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This Post Made Me Pull Out My Hair

22 November 2016 | Post A Comment


This is the post that has been causing me so much difficulty. I have been trying to write it for days and it won't come out right. Here is the heavily edited version that I desperately want to delete. 

I think what I am trying to say is that this is incredibly difficult and hurts me more than I can say. Please, try to understand...

This post has taken about 7 hours to write. Probably less than an hour of that time was spent writing, the rest was spent pulling out my hair. 

For about 10 years I have suffered with compulsive hair pulling, a condition known as Trichotillomania. I remember the day I started with incredible detail. The day that marks a rift between two sides of my life. The me that was free of this compulsive addiction and the me who is trapped and ruled by it.


For the first couple of years I tried everything to stop doing it on my own. I tried to count in my head and promise myself I would stop pulling once I got to a chosen number. This didn't help and just intensified how weak I was against my brain's compulsions. I tried to damage my fingertips so it hurt too much to pull. I recited silent mantras to myself over and over again. I repeated these statements to myself, whilst pulling, for hours. I sat on my hands, I constantly wore a scarf round my head, I tied my fingers together, I wore gloves. 


Once, for a couple of weeks I started picking at my scalp to relieve the urge to pull. I grasped onto this as hope of a replacement habit. Surely this would be better than constantly pulling my hair. But after about a week my head was constantly bleeding and I was getting severe headaches from scratching so deep and I went back to the pulling. 
In one desperate attempt I resorted to pinching the skin on the back of my hand with my nails as hard as I could every time I pulled, hoping I would relate pulling to significant pain and eventually stop. After a couple of days, the back of my hand resembled a mountain range and was red raw. I couldn't bare the pain of anything even touching it, so pinching was no longer an option. It wasn't working anyway. 

I have had months of therapy dedicated to the problem. I had to monitor time spent pulling and record my feelings at the time and what I was doing etc. This was impossible to keep up because it meant I was literally spending every second either pulling my hair, or writing about pulling it, whilst pulling it. Keeping blu-tack in my hands helped for a day before the strength of this distractive alternative wore off. Wearing a scarf wrapped tightly around my head helped at times when I was doing more involving activities but made me feel even more terrible about myself. 


The more I try to stop, the more overwhelming the urges become and resisting is impossible. Actively trying to stop causes all other areas of my mental health to get worse. My OCD gets infinitely worse. I'd rather spend hours pulling out my hair than deal with crippling OCD. When I allow it to happen and don't fight the urges I probably pull for around just an hour on average a day. I have had to accept this. 


When I am anxious, stressed, bored, tired, or on my own, I pull more. 


Throughout the years my hair has been a mess. My hair is always uneven. There were times at high school where big sections of my hair were missing or growing back. And high school kids aren't always kind. For a teenage girl, this doesn't do much for confidence or self esteem. 


Often when I start to pull my hair when I am on my own, I get stuck in what I have come to know as my 'bubble'. It gets impossibly difficult to break out of it the longer I stay 'inside' pulling. I usually can only stop if someone comes into the room and breaks it. This is so desperately frustrating and the amount of time that I can remain 'stuck' is terrifying. 


When I pull my hair for a while without stopping I will most likely get a bad headache. Sometimes the headache is severe and I am left crying in pain whilst constantly fighting the urge to pull more. I can only wait in despair for the headache to lift. 

Of all the different mental conditions I've suffered and battled with, I think this has to be the most misunderstood. This is possibly the most embarrassing and frustrating. It is my most persisting and furiously determined struggle. I can not imagine a life free from it, free from it constantly tearing me apart. Maybe all I can ask for is for someone to understand. 

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