After nearly twenty years, I am completely done with trichotillomania. I shaved my head.
Well, technically I didn’t — my wonderfully kind, supportive S.O. did. He told me I had the facial structure to pull it off, and, if it was really something I wanted to do, I should.
See, I’ve dealt with trichotillomania of varying severity since my teens. Sometimes it would be bad enough for me to have large bald patches, sometimes noticeable only as a slight widening of my part. Treating trichotillomania is notoriously difficult, and, even with therapy, many people struggle for years. Some may stop pulling their hair out, only to start again weeks, months, or even years later.
It’s kind of a multi-faceted thing, for me: I have sensitive, itchy skin, and pulling the occasional hair provided relief. It’s also something I tend to do more when I’m anxious or bored. There’s also a definite sense of satisfaction, however strange it may seem, from getting a “good pick” — finding a hair that was a different color or texture from my others, and pulling it out. Hair-pulling combines physical sensations, obsessive-compulsive characteristics, and even the kind of relief you only get from satisfying an addiction. It’s a terrible, difficult, embarrassing thing to deal with.
Even beyond the pulling itself, trichotillomania causes a lot of anxiety and depression. When you have patches where you’ve pulled out hair, you worry about what they look like. I confined myself to one or two hairstyles that I knew would let me cover my spots, and would never let anyone else touch, cut, or style my hair out of shame.
Finally, I figured… screw it.
It’s just hair. I like having long hair — I’ve kept it that way for most of my life, and absolutely never had anything shorter than a chin-length bob — but if it’s only causing me grief and anxiety, why keep it? Sure, society generally has some stares and comments about female-passing people who don’t have hair, but there are examples all over of beautiful, confident, feminine people with shaved heads or alopecia. Besides, I’ve never been much good at living my life by committee.
I’m not entirely used to it yet. I still have moments where I go, “HOLY CRAP, I’M BALD,” but I’m glad I did it. It has done a lot for my confidence, since I no longer have to worry about what my hair looks like. Without hair, I can also try to transfer the trichotillomania impulse to something less harmful (I’ve found a ton of really pretty spinner rings) or even break the habit entirely. I’ve also received a lot of really supportive comments from people around me, which feels amazing — not only because they’re an ego boost, but because they serve as a reminder that I”m surrounded by people who care.
Do you have trichotillomania? Have you done anything to combat it? If so, what worked for you?