Have you ever heard of trichotillomania? We recently published an article about it featuring a girl named Kala. You can read that here. Today’s guest blog continues our work in raising awareness about this little-known mental illness. Guest blogger Kaitlyn Fujihara shares intimate details of her experience with trichotillomania. I am so proud of her for baring her soul. When you are finished reading, please leave a comment below with your thoughts!
Twist, pull, snap. These mindless, repetitive actions have been dictating my life since I was 13. It all started a few months after I had contracted the flu. Due to this particular flu strain being extra potent, it caused my hair to push into Telogen Effluvium. Simply speaking, my hair began to fall out. Every time I would brush my fingers through my hair, a satisfying amount of hair would come out. It felt so good to see how many hairs would fall out in a single swipe, it became almost a game. However, after my hair stopped shedding, I realized that I was still continuing the motion of brushing my fingers through my hair. It then became a matter of actually pulling the hairs out of my head.
So you might be thinking, “Why do you pull?” My answer is, is that it all starts with an “itch” in a particular spot on my scalp. If not addressed by pulling that hair in that very particular spot, that itch begins to turn into a burning sensation. I will only think about this one single spot on my scalp unless that hair is pulled. That sounds simple enough; just pull a single hair to relieve the itch. The problem is, that as soon as one hair is pulled two more start to itch. It’s like fighting a Hydra, chop one head off, more and more regrow. Before I know it, I have created a sizable nest of hair.
I felt ashamed that I could not brush this compulsive behavior, I felt like a freak. I thought to myself, “Who does this?! Who willingly pulls hair from their head?!” This shame put on by myself, as well as from other curious onlookers caused me to have serious doubts about myself. This shame would eventually contribute to my ever-plummeting body image issues. This has been a struggle for me, and continues to be a struggle. Trichotillomania has had an enormous impact on my life because for the past 10 years, I have been attempting to quietly sweep my disorder under the rug, just like hair that accumulates underneath desks and chairs. Hiding my trichotillomania was never a sustainable way to deal with it because I was still feeling the underlying shame.
While my trichotillomania still continues to be a huge burden in my life, I have come up with some little solutions that encourage me to pull less. One thing I do is that I always tie my hair into a ponytail and wear a headband. This keeps me from pulling the hair along my hairline (a very big trigger spot for me) and also prevents me from playing with my longer hairs in the back. Wearing a hat also helps deter me from pulling because it covers the majority of the scalp. When my trichotillomania was really bad, I used to take N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) supplements to help curb this unwanted compulsive behavior. In my opinion, this really helped, and to be honest the only reason I stopped taking it was because I just got too lazy. A study by Dr. Jon E. Grant at the University of Minnesota, Department of Psychiatry shows that 56% of subjects experienced a significant reduction of hair pulling, skin picking, and nail biting after taking NAC. This information can be found here.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to ridding your life of trichotillomania. There are some quick fixes, but once the compulsive motion is solidified, it makes it very hard to break. While I don’t have any permanent solutions to deal with trichotillomania, one thing that has really helped deal with the shame associated with this behavior is talking to others. While I don’t have other friends who have this disorder, it still helps to talk it out. In my opinion, to suffer in silence is to give your disorder power. By talking it out and educating others, you are reducing the negative stigma and helping to decrease the shame associated with the disorder. This is why I have now decided to live my life differently and be more transparent about my mental disorders. Whether it’s my depression, anxiety, or trichotillomania, I want others to know about it. Not for the sake of pitying me, but for the sake of showing people that someone dealing with x, y, or z disorder doesn’t look a certain way. I don’t have to be bald to have trichotillomania; I don’t have to be sad all the time to have depression. In my effort to be more transparent about my mental health I have started a blog. If you have any more questions regarding trichotillomania, depression, anxiety, or just want to talk, I am here for you. Please feel free to check out my blog, breakingsad.co, if you ever need someone to chat with.