20 Years And Counting

The first time I can remember pulling out my eyelashes was in elementary school. Probably somewhere in 1993 when I was about 10. I can't explain (or remember) why I started doing it but I remember thinking it felt good so I kept at it. I remember sitting in school and seeing my eyelashes scattered across the desk but I don't ever recall feeling scared about what that might lead to. I guess I was just too young to know what might occur or that I might not stop.

After a few months, my friends started noticing that my eyes looked weird. One even saw me pulling them out (even though I thought I was doing a good job of hiding it) and asked why. I nervously made up some excuse but knew from then on that it was a real problem. I knew I had to stop but I just couldn't do it. I was so frustrated but there wasn't anyone I could talk to. I mean, come on, was I really going to tell my parents that I was pulling out my hair? Hell no. It was so embarrassing. I didn't want anyone to know -- especially them.

After a while, my parents caught on and started asking me questions. "Did you pull out your eyelashes?", they'd ask. "Of course not!", I'd reply. I told them that my eyes were itchy and that I was rubbing them a lot, hoping that would satisfy their curiosity but it didn't. In fact, it made it worse. My mom, worried about my health, scheduled a doctor's appointment to figure out what was going on. When I found out, I was mortified. I told myself that I'd stop pulling them out but I didn't have enough time for them to grow back before the appointment. Son of a *****.

When we got to the doctor's office, I was freaking out. I didn't want to have to lie or for my parents to have to pay for an unnecessary doctor's visit but I was dumb and didn't know what else to do. So lie I did. The doctor asked me what was going on and I told him that my eyes were itchy and after rubbing them, my eyelashes just fell out. I don't know if he or my mom believed me but they didn't press me on it. I think we left with some allergy prescriptions or something but I don't remember any of the specifics. That was my last doctor's visit for my eyelashes. After, that, no one really said anything and so I kept on pulling.

When I would pull out my eyelashes, it was soothing for me. I would move my finger over the hairs until I found the "right" one. I'd then use my fingernails to quickly but gently pull it out. It's hard to describe how it felt. It didn't hurt like when pulling out a leg or arm hair but rather felt "good" in a way. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to say it hurt so good. Once I'd pull it out, I'd rub the root of the hair over my lips which would calm me even further. God. It sounds so weird when I type it out like that. I guess that's why I've never shared this with many people before. Especially not how it feels.

The result of my hair pulling became evident when I got into middle school and high school. I wasn't seen as that cute guy who girls wanted to date or that cool guy that guys wanted to hang out with. Instead, I was that weird guy who didn't have any eyelashes. I felt so ashamed for pulling them out but I couldn't stop myself. I found myself so stressed out about the way I looked that I'd pull them out to calm myself. It was a vicious, never ending cycle.

Finally, something happened that made me stop. My friends were trying to help me ask out a girl and called her while I was on the phone -- only she didn't know I was there. They asked her questions about me and finally she said, "Really? Him? He's gross. He doesn't even have any eyelashes."
Although I'd heard people talk about it before, I never realized that me not having eyelashes was one of the reasons girls didn't like me. It hit me like a ton of bricks so I forced myself to stop. Although I had horrible urges to pull them out, I stopped myself (the majority of the time) until they all grew back.

20 years later as I sit and write this, I still battle trichotillomania. Instead of my eyelashes, I've changed to a more inconspicuous spot. My beard. I found out that if I pull the hairs out under my chin, it's pretty unnoticeable and doesn't cause me a lot of issues. Although it's easier to control my urges now, I sometimes pull the hair out unknowingly. This occurs especially when I'm stressed at work or while watching a dramatic TV show. My girlfriend knows about my disorder and gently reminds me to stop when she notices but it doesn't cause a huge problem for me anymore. If I start to move upwards onto my chin, though, it creates patches in my beard/stubble which is noticeable.  To try and help curb this urge (and fix the patchiness), I make sure to shave regularly.

Looking back, I wish that there would have been a site like this (or the Internet, for that matter) while I was growing up and dealing with my trichotillomania. I thought I was the only one in the world that had these strange urges and I never knew what was wrong with me. Even now, I still feel embarrassed about this. However, knowing that there are people out there like me makes me feel like I'm not crazy. In fact, I learned today that Olivia Munn deals with this disorder. This doesn't just affect awkward kids and teenagers but famous beautiful people, too.

Thanks for listening to my story.
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Jan 16, 2013