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.

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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. 

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!