Power of the (Eyeliner) Pen

I was in middle school when I started to pull out my eyelashes. I’m sure no one noticed or cared, but for some odd reason I became obsessed with trying to hide it. The more I panicked the more I tore them out. And it didn’t just stop at eyelashes because once I ran out of eyelashes I started ripping out my baby hairs and eyebrows. Now you’re thinking I’m either a freak or I’m overreacting. After all, it sounds just like any other bad habit, like biting your nails or grinding your teeth. But there’s a bit more to it. What I had then and to some degree have now, is trichotillomania (try saying that five times fast). Giving a name now to a once terrifying habit has since taken away that sense of mystery. Doctors say that both stress and genes play a part in the development of this practice. It can develop at any age and greatly affect how a person will feel about themselves.

According to Kidshealth.org, “People with trichotillomania may feel embarrassed, frustrated, ashamed, or depressed about it. They may worry what others will think or say. They might feel nagged by people who don't understand that they're not doing this on purpose.” 

And that’s the biggest fear isn’t it, that no one understands you? That they’ll believe you simply lack the willpower to stop? In assuming that I would be judged I made every attempt to hide my face, whether it be avoiding eye contact or looking down as I walked. Back in the day, before we had YouTube and tutorials, we went through what is known as the unbearable, awkward stage. We didn’t understand what our bodies were going through and we couldn’t help but compare ourselves to others. Seventeen and Teen Vogue were every tween’s bibles. So for me, not having my eyelashes was equivalent to losing a part of my femininity.

I wish I could say that I learned to love myself because femininity is not defined by something so superficial (though it most certainly is a social construct), but considering I didn’t have much of a self-esteem until college, I can’t. And while I could lie to you and say that no amount of change on the outside will alter what needs to be changed on the inside, I much rather be truthful about how much easier that is said than done. Worrying about our appearance and body image is something that happens throughout life and to say that I was able to overcome it when I am still struggling with it now would be unfair.

My solution came in the form of a pencil; except instead of doodling on paper, I doodled on my face. Panda eyes. That was me every day. As ridiculous as I looked though, I loved it. In what had felt like forever, I was finally able to look others in the eye. Had I not started using eyeliner, who knows how much more damage I would have done to myself? Am I claiming that it stopped my antics and anxiety altogether? Of course not, but it was a step and in my book, a baby step is still a step in the right direction.

"If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward." -Martin Luther King Jr.

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