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Why I'm Opening Up About Being Bullied for Having Trichotillomania

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This was my story that I shared on Facebook last year. I hope this can help someone, if anyone, struggling with any disorder or mental illness.

I wrote this on October 4, 2016, the fourth day of BFRB Awareness week.

Perhaps some of you are unaware of what that is.

Well, BFRB stands for body-focused repetitive behavior.

It happens to many of us, yet why do some of us with BFRB feel so alone?

I am a person who has been greatly affected by a BFRB, known as trichollomania. It is my greatest secret — something I have been hiding from the entire world (or, at least trying to hide) for more than a decade. This is something that has been a huge weight upon my shoulders ever since fifth grade. Unfortunately, finding a cure for this and coping with it is both non-existent and difficult.

I have depression, anxiety and am easily stressed.

I keep things to myself a lot.

I punish myself for things that people do to me.

Those of you who were friends of mine or even schoolmates may have noticed when you first took one look at me, I was different. I was somewhat quiet, and well… I looked pretty different. Some of you probably thought I looked ridiculous or angry all of the time because I would always have to draw on my eyebrows (I still do actually). Some of you have even looked close enough at me to realize I had few to none lashes. This is a result of trichotillomania.

This is a hair-pulling disorder.

Whenever life became too hard for me, whenever someone insulted me or mocked me, I would pull. In a way, I would punish myself for not being what everyone thought was “normal.” I was ashamed of how I treated myself and so I would avoid talking to most people so they wouldn’t look at me or even notice me. I turned my attention to drawing and playing the guitar. Those were hobbies of mine that would keep my hands busy — keep me and my overthinking mind busy. I even liked how most of the time, drawing turned people’s attention away from me and towards my artwork.

Once, in high school, I was in class and I was minding my own business and someone goes, “Do you think that’s supposed to be attractive?”

He was referring to how I would draw on my eyebrows.

This question made me break inside. I could care less about romantic relationships, but the thing I wanted most was to fit in and have friends. I couldn’t say anything to him. I only wanted to cry, but it was hard. I had to hold it back because I didn’t want to stand out more than I already did.

Another time, on my birthday in middle school, I had just returned back to school from a band competition with my bandmates. Upon dismissal, a girl, with a smile on her face, shouted the obvious at me, “You have no lashes!”

Everyone in the room grew quiet.

Thanks for shouting the obvious. Tell me something I don’t know.

I felt suicidal during my middle and high school years. I struggled with being someone I wasn’t, afraid to be myself. I trapped myself inside my room after graduating high school for nearly a year and thus became socially anxious and developed a phobia of going outside and being judged for how I looked. I would wear scarves and hats in the house and to bed. Imagine how my family must have felt knowing I would hide myself from them, that I couldn’t come to them about my depression and disorder.

I tried running away in middle school. I self-harmed. I hated myself so much. I hated myself for not being able to participate in school events, I hated myself for being too shy to eat at lunch unless I had someone to eat with me. During these hard times, trich was always eating away at me along with depression and anxiety, and I had no one to help me. But I made it through middle and high school thanks to my love for art and music and to the friends who stood by me, never making me feel like I was different. For all the laughs and smiles I received and gave, thank you.

It was hard growing up with trich. In fact, it still is, yet I am learning to not hurt myself for the sake of others. I am learning to appreciate myself.

I see a lot of former classmates and I think to myself, they are so beautiful, they’ve grown so much and here I am, still struggling with the same problems, still trying to be like them, to be what I think is normal. But what I have failed to learn over all these years is that I am normal. I shouldn’t have to look like someone or anything.

I have came a long way with trich. I am more accepting of it now than ever before.
Instead of hating myself for doing nothing wrong except being too openminded and accepting of others, all the while hurting myself, I need to applaud myself. I need to look in the mirror and cry because I can finally try to start the journey of finally accepting myself rather than looking in the mirror and crying for how different I feel and look.

I also have an amazing best friend and girlfriend to thank who understands and who loves me for who I am, and this alone helps me in so many ways possible. I feel blessed, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

This is my story, or at least part of my BFRB story. I was inspired to write this based off of testimonial blogs and videos posted by people also struggling with BFRBs. I also decided to write this because I received an email or two from The TLC Foundation for body-focused repetitive behaviors asking me to share my voice and story during BFRB awareness week, which is October 1-7 each year.

The blue-lined, green ribbon I wore above my heart in this picture is what I stand for and what I am.

I don’t expect much response from this post, but I do hope that when you see someone struggling with anything, you try to get to know them first and try to understand. You could be saving a life, you know.

For those struggling with BFRB, there is a website I recently learned of here. They have toys and beads to keep your mind/fingers busy and merchandise that supports BFRB.

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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Originally published: March 24, 2017
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