The Truth: “i Pull Out My Own Hair”

We’re all familiar with the hyperbolic expression that goes along the lines of “I’m so furious I could pull my hair out!,” which clearly implies feelings of grief or anger. Literally speaking of course, most people could not fathom physically doing something so bizarre and painful to themselves. Well, I happen to fall under a very different spectrum of people, where such an expression has become a life-altering reality for me. Yes, you read that correctly…I pull out my very own hair.
My hair-pulling tendencies began when I was in fifth grade. One night I simply decided to sit on the floor at the edge of my bed and pluck my eye lashes, one by one. It was a new and very peculiar discovery for me. The stinging sensation that I felt immediately after yanking an eyelash provided me an inexplicable sense of release and gratification. I sat there for hours, as if I were in some sort of trance, indulging in this spontaneous discovery-tweaking, tugging, and pulling out one eye lash after the other, keenly observing the fine blackness and thickness of each and every individual strand. The roots of the eyelashes intrigued me as well, as I vividly recall examining each follicle so intently, and rubbing each one across my face to feel the coldness and wetness each root contained after its immediate release from my eyelids. This very first “pull-sesh” of mine (yes, I’ve actually created to describe my illness), came to a halt when my younger sister woke early that morning, startled to find me sitting on the floor at the edge of my bed, sitting with my legs crossed, head bent down, pulling at my eyelids.
The following morning my mother noticed my naked eye lashes, freaked, and immediately brought me to the doctors to figure out what was wrong, as I don’t recall even considering telling her that I had pulled out my own eye lashes the previous night. Because I had no referral or appointment, my mother and I sat in the waiting room for hours and was never seen by anyone. I recall a sense of relief as I feared for anyone to discover that I had actually done this to myself.
The habit of pulling out my eye lashes continued on and off for years to come. It wasn’t long before I began pulling out my eyebrows as well. I never sought any professional treatment, as I truly believed that I was the only person in the world doing such a thing. Little did I know (along with everyone else around me, including friends, family, and teachers), that I was exhibiting clear signs of a rare disorder.
I was able to somewhat control the habit as I got older and did it on a very infrequent basis. Subsequently I figured it was just some strange habit I picked up and had then gotten rid of. However, my consistent hair-pulling habits resumed and escalated in the summer of 2006, where I then discovered pulling out the hair on my very own scalp. As with most habits, it started off lightly, but unfortunately led to an obsession, a compulsion, an illness. As a result of having very long and thick hair, it took a long period of pulling for any noticeable hair loss. Well that came to an abrupt and mortifying end during my high school graduation! It had been raining that day, and I had removed my graduation hat in preparation for a picture with a former teacher of mine. Because of the rain, my hair became wet, and made the one expanding bald spot on the back of my head clearly visible, though I had no idea. Thanks to my dear mother, however, I was made well aware that I had a bald spot, as she screamed “MELISSA! WHAT THE &%$# HAPPENED TO YOUR HEAD?!” and nearly had a heart attack. Talk about memories of high school graduation!
Anyway, I told my mother that my best friend had burnt my hair off the night before while using a straightening iron (Believe it! I once had a use for those!), styling my hair for the following day. My mother believed this lie up until my friend came over one day, and my mother decided to make a joke about it. Of course, my friend had no idea what was going on, as she wasn’t responsible for this random bald patch on my head.
I was completely unaware that I was suffering from a psychological condition, and because I never sought a diagnosis or expert advice, the habit only worsened. The first few months during my freshman year of college was the last time I recall having long hair and not wearing a hat 24/7. It didn’t take long before it got so bad I had to shave my head and succumb to hiding this mutilation from everyone. Countless amount of times have I shaved my head over the past few years, determined, and falsely convinced, that I wouldn’t pull my hair out anymore, and just let it grow once and for all. But clearly that has yet to happen, and I could never, regardless of how many attempts I make, as much as I love words…I can never find the words to express the frustration and agony I endure each and every day, and for the past several years.
You’re probably thinking: What exactly is she talking about? So I shall now introduce you to the disorder, along with the many difficulties that comes along with it, as well as more of my personal affiliation with this particular condition.
Trichotillomania (pronounced trik-oh-till-oh-may-nee-ah) is a type of psychological disorder characterized by excessive pulling of one’s own hair. The term was first used in 1889, when Hallopeau, a Greek dermatologist, described a patient who pulled out his hair. Ironically, Hallopeau believed individuals with hair-pulling compulsions to be emotionally healthy. Ha, I think not! In addition, it may not come as a surprise that the expression “Trichotillomania” contains the Greek word for madness (mania).
Furthermore, Scientific research regarding Trichotillomania implies that causes are only theoretical. Psychoanalytic theories suggest that the behavior is a way of coping with subconscious conflicts and childhood tribulations (such as sexual and domestic abuse).
Symptoms can occur in individuals as young as the age of one, and usually begin before the age of seventeen. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the following conditions are essential when diagnosing Trichotillomania:
Conspicuous hair loss (alopecia) as a result of chronic hair-pulling
Tension immediately before hair-pulling, and when trying to resist urges
Feeling pleasure and gratification, as well as tension reduction, immediately succeeding hair-pulling
Significant distress and/or impairment in social, occupational, and other crucial areas of functioning
Individuals with this disorder experience intense and affective emotions such as shame, embarrassment, frustration, as well as depression. Because those around us don’t understand such a mentality, we feel nagged, as they fail to apprehend that we are not deliberately do it. We go to whatever extent it may be to try and hide this behavior from friends and family. Hence, why I wear a hat all the time!
For some people, hair-pulling is intentional and focused, where others do it unknowingly, as if they’re in a trance. I fall under both spectrums, however, today I am rather fully aware of what I am doing, which is one of the scariest parts about this situation. Along with other disorders such as skin picking, anorexia, bulimia, and even cutting, hair-pulling now not only falls under Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, due to its addictive nature, but is clearly a form of self-mutilation.
Through firsthand and current experience, I know that having this disorder can significantly affect how someone feels about themselves, causing us to feel extremely insecure and self-conscious about our appearance and relationships on a constant basis. We find it difficult being completely at ease around others and getting close to people, as we subconsciously push them away, because we don’t approve of who we are as individuals, and therefore prevent others from accepting us. Many of us who suffer from this condition feel powerless to control the urges and we blame ourselves for not having the will power to stop.
As we all know, hair is often associated with beauty and vivacity, which is another reason why Trichotillomania is so emotionally painful. Sure, it saves me the responsibility of having to maintain a head of hair, but even so, I wouldn’t mind it at the least.
Other than these conditions, physical and health difficulties are likely to occur as well. I have failed to mention, and most likely not on purpose, as it is quite disturbing, but along with pulling out my hair, I eat it as well. Yeah, you didn’t read that wrong either. And because of my lack of knowledge on this condition as well as failing to pay attention in my Biology classes, or perhaps I should stop pointing fingers and just say because of my lack of common sense!… I wasn’t aware that the ingestion of hair can be extremely fatal. So I’ve been eating my hair everyday for the past five years or so? Sick? Stupid? I know. Once again, don’t ask.
Although this condition comes along with many unanswered questions, research has solved some of my concerns that result from this treacherous disorder I continue to suffer from today. So over this past year or so, myself along with others around me began to notice significant weight loss in me. This was not only resulting from the hair in my body that was altering my digestive system, but from my developing and substantial lack of appetite, which results from the hair consumption. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to eat and feeling weak all the time.
MelWrites87 MelWrites87
May 10, 2012