I Resented My Mother as a Teenager With Trichotillomania. Now I Say, 'Thank You.'
I was a busy 16-year-old. I sang a lot and did theater. I was always rehearsing for or performing in some sort of production. More often than not, every weeknight was booked with some rehearsal, voice lesson, show or doctor’s appointment. I was a bright kid with a good voice, but I also had severe generalized anxiety disorder, depression and most visibly, trichotillomania. By 16, I had basically pulled out all of my hair on my head.
I took too many honors classes. I was always late on assignments and was in a perpetual state of, “I need to do a million things, but I’ll do them all tomorrow.” I would constantly lie and say I was finished with an assignment that I hadn’t started. I was getting A’s and F’s in my classes. I was the source of so much frustration.
My parents sent me to a lot of mental health professionals. Psychologists. Psychiatrists. Educational therapists. Cognitive behavioral therapists. Being 16 is hard enough, but I felt like the biggest freak in the world.
Mostly, I was angry. Scared. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Secretive.
I took this out on others, primarily my parents, my sister and my doctors. I was particularly mean to my mother. I resented all of the doctor’s appointments she made me go to. I was in an intense state of denial and self-hatred. I didn’t do my homework. I got into bad spirals. I would pull and avoid, pull and avoid, distract, pull and avoid. With my friends, I pretended nothing was wrong. When she wouldn’t let me out of the house to see friends on a school night because she had found out I had been skipping assignments, I would paint a picture of my mother as obsessively controlling and mean.
Once a month, I would blow off a rehearsal, a lesson or a doctor’s appointment. My mother would pick me up from school and we would head to two hours away to a speciality salon to have my wig glued onto my head. The wig cost about $2,000 dollars and needed to be replaced about every nine months.
We would meet James, a man who worked at the salon and was endlessly nice to me. I would sit in the chair, in a private room. My wig would come off. The damage that I had done that month, since the last time this had happened, would be visible — to me, to James. To my mother.
I’m not a parent. I hope to be someday, but until then, I can’t possibly understand how she felt when that wig came off. The visual proof that her oldest daughter was compulsively pulling out her own hair, and that there was nothing she could do about it — that everything she was trying was just not working. That she could not fix this for me, no matter how hard she tried, how much she paid, how many doctors she called. I cannot fathom that feeling. I was a kid, and was focused on how painful this was for me. I didn’t have room to think about her.
But when that wig came off, I would silently weep. I would let her hold me. No words needed to be said. It didn’t matter how much we had fought on the way up to the salon. In that room, I could weep and my mother could comfort me and tell me how beautiful I was.
Our relationship improved immensely after that year, especially when I went off to college. Now, 10 years later, she is my best friend and cheerleader. She is immensely wise. Her love is unending. She is my hero, my role model. That time period was hell for her, and I know it, but I am endlessly grateful for her love and support. She never gave up on me.
I have been pull-free for two years, one month and 26 days.
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Thinkstock photo via ruddy_ok