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To My Best Friend, Who I Met Because of Our Trichotillomania

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Sarah and I attended the TLC Foundation conference for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors in April 2015. It was my first conference and her second. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. But I was also excited to meet other people for the first time who have the same disorder as me; a disorder that caused me to feel ashamed and isolated.

I made many friends at the conference. Sarah and I happened to sit next each other at one of the workshops, although we didn’t really talk. I added so many people from the conference on Facebook afterwards, and Sarah was one of them. We were also in the same Facebook group for teens with trich.

Immediately after the conference, I made a “coming out” post on Facebook telling all my family and friends that I have trich and where I was that weekend. Sarah is very vocal online about her experiences with trichotillomania and mental illness. As it turned out, we shared more in common than just having trich. We both also have struggled with anxiety and depression. Shortly after the conference, Sarah began making YouTube videos about mental health. Many of them resonated with me, and I started messaging her telling her how much I could relate to them.

In early 2016, my OCD and anxiety were at an all-time high and became debilitating. When I made a long post about it in the teens with trich group, Sarah privately messaged me and disclosed that she had gone through intensive treatment for anxiety the previous year, and she said she understood what it was like. It was then that I knew we had made a real connection. We attended the TLC conference again this past April. We were eagerly counting down the days. We were so excited to see each other in person again, since our friendship had blossomed in the time that passed since last year’s conference.

We spent that first night eating snacks in my hotel room, laughing and chatting as if we’ve known each other for years. We talked about the usual things two teenage girls would talk about, but somehow trich always ended up weaving its way back into the conversation. We totally understood each other, and it felt like it was a totally normal thing to talk about, because for us, it was. I can’t exactly talk pulling my hair out so candidly with my other friends.

Sarah told me she was glad I invited her to my room to hang out, being that she has social anxiety and doesn’t do well in big groups. The funny thing is I, too, have social anxiety and am the exact same way. The following morning we shared a long hug as I cried reflecting on my journey with trich. I have come so far in the past few years and trich has changed from a negative to a positive aspect in my life.

Since the conference, we have met up again in person twice. We both went to an awareness walk for BFRBs, and most recently, Sarah spent the weekend at my house and we went to the American Girl store in New York City.

We may live two states and over three hours away from each other, but our friendship transcends the ordinary. We may not always be able to see each other in person, but we text every day, and video chat often. For someone with social anxiety, finding people who you feel truly comfortable with is not an easy feat. Having trichotillomania and other mental health issues makes it even harder to connect with my peers. But with Sarah, I don’t have to give an explanation for being myself. Because she gets it. She’s gone through the same things herself.

In fact, we have more than a few things in common. We are the same age and our birthdays are just less than two months apart. We have the same middle and last initials. Obviously we both have trichotillomania, and have also dealt with anxiety and depression. We both received glued-on hairpieces from the same charity, Hair Club for Kids. The day after I switched to a clip-in hairpiece, Sarah also got a clip-in piece. A couple months ago I started shaving my head. Just recently Sarah also shaved her head. We share a similar perspective regarding trich and mental illness. And above all, we both have dreams of someday changing the world… I truly believe that we will.

We may have become friends because of trichotillomania, but our friendship has become about so much more than that.

Originally published: September 2, 2016
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