The Night I Found a Chunk of My Daughter’s Hair in Her Bathroom

Trichotillomania…  I think it took me three weeks to be able to pronounce that word…

Sometimes I wish it was something easier, something with a clear path toward help. With trichotillomania, I feel like we are alone in an ocean on a very small canoe.

Meera was born with a full head of hair. People used to stop us in the store to comment on how much hair my happy baby had. I have always had long hair, and looked forward to my daughter’s long, beautiful hair. Her hair did grow, and the compliments kept coming.

When she was 7, we noticed she was missing sections of eyelashes, and eventually her eyebrows disappeared, too. We would get frustrated, punish her, tell her she was wrong. I remember the night I found a chunk of hair in her trash in her bathroom. I cried. I begged her to tell me why she shaved it off.  When she confessed she pulled it out, I lost it.

I wish my initial reaction involved more hugs and understanding. I am ashamed of how I handled her hair pulling early on.

It wasn’t until Meera was 8 and a half that I Googled and found out she had trcihotillomania: the compulsive urge to pull out one’s hair. The name didn’t make it easier. Family would give their helpful advice to give her rewards to encourage her to stop, shave her head, punish her, etc…

Eventually we did shave her head. I cried. My husband had to hold me. My daughter was amazing. Like usual, Meera showed that she was the strongest one in the room at a moment that I felt hopeless.

She’s 10. Still pulling. I am scared to send her to camp, not sure what my daughter will look like when she returns. Recently, she admitted that she also eats the roots of her hair, not all, just the “special” pieces. We have tried art therapy, but with her developmental issues and ADHD, it is hard for her to focus in therapy. I am on many support groups for parents, listening, trying to take their advice, and just trying to be strong enough for my daughter.

Today I try to show patience, try to understand. I’m not good at it; nurturing was never my really something I was good at. I crack a lot of jokes, try to teach her that humor is the best way to handle a hard situation. People point and make comments about her hair, but she just smiles and shrugs it off. She’s teaching me that looks aren’t as important, thats what makes her the most beautiful person to me.

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