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Who I Didn’t Want to Be

Living with Trichotillomania

I’ve been dealing with Trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling) my entire life, but it has only been extreme for the last six years. For the first twenty-two years, it was just a weird thing I secretly dealt with because I didn’t know any other way. Then came my senior year of college: I couldn’t handle all the many pressures of that year without pulling huge bald spots on my head that could no longer be hidden.

After learning of my bizarre hair-pulling problem, my dad told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “You don’t want to be the girl who pulls her hair out. You want to be the writer, the traveler, the whatever it is you want to do. Not the girl with Trichotillomania. But if you don’t get over this soon, that’s what you’re going to be.”

I know he was trying to help. He only wanted to encourage me to beat the problem! But it’s six years later and I haven’t. I’ve just become the girl with Trichotillomania. And that kills me because I am so much more than this mental illness! I am so much more than just the girl who pulls her hair out.

I am the girl who is comforted by seeing snow-capped mountains on the horizon. The girl who inhales the smell of a musty, old, well-worn book in a used book shop with excitement and familiarity. Who loves the way the air feels fresh, new, and energized after a hard rain—as if anything is possible.

I love pizza! I love video games. I dream about castles and vampires and traveling across Europe one day. I have two dogs and plan to rescue many more from shelters (when I can afford it). I’m afraid of flying in planes over the ocean because my deepest, darkest (REALEST) fear is crashing, surviving, and then being eaten by sharks. I love horror movies but I hate when anyone or anything suffers in real life. I grew up in Alaska and I love nature but I hate (HATE!) pooping in the woods with no toilet paper while mosquitoes bite your bum. (It’s seriously the worst.)

I am so much more than a girl who pulls her hair. But I’m afraid my dad is right: most people see me and my bald spots and can’t get past that! They don’t see someone with skills or dreams or a personality - they see someone who looks really weird. And I don’t blame them for that, honestly. It’s only human nature to see someone and immediately form opinions based on what they look like. But I just want a chance to prove I’m more.

Yes, I struggle with Trichotillomania and I have an insanely difficult time not pulling my hair out when I’m stressed. Yes, I need to work on my self-control and the way I deal with pressure. But right now, this is what I am. I do have Trichotillomania and I don’t see why I should be ashamed of it. Why should I be embarrassed or have to hide myself because of it? Because I look different? I have Trichotillomania and it is part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me.

None of us can choose the way we look. I mean obviously there are ways we can alter our appearances such as exercise, makeup, clothes, hairstyles, and even plastic surgery, but mostly we have to work with whatever we were given at birth. I’ve always hated the fact that our world judges people so harshly and definitely based on appearances because there is SO much more underneath our skin. We are not just what we look like - we are human beings with feelings, hopes, and dreams! We have stories about our adventures and the obstacles we’ve overcome; we are strong!

And I realize you’re probably thinking, “Well yeah, duh!” Inner beauty is a common theme these days in books and movies (which is awesome!). So, I guess I’m really saying this more to myself than you. 

I needed to reassure myself that just because I am struggling with Trichotillomania right now doesn’t mean it defines me. I have Trichotillomania and I’m still working to get it under control, but until I do I refuse to just be the girl with Trich. I am so much more. And whatever things you’re dealing with right now, you are so much more. 

You are a fighter, an overcomer. You are beautiful—not despite your problems, but because you’ve battled them and won.

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