Anxiety disorders are something that 1 in 6 people suffer from, and I am one of those people. From about the age of 12, I noticed I had begun to pull out my hair on both my head and my face. It would come in waves but was frequent enough for me to realise that it was happening.
I remember very distinctly people mentioning to me in school saying, “your eyebrows are really patchy” or “Ew your missing loads of eyelashes”. I never really knew what to say to comments like those, so I would just say that it was genetic or plucked them too much. I mean, what was I meant to say to them? I had no idea that it was an anxiety disorder.
The older I got, the worse the waves of hair pulling got. Sometimes I would notice that I was doing it, and sometimes I wouldn’t. But no matter what, it was not something I could control.
Just before I turned 19 in 2020, it got the worst it has ever been. It got to the point where I had only a few lashes left, and my eyebrows were basically non-existent. That was when I realised I should probably do something about it; whether that was researching or getting the help, I just had to do something. After some googling, I found the name for the disorder I have been struggling with for so long. Trichotillomania… I felt relieved that it had a name but also scared. Finding out about it made it a real problem with actual facts and figures.
The first thing I did after I found the disorder name was tell my mum. Before that, I hadn’t told her anything about what I was facing, and since I lived at school, I could get away with it. At first, I thought she would cry or be angry that I hadn’t spoken about it, but instead, she just hugged me, and we sat and talked. I then looked into therapy, and by August, I had started.
I did my therapy with the Brighton Hove Wellbeing Service via zoom. Every Monday, I had a call with my therapist, talking through how my week had been with hair pulling, doing self-love exercises and working through past trauma to find out why/how it started. Some weeks were terrible, and some weeks were okay, but I was making progress, nonetheless.
Each month we would review the journey I had made so far by comparing recent work to work when I first started the therapy. It was hard, I’m not going to lie. Working through past trauma, which I had rationalised in my head to find out it could have caused my Trichotillomania, was really difficult, and I left most sessions in tears from having to speak about it. For months I talked to work through my issues and found coping mechanisms to deal with my mind, anxiety and the disorder. By December, I finally felt strong enough to handle things on my own and stopped my therapy.
Since then, I am proud to say that I haven’t pulled a single hair. Something that just a couple of months before I wouldn’t be able to say or do. I still struggle with anxiety; of course I do – it’s a lifelong battle, but I now know how to cope with it and talk about it, so I am not alone.
This is the first time I have ever spoken about my anxiety disorder with anyone other than the people closest to me. Everyone struggles differently with mental health, but I hope my story has given you a bit of an insight into my struggle. Just know that no matter what your struggle is, you are not alone. One of the best things I have done for myself was getting help. Even if the thought of therapy is the only thing you take from this is, getting help or speaking to someone makes a world of difference. No matter what you choose to do, just know I proud of you, whether that is surviving with mental health problems or supporting those that do struggle… you are doing amazing.