Trichotillomania Stories: Jaime

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.

Name: Hi, I'm Jaime! 

Location: USA, Wisconsin but from Florida

Age: 37

Gender: Female 

What BFRB(s) do you have? How do they manifest? Tell us about what it's like for you.

Compulsive hair pulling, dermatillomania, transient tics (not really the same.but they're all in the same family. I think the tics annoy people way more than playing with my hair ever would) 

When did you first notice your trich? Was there any specific cause?

I was 6. F5 tornado wiped out my neighborhood, our house was the only one left standing, all the injured came to us. So 30 or so bleeding people. The adults left to look for missing children, left the older kids in charge, except they were all afraid of blood, so I did a lot of bandaging. One guy had part of a 2x4 impaling him. Everything calms down, all the kids are found, no one died, everyone spent the next weeks picking through rubble looking for anything salvageable. 

So the next week back at school, they decide to do a tornado drill. They put my brother and I next to the exit doors and tell us there's a tornado coming. I have a full on panic attack, they have to transport me to the hospital, they sedated me. My parents were livid. Soon after I made the discovery that pulling hairs felt good, I started with my eyelashes. Then anytime I felt upset or stressed I would pull. So after a few weeks, I had no eyelashes and a bald spot the size of a softball. Next lightning struck our house. Then a hurricane. We moved to Florida, hurricane Andrew hit. We had a flood. I was in a bad car accident. My mom had a mental breakdown. It goes on and on, the crazy nonsense. Also the psychiatrist they took me to told my parents that it was a bad habit I would grow out of. Obviously, he was wrong. 

Anyhow, the pulling continued my entire life until after I was diagnosed ultra rapid cycling bipolar and after 8 years of meds trials, I found latuda. The next morning after I took it, i said to my mom, "holy shit, is this how normal people feel?" so I gradually stopped pulling as the dosage increased. Now I only pull my eyebrows because they're thin and wiry and look ugly, so I use makeup to draw them on.

What kind of puller are you (automatic vs focused)? Do you have any “rituals” when you pull?

I was focused. I pull, look at the color, drag the bulb across my bottom lip, and discard the hair. 

Do you have any other conditions or disorders that interact with trichotillomania?

Bipolar, transient tics (I click my tongue and tap my teeth randomly) 

What is the hardest part of having trich? Is there any silver lining?

I was always open about it and my parents told me never to be embarrassed. I would educate whenever I could. It's just hair, after all. 

How has trich affected you at work, school, or relationships?

It doesn't, never did. Trich runs in my family too. I have aunts, grandparents, a brother, and cousins who pull. So in our house, it's no big deal. I'm the most severe puller though. 

Have you tried any treatments? What was your experience like?

Starting at 16, antidepressants. All of them. They all made me manic, made the pulling worse, so I gave up for a while. 

What kinds of situations make it worse? What kinds of coping strategies do you use?

Before latuda, there wasn't a pattern. I was a vicious puller. I would make myself bleed. I think boredom made it worse though. I hid the bald spots, sometimes wore crazy wigs, occasionally shaved my head, wore fantastic makeup. I didn't treat it like a shameful curse. 

I think how families handled it makes a big difference. I've never known any other pullers outside my family who weren't ashamed or embarrassed. It's pretty rare for a hair puller to announce to people that they have trich, I'm a rare breed. 

Also, I think people just aren't educated about it at all, i lucked out. Albeit, family didn't know how to treat it, but still, there's no universal cure. Maybe ask how their families respond to their pulling. 

Something I just thought about too is that when your hair grows back in, it hurts. Pulling it relieves the pain, so it can become a cycle in that sense too. Eyelashes hurt the worst. 

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.

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