Health 01 June 2019
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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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist