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How I Overcame My Behavioral Disorder And Stopped Pulling My Hair Out (Literally)

Health

Growing up, I had anxiety—and as a result I started pulling out my hair. It began around the age of 11. I have learning disabilities so school was always a challenge for me. I went to a very competitive private school in New York and was surrounded by students who had exceptional grades.


With my learning disabilities, I felt like an outcast. My grades never reflected the amount of hard work I put in and all that work would just stress me out. The times I'd pull my hair were the times I was the most anxious about it. I thought I just had a tic, like nail-biting. I didn't know it was a behavioral disorder with a name: trichotillomania. The danger in it is that constant pulling over time can cause permanent hair loss because the follicle becomes smaller and smaller until it no longer grows hair at all.

By the time I was in middle school, I started getting bald spots and patches on the top of my head. I was mortified. I couldn't bring myself to go to a salon because I'd always get questioned about why I was missing so much hair. My hair grew long but the top was thin and patchy. It was humiliating. At school we weren't allowed us to wear hats indoors but any other time I could wear one, I would. Otherwise I'd put a headband on or try to part my hair differently so the patches didn't show. I even tried using root spray to cover up the paleness of the bald spots, so if you were looking at me from a distance it wouldn't be glaringly obvious.

My hair problems deeply affected my self-esteem. I would always sit in the back of the classroom—not because I wanted to be far away from the teacher—because I didn't want people to see the back of my head. It was the same in church; I would make my mother sit in the very back pew with me. Always worrying about this in public settings was draining. And to look in the mirror and see the damage I was doing to myself really tore me up inside.

My senior year of high school, with all the pressure of applying to college, I was having a very, very hard time managing my pulling. But I never sought help or therapy. I was trying to handle it all on my own. But by that point, I knew I had to do something. My mom and I began doing research and we discovered Unique Hair Concepts. I called Flora for a consultation and have been with her team ever since. She has saved me in ways that she'll never know.

The first thing they did was create a small clip-in piece for the top of my head. It was such an emotional moment: I cried, my mom cried and I think even the stylist cried. I felt so much better, immediately. Not only did it hide my bald spot, but it also kept it covered so I couldn't pull. After a few months, the hair in that area started growing back. It made me realize that, wow, I can really turn this around.

While that helped take care of the cosmetic issue, I still had to address the psychological ones. I started seeing a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in body-focused repetitive disorders and who actually had a background in treating trichotillomania. In the beginning, we talked about what my triggers are, the things that make me really want to pull. We did Reiki healing and hypnosis; she also introduced me to the use of essential oils. I would put oil on the hand I used to pull with so that when that I would go to pull, I would smell the oil and feel calmer. She also introduced me to fidget toys to keep my hands occupied, which helped so much that I ended up getting my own set.

These days, I still see the healer from time to time and I wear custom-made CNC-XT hair prosthetics (which stay on for 4-5 weeks even through exercise, showering and styling) over the areas that need them. And I keep fidget toys in my bag all the time. It feels so good to have the support to manage it both cosmetically and therapeutically. I've been so inspired by the help I received that I am now studying to be a therapist myself.

The one thing I would tell other people suffering with trich is this: you are not alone. There's no need to suffer in silence or try to manage it by yourself. There's no need to be embarrassed about it. It's not your fault; it's a medical condition. And more than anything else, help is available. I've found a way to live with it and, believe me, you can too.

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Business

My Untold Story Of Inventing the Sports Bra And How it Changed the World (And Me)

Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl


There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.

So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.

I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.

For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.

Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.

Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.

"My Lifelong Partner"

Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."

While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.

This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.

In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.

Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.

The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.

Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.

So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.

Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.

Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.

Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.

Being powerful is a big responsibility.

To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.

While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.

© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019