The Battle Against Trichotillomania

This challenge is really a personal one. I know it won’t relate to everyone, but for the people who it does relate to, I hope it helps them tremendously.

I’m going to take you back in time to set the scene. It was 1997 and I was 6 years old. It was sunny outside, my family was living on the 3rd floor of an apartment building located in Dunstable, Massachusetts. I was laying on the love seat reading a Berenstain Bears book. The sun was casting in through the sliding doors out to the balcony. The apartment was quite. I don’t remember what my parents and siblings were doing.

After a long while of reading alone, my mom comes into the room and exclaimed, “What did you do to your eyes?”

At the time, I think I was aware of what I was doing. I was aware that I had been pulling my eyelashes out as I was reading my book. I don’t think I was aware of the consequences it had, nor did I think it mattered. I was just doing it. I found pleasure in doing it.

Ever since that day, I have battled with trichotillomania. I didn’t even know it had a name until I was in college. Trichotillomania is a body-focused repetitive behavior classified as an impulse control disorder which involves pulling out one’s hair.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I even admitted to someone other than my family that I pulled out my eyelashes. All throughout my middle and high school years, I would cover up with dark eyeliner and put mascara on the few lashes that I had.

thick eyeliner
Thick eyeliner during my sophomore year of high school

I have tried many times to break my habit. I’ve tried putting gloves on at night since I tended to pull while I laid in bed. At one point, my father even suggested putting hot spices on my fingertips. I think he was sorta kidding, but I also think he was right, I bet it would have worked. However, I never tried that option. I’ve even worn a rubber band on my wrist and snapped it whenever I noticed myself touching my eyes.

I’ve researched all the things other people have done to overcome this disorder to try and figure out what else I could do. The answer has and always will be self-awareness. You have to be able to identify the situations and instances when you find yourself more susceptible to pulling, and most importantly, you have to have the strength to resist the temptation to pull.

Living with trichotillomania is interesting…I do it because I find relief and pleasure when I pull, but when I pull too many, I become ashamed and embarrassed. Sometimes I want it, so I allow it. But I’m to a point now where I don’t want this to be a part of my life anymore, I want to kick it in the butt for good. I want to prove to myself that I have the strength to say no. It takes a lot of mind power and it is difficult.

I figure if I can go 30 days without pulling my eyelashes out, then I can go a life time.


So how did my first 30 day challenge go?

I failed. 


 

Of course I failed, breaking habits or addictions is not an easy task.

Since I have a full time job, I wasn’t able to get this website up and running by the time I started my first challenge. I had the idea to start this all at once so I’m playing catch up as far as publishing my progress goes. Even though I wasn’t consistently publishing my progress, I kept a log each day where I would rate my urge to pull on scale from 1-10, 10 being the highest. I also documented the times I did pull and wrote down how many I pulled. This helped me become aware and made me hold myself accountable. I started this challenge on January 2nd and it ended on January 31st.

I failed my 30 day challenge on day 13. I didn’t quit the challenge that day and restart, although I could have. I’m not sure why I wanted to finish the 30 days with failures included. But I did. Maybe this was meant to be a challenge with multiple phases. I wanted to finish the 30 days and publish my failures and difficulties and I wanted to start another 30 days once that one was over. Below is a video of the progress pictures I took every other day or so. I wanted to see how many eyelashes would grow back when I actually tried to stop.

 

You can clearly see progress when watching the time lapse. Even though I “failed” the first 30 days of this challenge, my eyelashes thickened and grew longer. Of the 30 days, I pulled out eyelashes on 9 of them. I charted my level of urge each day through out the challenge (see below). The days that I pulled are designated by the yellow circles.

image001

I’m sure the fact that I allowed myself to continue the challenge, despite pulling out an eyelash on the 13th day, is explanation for the repetitive high levels of urge that followed.

I think it’s important that I don’t dwell on my mishaps or over analyze them. While it’s important for me to be aware of what causes my high levels of urge, I think it’s equally important for me to acknowledge my progress (or lack of progress) and then quickly move on.

I didn’t begin the next 30 day challenge immediately after the completion of the first one. I think I wanted a “break” – aka I wanted to pull and I told myself it would be okay.

I gave in.

I told myself just one day and then I’ll start up again. One day turned into over one month. Throughout this one month or so period, I attempted to start the challenge back up on 5 different accounts. I consider an attempt to be when I took a photo of my eyelashes.

My progress took a turn, see below. The first image in the sequence is the last day of the first challenge. The last image in the sequence is today.

I think I let myself pull so many because I knew it would be easier for me to resist pulling when I don’t have any left.

I’m taking a stance. Today, March 12, 2018 is the start of my second attempt to go 30 days without pulling out my eyelashes.

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