pulling from my eyelashes almost exclusively as of late. This tip is also somewhat of a coping mechanism, but when I put on fake eyelashes I’m far less self conscious when in public which is definitely a self-care win!

9. Hot Oil Treatments- Caring for my hair and making it feels super soft making this one of my favourite tips. Coconut oil and a bit of tea tree oil or rosemary oil mixed into the mix makes my hair smell equally as lovely.

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10. Cooking-I find cooking really relaxing and as such it makes pulling less of a focus. Food as fuel is also key ❤  Continue reading “10 #SelfCare Tips for Trichotillomania”

A Weird Phenomena

Living with Trichotillomania, living with an mental illness is hard.

Often times misunderstood.

Often times associated with shame.

Often times hidden.

Trichotillomania has been with me for over ten years now. It’s part of my day to day.

It never leaves.

I’ve accepted that, I will always pull.

Some months, weeks, days, hours are better than others.

This week was a bad week.

Not for any reason, just cause.

That’s what makes living with Trichotillomania frustrating.

Sometimes there is no reason, it just wass.

Mental  illness is funny that way, but also that’s what makes it an illness. There is no NEED for a reason, as much as we search for one.

There’s hope tho, there will be good days, good weeks and good months.

Cherish those times.


Hello friends! 

A bit of a transition period here on the blog. I’m going to be writing a lot more, and trying to get back to Trich and BFRB focused content. 

If you want to collaborate or have ideas please let me know!

timetotalktrich@gmail.com

-A