• Cure With a Pick

    “I’m sorry to ask… don’t take this the wrong way, but… why don’t you have any eyebrows?”
    “Woah! You don’t have eyebrows! I never noticed before! What happened to them?”

    It doesn’t really matter how they phrase the question, they’ll always be getting a little too close for comfort and staring a little too pointedly at where I used to have eyebrows. For the first few years, these questions made me feel more awkward than I can really say and it wasn’t too uncommon for me to tell the asker some fabricated story that sounded ridiculous to my own years. I never knew what was wrong with me; I just knew that it felt really… really good to pick out my eyebrows and eyelashes when I was stressed. I would just pick, of course, I would also observe. For some reason, no matter how basic the structure of the hair really is, I would find myself staring at the tip that I had pulled from the root, the white gel-like substance that surrounded the tip of the hair and the rounded dark tip. Sometimes I would go slow, pulling one hair out at a time, other times I would rip out chunks. In one of my more frenzied picking sessions, I pulled out the tiniest chunk of skin from my eyelid, causing me to bleed into my eye and make a fine mess of my bed sheets.

    Of course, there are only so many eyebrow hairs and lashes that one can pick at before they’re all gone and eventually I ran out, moving on up to pick at the hairs from my scalp. It didn’t take long for this little secret habit of mine started to show very noticeable effects. Not only were my eyebrows and eyelashes now nonexistent, but I also was starting to form bald spots that were scattered around my scalp. On one rainy day in particular, I managed to pick a spot around the size of a half dollar coin towards my hairline. When my parents discovered me in their bedroom, holding a fist full of hair and still picking, they rushed me to the hairstylist, telling her that it was just an accident with some scissors. The woman looked at me sympathetically and gave me a hairstyle that covered the bald spot while my parents provided me with a hat I was told to wear at school until my hair grew back.

    It was around that time that my parents started to realize that this wasn’t just a phase, that it was almost as if I was addicted to pulling out my hair. They treated it the same way I imagine a parent would treat another child who had self mutilation issues, by trying to control it. I couldn’t even rub the sleep from my eyes without my mother forcing my hand away from my face, examining the eye to see if I had pulled out any more hairs despite there being none to pull. I also wore gloves and a sleep mask at night, my parents thinking that this would prevent me from pulling out hairs in my sleep.

    It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and was sent to therapy that I found out this impulse had a name. Trichotillomania was the term my psychologist told me as if she were telling me I had the common cold. In short, Trichotillomania is the medical term they use for someone who has the urge to pluck out their hairs. The compulsion to pluck usually stems from high levels of anxiety, which was the entire reason I was there in the first place.

    Naturally, after that meeting I went out onto the internet and searched for everything I could find. There wasn’t too much, but it still felt nice just to be informed after all these years and eventually, I started becoming more comfortable about having Trich. I even started trying to control my urges, managing to grow back all my eyelashes.

    One day this past year, my mother asked me if I would like to get my eyebrows tattooed. I just stared at her blankly. “No, no I do not want to get my eyebrows tattooed on.”
    “Don’t you want to have eyebrows again?” She asked upon hearing my rejection of the idea. Eyebrows? Yes. Hundreds of small punctures with pigment inserted into my forehead in order to give the appearance of eyebrows? No. The whole thing just made me feel like I was giving up, not giving myself the chance to get through this my own way. I had gotten my eyelashes back, hadn’t I? My mother just shook her head, respecting my decision but obviously not agreeing with it completely. I’m glad I have her support, despite her not really approving of my methods.