Stages of Dealing with Trich (and a Balding Head)

Stage 1: Denial

Come on Amy, it’s only a couple of hairs. I’m sure everyone plucks at a couple of hairs every once in a while. Ok, maybe it’s not a couple of hairs right now, but that’s fine. There’s like hundreds of thousands of hair on your head. And people have always told you that your hair was poofy and that you had too much hair on your head anyways. Think of it as thinning out. Ooh, follicle.

Stage 2: Anger

OH MY GOSH I FEEL A SMOOTH PATCH OF SKIN ON MY HEAD. WHAT HAVE I DONE. (-so that’s what my scalp feels like-) *looks in mirror* OH MY GOSH IT’S A VISIBLE BALD SPOT. Wait I can cover it up if I change how I put up my ponytail slightly. But that means I’ll actually have to check my hair every morning before school. And will my hair ever grow back? Ugh, if it does, it’ll be shorter than the rest of my hair by a lot. Guess I’ll have to deal with random tufts of hair on the front of my head…that’ll grow to bangs…that’ll hopefully grow out to normal length…in a couple years. Ugh.

Stage 3: Caution

Ok Amy. You’ve seen that bald spot your pulling has led to. You’ve seen all the hair around your chair. You’ve heard your parents talk about all the hair around your chair. This isn’t going to help you. It might be a good idea to stop. However, it does feel nice. In the way that self harm feels nice. Oh gosh what has become of me. I’ll just pull out hairs in unobvious places. Like along my part line. (Why did I ever think this was a good idea)

Stage 4: Frustration

UGH I EVEN SAW WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME. AND I STILL PULLED. NOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO THINK THAT I’M ACTUALLY BALDING. hopefully no one will notice. Ha. Like that’s happening. ughughugh. Wait why isn’t anyone saying anything about it? Is it really not noticeable? Oh, nevermind. THANKS FOR TELLING ME THAT I’M BALDING. Sigh.  At least it’s not life threatening.

After a few more cycles of Stage 3 and 4…

Stage 5: Healing

Ok, that’s enough. Let the hair start growing back. Let it start forming tufts. Resist the urge to mess with the tufts. Let the tuft in the front grow out to bangs. Ignore the fact that there isn’t enough hair to qualify them as bangs. Let other people compliment you on your “new hairstyle.” Let them point out the other patches. Let the other tufts growing back make your hair poof up even more. Ignore other people looking at your head weirdly. (Remember, your hair was always weird. Now it’s just weird in a different way) Let yourself pull out a few hairs every now and then. Just make sure they’re not in obvious places. Like, you know, where you already have patches. Oh my gosh, how long has it been already? Does my hair look almost normal already? (except for these stupid “bangs”)  YES. FINALLY.

Stage 6: Relapsing

Ugh, these hairs that grew back have a weird texture. They don’t fit in with the rest of my longer hair. They stick out and everything. And I kind of want a follicle. I guess it’s ok as long as I don’t pull out any new hairs. I forgot how nice this felt. Tension, release, tension, release. Aw, there’s no more short hairs left to pull.

WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. DID I JUST RUIN WHAT TOOK MONTHS TO GROW BACK…IN A DAY??? UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Back to square one.

Stage 7: Giving up

You know what, screw it. This isn’t going to do any permanent damage since my hair grew back last time, and it’s not like hair pulling is life threatening. Bald patches are as bad as it’ll get, and I’ve already dealt with those already. And those are starting to look better. (Ok, maybe that’s because I gotten used to looking at my head every time before I go in public, but whatever)

How do other people not even deal with this. They don’t know how lucky they are. Just look at that head full of hair. Long, beautiful hair that’s not in danger of being pulled out. Guess I’ll just never be like that. After cycling between all the previous stages…

Stage 8: Self-awareness

Ok, so my head feels a bit…empty, but everything seems ok, at least from the top and front. And the patches on the side aren’t visible because my hair’s always in a ponytail. Wait check the top again. Ok, is that really a normal sized part line. ugh, I’m so used to looking at my head that anything looks normal. Maybe I should listen to the people who actually care enough to tell me I have a huge bald spot on my head. Guess I’ll finally switch to a side part. But everyone else probably already knows what I’m trying to cover up. Ugh. Also, let me take a good look at those side patches. Because my ponytail is getting ridiculously thin, and I should probably know what’s going on.

Ugh, why is it so hard to get a good look at the side of your head.Well maybe the patches are closer to the back, but still.

Oh gosh, that’s pretty bad. Like, the-entire-side-of-your-head-seems-to-be-a-shade-lighter-because-it-looks-like-every-other-hair-is-missing kind of bad. What have I done.

Ugh, people out there are actually losing their hair due to serious problems like cancer and here I am just mindlessly ripping my hair out. What is wrong with me.

Stage 9: Getting help

Ok, maybe this is getting a bit out of control. Covering up this patch is getting more and more difficult. Ugh, google, don’t let me down this time. “how to stop hair -” wait what autofill’s completing this for me. That means other people have searched this before. Ok whatever. search. scroll…click…scroll…back…scroll…click…scroll…back. Ok what is this “trich-” something they mention. Trichomoniasis? no wait that’s an STI. um. Oh, trichotillomania. Compulsive hair pulling. There we go. Scroll, scroll.

Oh my gosh Wikipedia understands me.

People who suffer from trichotillomania often pull only one hair at a time and these hair pull episodes can last for hours at a time.

Yes.

Trichotillomania can go into remission-like states where the individual may not experience the urge to “pull” for days, weeks, months, and even years.

Yes.

Individuals with trichotillomania may be secretive or shameful of the hair pulling behavior.

Yes.

An additional psychological effect can be low self-esteem, often associated with being shunned by peers and the fear of socializing due to appearance and negative attention they may receive.

Yes.

Some people with trichotillomania wear hats, wigs, false eyelashes, eyebrow pencil, or style their hair in an effort to avoid such attention.

Yes.

Some individuals with trichotillomania may feel they are the only person with this problem due to low rates of reporting.

YES.

There seems to be a strong stress-related component. In low-stress environments, some exhibit no symptoms (known as “pulling”) whatsoever. This “pulling” often resumes upon leaving this environment.

Wait what? Stress? Psh, I’m not stressed. Sure, it’s the middle of the school year and I’m taking all so-called “advanced” classes (except for PE but whatever) and I stay up late sometimes, but this is freshman year. I’m not stressed. This is supposed to be the easiest year. Ok maybe I am a bit stressed. Also:

Although no broad-based population epidemiologic studies had been conducted as of 2009, the lifetime prevalence of trichotillomania is estimated to be between 0.6% (overall) and as high as 1.5% (in males) to 3.4% (in females). With a 1% prevalence rate, 2.5 million people in the U.S. may have trichotillomania at some time during their lifetimes.

I knew going to a large school had its benefits. Even if the prevalence rate is only 0.6%, there should be around 20 other people with trich walking in the same building as me every day. 19 including me. I AM GOING TO FIND YOU OTHER 19 PEOPLE. SOMEDAY.

Enough with the self-diagnosis. Now how to stop. Google, scroll, click, scroll, back, etc.

None of these methods will work. Putting on gloves will make me take them off, I already put my hair in a ponytail every day and it’s not helping, rewarding myself isn’t something I do, medicines are too artificial of a way to stop and I don’t want to get addicted to them, I already have something else to occupy my hands with (pen spinning) and that’s not working. Ugh, it’s late already. Ok, I’m going to sleep

After a bit of relapsing and giving up…

Stage 10: The Rude Awakening

Hey, maybe I want to document how everything’s going. There’s been ups and downs, and maybe if (when?) it gets better I’ll want to see how bad it got. Why does my phone not have a front facing camera. Do they even make phones like that anymore. Guess awkwardly holding my phone backwards and pointing at random spots on my head will have to do.

Snap. Oops, missed my head

Snap. Oops, missed (and blurry)

Snap. Oh, wait it didn’t actually take a picture

Snap. Too far away. And blurry

GOD DAMMIT. How hard can this be.

Snap. Blurry. And wrong part of my head

UGH FINALLY.

IS THAT REALLY WHAT MY HEAD LOOKS LIKE.

HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS. IS WHAT I GO INTO PUBLIC LOOKING LIKE.

WHY DO PEOPLE STILL TALK TO ME.

WHY DO I STILL HAVE FRIENDS.

AND THAT’S ONLY HALF OF MY HEAD. DO I EVEN WANT TO SEE THE OTHER SIDE. OR THE TOP.

Stage 11: Crying

Because this cry was long overdue. How could you not have seen this. It was happening all along. Why didn’t I stop when it was still in its minor stages. Now it’s become a habit. Is there any going back from here? My front bald patch has (mostly) been untouched, and it’s grown back to my chin. That’s two years. I don’t think I couldn’t stop that much.

Maybe I should shave my head. People have done it before, and it’s better than trying to cover it up. At least people will know what I’m actually doing. And I won’t even have to worry about pulling. EVER. Not when it’s late at night, not when I’m doing homework, not when I’m bored in class, not when I’m stressed during a test, not when I’m reading, not when I’m in front of the computer. THIS WOULD BE SO LIBERATING. There’s not even much hair to shave off. What’s the problem then? Oh, the actually being bald part. Ugh. Guess I’ll keep crying into my pillow. *hiccup*

Stage 12: Tough Love

Calm down. People still talk to you. You still have friends. You’ve read the stories of people who’ve (temporarily) recovered. You might not be like them, but it’s possible to stop pulling. Yeah, it’s going to be hard. Yeah, it’s going to be slow. Yeah, it’s probably going to come back eventually. Yeah, I’m going to hate myself when it does. Oh look tumblr kind of explains this perfectly.

Ugh, how much does it even matter. People that know me well enough don’t care, and people who judge probably aren’t worth knowing anyways. WAIT NO. STOP THIS JUSTIFICATION. FIND SOMETHING THAT WILL WORK.

Um, bandaids? Because like, they cover your finger so you can’t feel the texture of the hair. Whatever. We have a whole box of them. Taking one won’t hurt.

WAIT THIS ACTUALLY WORKS. OK THAT’S IT. STOCKING UP ON BANDAIDS. THERE IS HOPE. WELL, I’M NOT SURE ABOUT HOPE YET. BUT THERE ARE BANDAIDS.

This is nowhere near the complete story, and I’ve had to oversimplify in many places.  Since trich is something that I’ve dealt with for more than 2 years now, it’s incredibly hard to sort out and write about, and even harder to form a conclusion about. Because more likely than not, it’ll always be there, and it’ll just be a process of coping.

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8 thoughts on “Stages of Dealing with Trich (and a Balding Head)

  1. I sort of experienced something similar to your trich. I think I might be suffering from dermatillomania, but my “symptoms” (ahaha symptoms) don’t perfectly match the ones I find on the internet. Basically, I just have these uncontrollable urges to pick at anything and everything on my skin, ranging from bumps to pimples to scars, blackheads, mosquito bites, whatever the hell it is. But I don’t think I have a very severe case of it, and I really only concentrate on a few parts of my body: my scalp and my face. Which is why, throughout 8th grade till 10th, people will always find acne scarring or small brown scabs on my forehead and nose. That was why I had a brownish/bruised nose (as A.C. kindly [not] pointed out one day) for the majority of freshman year; I kept picking and poking and squishing my nose to get all the black heads, white heads, and every little bump there is. And every time there’s a slight bump on my forehead, my fingers automatically goes and starts scratching at it, squeezing it, until a block of yellow, solidified sebum oozes out of it. Or sometimes it doesn’t, and I’ll continue prodding the bump til it leaks blood. My family doesn’t get acne very easily; it’s not in our genetics, and we eat quite healthy too. But I never really have a clear face free of scabs nor acne, due to my obsessive urge to pick at my skin. That was also a reason why I got bangs towards the end of 8th grade; to hide my weird acne scabs. Recently though, I’ve started to pick at my chin, and the parts of my cheeks in my t-zone. I don’t think bangs would be able to hide that if it does gets more serious.
    I pick my scalp a lot though, especially during the school year. During tests, I’ll run my hand through my hair, scratching at my scalp till it bleeds, and finding scalp pimples to pick at. Idk, just scratching my scalp till white/yellow sebum collects under my nails gives me a sense of stress relief. I usually don’t realize I’m scratching my scalp till after the stressful event (tests) is over and I manage to get a whiff of my oily hair oil smell from my hands. But by scratching my head, I also suffer from hair loss… lots of it too. Every time I scratch, I’ll dig into a few hair follicles, scratching till a few hairs falls loose, then, pull the white bulb off from the end of the hair. I don’t think I have trich though, since I’m not actually pulling my hair off one by one. It is quite apparent that I didn’t have a lot of hair, so I tried fixing that by dying my hair. Since the closer your hair color is to your scalp, the less noticeable your balding/sparseness is. Also, when you dye your hair, your hair will thicken due to the harsh chemical damage, making it seem as though you have more hair even though the chemicals makes your hair more brittle. A few of my friends (like T.A.) and my family didn’t really understand why I dyed my hair and they all just kept telling me to not dye my hair ever again blah blah blah whatever.
    There’s other stuff I pick at too, like my leg hairs, or those baby hairs that are curled up under the skin, or my back acne, or the bumps on my elbow, or the dead skin/calluses on my foot but they’re not as bad as my scalp and face picking.

    My habit/compulsions does get better when I’m not in a stressful environment or situation. Like once I quit debate, I did notice that my picking got better. And when I finally made the decision to just stop trying as hard in school, and forced myself to take everything as it goes, to stop striving for the best, my picking got better as well. I do get relapses, which goes hand in hand with my cycle of emotional breakdowns, where I get so stressed and pressured, that I’ll unconsciously start picking everything and anything all over again. But as long as I don’t put myself in a stressful situation, like competitions, races, desires to get 100s….. my picking will calm down.
    I also noticed, that during the two weeks I was away from home and put into a place where I practically live with 100s of other people (Camp), I stopped picking altogether. At camp, I had no complete privacy, not even when I showered, pooped, slept, ate. I was constantly surrounded by people, 24/7, and for a week, I even had a person I HAD to accompany almost 24/7. There was always a person watching, noticing. Even though that week was stressful, and full of sleep deprivation, I didn’t pick at anything due to my busy schedule there and the people I’m surrounded by. Infact, I just got back from camp a week ago, and my skin cleared up within that week. I’ve only picked at three bumps since then and I feel proud of myself lolol.
    I have no idea where I was going with this, but um. yah.

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    • I think I may have mild dermotillomania too. Like if there aren’t any “right” hairs to pull out, I”ll go for my skin, though that’s a lot less noticeable than my hair. I also have a bad habit of biting my nails. Ugh.

      And yeah, stress definitely is a factor (I tried going to sleep earlier and getting more exercise and everything) , though the other “trigger” for trich is generally boredom. AND GUESS WHAT? IT’S SUMMER. Being around other people definitely helps too. Personally, I realized that I don’t ever pull when I’m doing quizbowl. So there are definitely situations where it’s easier to stop, but sadly, I can’t be in them all the time. Thanks for commenting. :)

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    • It’s hard to distinguish between what’s under your control and what isn’t, especially when you’re doing something to yourself. Thanks for offering your support. :)

      Like

  2. Pingback: Back to school | Educated Opinions

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