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.