Patience suffered abuse as a child and turned to pulling
Used trichotillomania as a shield and must now face her past
I went through a lot of abuse in my childhood, including sexual and physical, but the worst was the emotional abuse and neglect.
I was highly intelligent and found refuge in schoolwork, which I generally excelled at. Sometimes other children were mean to me because they were jealous.
At the time I started pulling I was 9 and I think had had some experiences of finding school work more difficult than previously. My parents always fought a lot; I had always had my emotional reactions invalidated and can remember knowing my mother was not to be trusted at a young age.
I guess a combination of loneliness and inability to cope with difficult emotions led me to yank out every last brow hair and most of my lashes. At first I only pulled a few but things avalanched over a few weeks. I particularly liked catching hairs that were totally black and looked forward to getting one of those. I tried to stop pulling sometimes but couldn’t resist and a few minutes later I would start again, until my eyebrows were completely gone.
People made fun of my lack of eyebrows. The experience even haunted me, because when I had had another (more minor) pulling spree at age 13 a girl who had been at the same primary school as me took one look at me and then said to some others as if I wasn’t there “Yes, she’s cut her eyelashes!” – and my dad commented goodness knows how many years later that I looked “like a plucked chicken.” What makes me FURIOUS is that nobody seemed to want to draw the conclusion that this was a disturbed behaviour and there might be something wrong with me.
When I was 12 I pulled 2 bald spots on my head. I particularly remember the one just under the hairline at the front and the fascination with the different types of hair that came out – the way some were really thick and black and a few were curly and red – I called these the “copper coils” and would think – “oh there goes a copper coil” every so often as I lay there on my bed one dreary afternoon tugging repeatedly. And I remember the smarting, naked bald patch with all the little holes where the hairs had been.
My mother noticed the bald spots one day and said , “oh you’ve got alopeocia” as if i were some interesting laboratory specimen. As I had always known she was not to be trusted I did not confess to having pulled the hair out myself. But even alopecia can usually be traced back to trauma – again i am FURIOUS that she apparently gave no consideration to the fact that something might be wrong with me.
I started picking at the skin on my scalp when I was 14 and repeatedly reopened the bleeding wounds, filled with puss. I felt like I was fighting with my body – it would try and try again to form a scab, hard skin would form over the wounds, and I’d come along and rip it all off, destroying all that careful knitting together and healing in seconds. My mother eventually realised I was picking – but again did not seem to consider the possibility of any emotional disorder.
I am 33 and last picked at my scalp when I was 32 (following a great success – success f***s me up even worse than failure). Unfortunately there is still infection under the closed wound – whole areas of my scalp ache and the glands are up behind my ears and on my neck. I’ll have to get it treated … haven’t dared yet … at least I haven’t opened it for 18 months.
I’ve pulled out clumps of hair from my scalp on and off and used to rub the white, waxy roots against my lips and eat them. From my late teens onwards I learnt to pull from under the hairline at the back where bald spots would not show … plus when I’d gathered quite a clump of hair and my scalp was throbbing I would feel horror and stop.
I first posted about my hair pulling in a thread on self-injury on a depression website I joined recently. Someone responded and mentioned the name trichotillomania. I did a trichotillomania search on google and found this site. Since then I have been pull free (4 days).
I was amazed to read something that finally described me so well – a highly intelligent sweet-natured person who puts others first and is outwardly functional. I can’t believe there are people, mostly women and girls it seems, sitting around in bedrooms all over the world probably eating their white roots and the pus out of their scabs … thought I was an isolated freak.
I have told one friend so far as well.
I now have to cope with the emotions the trich was protecting me from … but thank goodness I have wonderful friends and the right therapist. Still very angry about a lot of things, but I guess that will go away in time.