What a Trichotillomania Relapse Feels Like


Editor’s note: If you struggle with a body-focused repetitive behavior, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can find resources at The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.

As someone with trichotillomania, I am very familiar with self-disappointment. After all, my own two hands are the force behind my hair loss. Me.

I’ve experienced two major periods of recovery in my 14 years of pulling: a three-year recovery, and most recently a one-year recovery. During both of these periods, I regrew all my lost hair, making life that much more enjoyable. It didn’t cure my depression, but it sure made me happy to feel “normal” again.

The end of my second major recovery came all too soon. Before it even started to feel like reality, I had already created a rock-sized bald spot at the top of my scalp. Whenever I find myself in close proximity to a mirror, I stare at it. I take pictures of it on my phone. I touch it. Most of all, I can’t seem to believe it, because I am numb.

If I never acquired this disorder, I probably would never understand how hair can impact someone’s will to live so greatly. But it does. It’s not my altered appearance that takes the life out of me; instead, it’s the lack of control. Imagine feeling frozen while you watch yourself destroy your own body. It’s torture. It feels to me like killing yourself from the outside-in.

Relapse is fascinating. Horrible, yet so interesting. One minute you’re on top of the world — you feel beautiful, in control and ready to take on whatever is put in front of you. The next thing you know, the floor has been ripped up beneath your feet and you’re drowning in all of the uncertainty.

But what is relapse? What does it really feel like?

Relapse is searching for your bed at every opportunity to sleep and forget the disappointment.

Relapse is crying in the shower so no one sees how badly you’re hurt.

Relapse is picking up tangled strands of hair off the ground before anyone else notices.

Relapse is looking at pictures of yourself with all your hair, over and over again.

Relapse is spending hours covering up bald spots before leaving your room.

Relapse is being afraid to walk in the wind or swim in a pool.

Relapse is the feeling of panic when someone reaches out to touch your hair.

Relapse is smiling and saying “I’m OK,” when people check in with you.

Relapse is pretending you have it all together when you can see it falling apart.

Relapse is staring at your own two hands and wondering how they can do so much damage.

Relapse is the lump in the back of your throat when someone finally notices.

Relapse is wondering if you’ll make it through, or if you even want to.

Relapse is being afraid of what damage will happen tomorrow.

Relapse is emptiness.

If this sounds familiar to you, you’re probably in the same spot I’m in right now, or you’ve experienced it in the past.

If you or a loved one is affected by body-focused repetitive behaviors, you can find resources at The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.

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Unsplash photo via Daria Nepriakhina


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