My name is Rachel. I do not suffer from Trichotillomania, however I still suffer with the same symptoms and feel the same anxieties as you may feel. I have bitten my nails for as long as I can remember. I bite my nails when I’m stressed, when I am happy and the first thing in the morning, sometimes not even realising I am doing it. People tell me to stop (especially my mum) but as you know just because someone tells you to stop, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can. I try to stop but I feel as if I can’t. It is a compulsive addiction which makes me feel fidgety and fixated on my nails until I eventually give in and bite them. I then feel a huge sense of relief and feel as if I can move on. Does this sound familiar?
I have also suffered and still suffer from anxiety. I don’t understand what my ‘triggers’ are or why I can feel fine one minute and not the next but I know I have had to learn how to make myself feel better. I can better describe this as my SAFETY BLANKET. As silly as it sounds, for me my safety blanket was a plastic bag I would carry everywhere with me. As long as I had a plastic bag with me (normally hidden inside a normal bag, so only I would know) made me feel safe and calm. I felt as if I didn’t have to worry about confined spaces, to me even a bus or any form of public transport was a confined space. I would avoid eating in public, the cinema, shopping, everything a normal teenage girl wanted to do. My anxiety was taking over my life. I didn’t reach out to anyone which made it worse as I was keeping all my bad feelings and worries to myself and going over and over them.
I finally couldn’t hide my behaviours anymore as my anxiety reached boiling point on a family holiday. I wasn’t eating, I was being quiet all the time and I was constantly heaving and ready to be sick. Then one day me and my family went to a shopping centre and entered the food court. I started heaving and panicking and crying and ran to the toilet. My mum chased after me and was begging me to tell her what was wrong but I didn’t know. I felt like I was weird and she wouldn’t understand so I remained locked in the toilet for half an hour crying and shaking. When I finally came out my dad took my hand and led me outside the food court. He then put his hands on my shoulders told me to look him in the eye and just BREATHE.
BREATHING: the easiest thing in the world. It is now the only way I can get through my anxiety attacks. Breathing in and out and counting to 10. Focusing solely on counting and breathing makes my body relax, my brain to slow down and a euphoric feeling flows over my body and I can feel ready again, ready to open my eyes and go enjoy life. To stop being scared of getting on a bus or going to the cinema and having FUN. Taking back your body and having control saying no to the bad thoughts and yes to the good thoughts.
I wouldn’t be able to be here now offering advice and telling my story if I had not opened up to my family or anyone for that matter. Talking helps, you will soon realise more people than you imagined suffer with the same problems and feel the same as how you do. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Rachel, Trichotillomania Support Volunteer