I was 15 years old when I first came across this strange word online.
I had been feeling an unusual and uncontrollable urge to pull out my eyelashes, and I didn’t understand why these urges just wouldn’t stop.
A quick google search later and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of disorders called Body Focused Repetitive Disorders, or BFRB’s.
I had developed Trichotillomania, which is the recurrent and irresistible urge to pull out your own hair.
The next four years in high school were filled with learning to hide the effects that trichotillomania had on my appearance and my confidence. I became an expert at applying fake eyelashes and filling in my eyebrows.
To this day I am still amazed that I was able to get up early each morning to make myself appear ‘normal.’ When I look at the photos of the time, I look happy….but I knew that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
On the surface I tried not to let my trich get in the way of my daily life but underneath the fake lashes, I was really struggling. I was constantly terrified that my classmates would find out about my pulling, and I actively avoided situations where I could be ‘outed.’
I avoided sports, pool parties, sleepovers, and so much more. I was scared, and my confidence was at an all-time low. Looking back, I am positive that my trichotillomania was a major contributing factor to my shyness and hesitancy to make close friends in high school.
I simply didn’t want anyone to know, and I never let anyone get close enough to figure it out.
After graduation my trichotillomania seemed to take a turn for the worse. With a combination of life changes and family troubles, I found myself pulling more than ever, and I had begun to pull from my head. My close coworkers started to notice my thinning hair, and I always just chalked it up to stress.
One day a young coworker decided that she was curious about my hair and asked “Why is your hair so thin..?” in front of our entire staff. I laughed it off and replied, “I've always just had very fine hair!” but inside I was mortified and ashamed.
I didn’t even know how to start the conversation about Trichotillomania, but I felt that responding with “I pull it out” probably wasn’t the best way to go about it.
When the pandemic began and I found myself with lots of spare time, I really started to dive into the world of Trichotillomania.
It initially started with searching for ways to help ‘cure’ my trichotillomania, but what I found was so much better than I ever could have imagined; I had stumbled into the amazing and encouraging community of hair loss awareness and acceptance.
Through instagrammer and fellow trichster Hattie (@my_trich_journey), my feelings of isolation and fear were validated and acknowledged, and Hattie helped to show me that I don’t have to feel that way.
Hattie was and continues to be such an inspiration for me in my hair loss journey. Her advocacy is encouraging and comforting, providing guidance and love no matter where you are in your hair loss and hair loss acceptance journey.
I know that Trichotillomania and hair loss can be very frightening and can leave you feeling ashamed and alone, but through Hattie I have learned that I am so much more than my hair loss. It was also through Hattie that I discovered the beautiful and exciting world of wigs and toppers!
If you had asked me about wearing wigs 2 years ago I would probably have called you crazy…. but boy was I wrong!
Trying on my first hair topper was an unforgettable experience. I had found a topper that perfectly matched the curly bio hair that I so dearly missed. For the first time in years I felt truly beautiful and happy with what I saw in the mirror.
It was so scary showing the alternative hair to my family and wearing the new hair in public, but I soon fell in love with the newfound confidence that came with the hair. I didn’t dread going in public anymore because I no longer felt like everyone’s eyes were on my hair and my scalp.
Seven months later and I now have a small army of wigs and alternative hair pieces that I have fallen in love with. I can confidently say that finding alternative hair has been the first step in helping me to rediscover myself and my passions.
I no longer feel like I have to hide in fear of being ‘outed’ for my Trichotillomania hair loss.
Recently, I have decided to go public with my trichotillomania hair loss to create my very own Trichotillomania and hair loss awareness account. As Trichotillomania often led me to tricky situations in which I would have to hide or explain my hair loss, I appropriately called it @trichysituation.
Here, I am hoping to share my authentic and real time thoughts as I work to regain my confidence and take back what years of feeling ashamed of my hair loss has done to me. Even if my voice helps just one person in their hair loss acceptance, I am happy.
To this day I am continually working towards a kinder and more accepting self view.
I am still learning to accept that trichotillomania is a part of my life, but it doesn’t have to define me. My beauty and my worth here in this world have absolutely nothing to do with my hair, and I can still be the same beautiful and confident self regardless of what my hair looks like.
Most importantly, whether I decide to brave my thin hair and bare eyelids or rock some falsies and a long wig…. I am still the same beautiful me.
Want to follow Jessica's journey? Follow her on Instagram @trichysituation!