The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This morning when I went to breakfast, I read that Amy Schumer had publicly announced that she has struggled with the same illness that I have been living with for nearly my entire life. Her revealing this struggle inspired me and made me feel less isolated in my experience; I know this sounds cliché, but this disorder is so underrepresented that I had begun to believe that nobody worthy of the spotlight had it. This belief, thankfully, has been proven wrong.
Trichotillomania is a mental health illness that is seldom spoken about with the same emphasis as illnesses such as depression, OCD, or anxiety. It is considered an obsessive compulsive disorder that is also a body-focused repetitive behavior, specifically focused with compulsive hair pulling. Schumer said that her hair-pulling is focused mainly on the hairs on her head. Trichotillomania has not personally affected me in this way. For me, it has always been centered around my eyelashes and as of recently, also my eyebrows. In elementary and middle school, my trichotillomania with my eyelashes was severe. For me, it would occur at night before falling asleep; I would compulsively pull out chunks of my eyelashes. The very second I woke up the morning after an episode, a sinking, suffocating feeling would swell within my chest. How bad does it look? Would people at school notice? Would they think I am gross because of this?
The routine of going to look at myself in the mirror the morning after has always been the most stressful part of having this illness because I truly did not ever know how bad it was until I looked. There were several instances in elementary school when people noticed and would ask me about it but I am grateful, and quite shocked, that none of the comments were mean-spirited. People were genuinely curious about why this was happening. I rarely adequately answered their questions. I would always try to think of a vague answer or change the subject so that we would not have to talk about it. Typically, with the elementary school kid attention span, this sufficed and no further questions were asked.
In middle school, my condition had significantly improved and there were only one or two instances where there was visible hair loss. I can recall two instances where friends of mine asked me about it in the three years of middle school. My answers were all the same: “Oh, I don’t know. That’s just the way it is.” Luckily in high school and college, there have been no visible instances where people have been able to tell, due to the fact that my ability to control the disorder has significantly improved. Nonetheless, the struggle is still there. During late high school and now, eyebrows have also become a focus of mine. I love my natural eyebrows the way they are and it pains me greatly when there is lots of hair loss. The use of makeup in my late middle school days until now has been a life-saver in countless moments. In instances when hair loss has been significant enough to tell, I have used makeup to mask it as best I can. For eyebrows, this has worked seamlessly every time, but for my lashes, the loss is a lot more obvious. I would not just wear makeup in the day to mask this, I would wear it before bed too, so that my family would not notice either. They know I have trichotillomania, but we have not spoken about it in years because there was no reason to; they probably just assume that I no longer have it.
Thinking about the future, I have thought about whether or not I will tell my future spouse. I have had fears since early childhood that upon telling them, they would find me ugly and weird. Throughout my life I have attached my physical appearance to my worth and lovability, which is something as women, we constantly do. Living with Trichotillomania has only made this correlation more severe. Luckily, with a lot of work, my thought process has changed significantly about this in recent years. But of course, I still do have to remind myself sometimes that one’s worth is not connected to their looks.
Having trichotillomania has taught me many life lessons. The most prominent one is that we never know what others are going through. There are countless invisible struggles that we all are experiencing that the world knows nothing about. Because of this, I have always tried to be kind, loving, and compassionate towards everyone. Everyday I realize more and more that what is most important in life is how we treat others and how we treat ourselves.
The link to an article concerning Amy Schumer’s recent announcement is as follows: https://people.com/health/amy-schumer-reveals-she-has-the-hair-pulling-disorder-trichotillomania-ive-carried-so-much-shame/