Trich Stories: Nicole
Trichotillomania and BFRBs are hard to talk about, hard to read about, and hard to learn about. Accurate information that does exist is difficult to find and frequently neglects the day-to-day challenges of the average trichster. In an effort to bridge this information gap, we're interviewing everyone we can and sharing their stories with the world. This is the first in an ongoing series of interviews.
Location: Victoria, Australia
What BFRB(s) do you have? How do they manifest? Tell us about what it's like for you.
I focus on pulling my eyelashes, and a small amount of my right eye brow (eye brow pulling has come and gone through the years). I started when I was about 8 years old (so I have had it for 20 years now), and have never stopped. I have tried different methods of the years, but now I have come to terms with it. It not too bad for me, most of the suffering comes from other people making fun of me. Very few times I have made myself bleed, but that tends to be when an eyelash goes through a pore causing a sty. I find the only way to reduce it is to get the eyelash out.
When did you first notice your trich? Was there any specific cause?
I noticed a few weeks after I started doing it, when patches appeared. I remember I was doing something else compulsive at the time and my mum gave me a hard time about it. I remember thinking 'I'll pull my eyelashes, I have plenty of them!', as it turns out, nope don't have plenty of them. It just started with something as simple as that. Now I can't refocus onto anything else.
What kind of puller are you (automatic vs focused)? Do you have any “rituals” when you pull?
Automatic puller. It tends to be when my hands aren't busy, sitting at a computer, reading, laying in bed etc, that sort of thing. When I was younger I used to collect the pulled eyelashes in a little plastic container, I liked the feel of them between my fingers. Now it actually feels painful to not pull them, as if while they are trying to growing they are hitting a nerve ending and I need to get them out.
What is the hardest part of having trich? Is there any silver lining?
I look tired. ALL THE TIME. My eyes are always puffy, and my face just doesn't look right. I seldom wear fake eyelashes and I love the way they look, but who has the time to maintain that look all day everyday. Benefit is you can put on eyeliner really good because no eyelashes get in the way! and my eyelashes don't hit my glasses. But really no, there isn't any silver lining.
How has trich affected you at work, school, or relationships?
Work: Not at all. I work in an industry where if you aren't somewhere on the spectrum then you shouldn't be there. I have actually met another person with Trich at work. We never discussed it, but we both knew about each others problem.
School: School was a nightmare. I went to an all girls highschool, and as a girl with a problem with her physical appearance, I got bullied to a point where I considered whether or not anyone would even care if I was dead. Fortunately, I pulled myself out of this rut. I wasn't going to let them get the better of me. I got a number of emails, texts, and phone calls from people making a big deal out of it. A group of 'friends' completely turned on me. One of them I know 15 years later and she actually apologized to me for it and we catch up regularly. My highschool experience was terrible, but as soon as I got to uni all of that went out the window. I have a great group of friends, very few of them have actually noticed, less even asking, about my eyelashes. I only recently had the conversation with my best friend about it, she said she had never asked because the only time when it would matter to her was if I was actually in pain about it. Which I am not. I completely accept it now.
Relationships: I have had two serious relationships. The first (2.5 years) it was never talked about. I didn't mention it, he didn't ask. I think it may have been the fact he was shy and so overwhelmed that he had a girlfriend that he didn't want to ruin that. We broke up over something unrelated. The second and current relationship is with my husband. When we were still in the early stages of dating, his ex actually pointed it out to him and he had no idea. Obviously it has no effect on what he thought of me.
Have you tried any treatments? What was your experience like?
I have tried all the 'at home' treatments. Bandaids over my fingers, nails really short, flicking myself with a rubber band, sleeping in gloves etc. I have not tried medication. To be honest, the side effects scare me. Being a women, weight gain is not wanted, but also I have a high functioning memory, and I don't want to lose that because I can't focus because the drugs take away most ocd tendencies.
What kinds of situations make it worse? What kinds of coping strategies do you use?
When my husband tries to make me aware of my actions I actually get more annoyed and focus on doing it more. Sometimes I can remove myself from the situation causing me to do it, but most of the time I just continue doing it.
Even though people don't like to talk about it, body focused repetitive behaviors can be serious problems. If you suffer from one, our Slightly Robot Bracelet may help your hands keep still.