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

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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

Braids, Buns and Hats- The Art of Hiding- Day 3 of 7 Day Trichster

Over the past two days I’ve been struck by one thing in particular- an ability to hide. It seems that as I share my story, others so too feel empowered which I love so much. Yet it makes me sad in our ability to live so close, to know each other so well, and still hide such major parts of our lives.

Here’s how I hide. 

I’m a bit of an artist when it comes to hiding my Trichotillomania, I’ve had to be. Media portrays beautiful women with long flowing, full heads of hair. Beautiful is hardly patchy hair, short in spots and dry in others. I’ve had to hide that, or at least thats the way I’ve felt over the past eleven years.

I’ve developed mechanisms of hiding my reality, of hiding my Trich. However, these masks of the reality also act as coping mechanisms to keep pulling at bay.

Braids- They take effort, and time to put in making taking them out or ruining them by pulling far less appealing. Braids provide a pulling sensation when done tight enough that I find relieving, but is also not damaging. Braids can go all the way around my head, or only hold a certain part in place; they are versatile. When I wear a braid I worry less that a tuft of hair will escape, hence why they’re my favourite for events and long days.

Buns- Once a ballerina, always a ballerina. I grew up with my hair in a tightly made bun,  it’s hard to pull from the crown of your head when there’s a bun there. Buns also take work, and when you’re dancing there’s little time to un-do and re-do one between rehearsals. Although buns do have their downfall in that they perfectly expose one of my most prominent pulling places; behind my ear.

Hats- Ah hats, one of my favourites. Chances are if I’m studying, or watching a movie at home I’ve got a hat or headband on. They serve as physical reminders not to pull. When I reach to pull a hair, fabric hits my fingers first and reminds me not to. Recently at the Jack.org Summit at MSVU I received a snap back from Hats On For Awareness, which has been an absolute hair-saver (see what I did there?). Not only is it great for reminding me not to pull physically, but emotionally as well.  It’s meaning with regards to mental illness and awareness has helped me to focus on not pulling more than any regular old beanie. Check out Hats On For Awareness to learn more about this great organization.

Photo credits to: Haley Myatt, Beth Hoffe & UPEI Photography