After a decade, hundreds of days of shame, many nights of tears, countless therapy sessions, and years of feeling hideous, I did what I always thought would be impossible: I overcame my struggle with Trichotillomania. When I was 6 years old, I plucked out my eyelashes. When I was 11, I plucked a bald spot on the peak of my scalp. On August 31, 2010, when I was 16, I decided it was time to put an end to it all. I grabbed a whiteboard and an Expo marker. On the top I wrote, “Days Without Pulling,” underlined it and started with a big 0. Each day that I went without pulling out my eyelashes, I added a number. The first 3 days were horror. I had to have my mom hide the tweezers. I stayed away from mirrors. I put Vaseline on my fingertips so that I couldn’t get a grip on the individual lashes. 0 turned into 3. 3 turned into 15. 15 turned into 30. 30 turned into 90. After updating the board, I began to realize the temptation started to go away, and as my eyelashes grew longer, my will grew stronger.
I do not tell my story for pity. I tell it so that others who struggle with any disorder or addiction can realize that it can be overcome. It was hard and for 10 long years, I thought it couldn’t be done, but I can now wake up in the morning look at myself in the mirror and be proud of my accomplishment. Most people don’t realize how much eyelashes mean, but to someone who lived without them and earned mockery and torment for it, they mean success. They mean victory. They mean triumph. They mean power. They mean strength.
I can easily say that having Trichotillomania has changed, and still changes, my life in both good and bad ways. The good outweighs the bad, but those bad things sure seem big sometimes. One bad thing: I still feel tempted every single day. The temptation has never really gone away, but it’s much weaker now. I look in the mirror and think to myself, “I could pick that eyelash right there. But how can I turn back now? Why would I ever do that to myself?” Another bad thing: I have never felt pretty. Perhaps when I meet a boy and he tells me face-to-face that I am, maybe, just maybe, I will finally feel like I am pretty, but until then, I still feel like that 14 year old who had to wear tons of eye makeup to hide her lash-less eyelids.
The goods, however, are wonderful. I am now an advocate of the truth: that the impossible is possible; that the will is stronger than the urge. I am no longer afraid to leave the house with no makeup on. And now, more people notice my “striking emerald” eyes. A year ago, when people asked me “What is your favorite facial feature?” I would probably say something obscure like my ears or teeth. Now? “My eyes. I love my eyes.” I am not ashamed of how I look.
TTM defined who I am. It is the reason for my persistence. It is the reason for my refusal to believe that I can't do something. It is why I want to help people. It is why no matter how hideous or weak I feel, I know that I am a beautiful, strong young woman who can have a bright future ahead of her as long as she keeps the right mentality.
I am extremely open with my struggle because others need to know. TTM is more common than most people realize, but it is because those who have it either won’t get the diagnosis or hide their ugly truth. I am open so that people stop mocking and so that anyone struggling with it can find the help they need and overcome it just like I did. Before a year ago, when someone said, “Anything is possible,” I shook my head in skepticism. It’s amazing how one can change in a year, because now I’m the one saying it. And I mean every bit of it. Anything IS possible.
If anyone has any questions, personal or not, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will answer any questions. If you or someone you know struggles with TTM, visit trich.org for more information or talk to someone else, like me, who struggles with it.