5 Things That Have Helped My Trichotillomania
A few people have messaged me this past week asking how I was able to overcome my trichtoillomania. To be honest, I haven't. I've been pulling for 20 years, and still pull at least one (but really more than one) hair every day. The difference between my trich now and when I was too scared to even say "trichotillomania" out loud is my mindset about my hair-pulling disorder. I am no longer ashamed of my trichotillomania and accept my hair-pulling as a part of me.
I can’t give you the secret tip to stop pulling, because I haven’t found one yet. I can help you change the way you view your trich, so your disorder isn’t a point of shame and embarrassment. Below are a list of five lifestyle changes I made that put me on my way to accepting and loving my trichotillomania and more importantly, myself. If you have any tips that have helped you, please share in the comments section!
1. Find content that keeps you positive and inspired.
Before I started listening to podcasts, I had no self-care routine. I wasn't necessarily unhappy, but I also wasn't actively trying to be happy. Now, I have numerous podcasts that I listen to that are uplifting, and many times comical, to get me away from any negativity. By setting aside time each week to listen to podcasts, I create the space for myself to focus on my own well-being to make sure that I continue to be in a positive space.
Your content doesn't have to be a podcast. It could be a book, movie, comedy, music, or musicals. Whatever it is, find something that makes you smile and allows you to create your own self-care routine.
For more about how listening to podcasts changed my life and for podcast recommendations, check out How Podcasts Have Helped My Hair Pulling.
2. Have a friend who knows and accepts your trichotillomania.
During my worst moments of hair pulling, I was lucky enough to have one or two good friends who knew about my trichotillomania. I never showed them the spots where I pulled from and we rarely discussed my hair pulling. Still, it was good to know that I had at least one person I could turn to outside of my family who supported me and my trich. Having a family that is supportive of your trich is incredible, but not everyone has one. Having even one good friend who you can trust means that your journey with trich isn’t one you have to take alone.
3. Stay active.
For many people, including myself, their trichotillomania and mental well-being takes a turn for the worst when they experience stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular physical activity "has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem." This doesn’t mean you need to join a gym or completely change your schedule to start working out, but there are small changes that can be made to become more active - take the stairs instead of the elevator, go on a morning walk on weekends or during your lunch break, stand instead of sit when working or watching TV. Staying active will help you feel healthier, both physically and mentally.
4. Have a game plan for when you start pulling.
We've all been there. You pull out a single hair and think to yourself "this is the last hair I'll ever pull." A couple hours later, you're pulling again. Relapses happen. The best way you can deal with them is to be prepared.
Know Your Triggers - Be aware of when you’re at high risk for pulling. Are you more likely to pull when you’re watching tv or before a big test?
Have Your Toolbox - Keep fidget tools around you that’ll keep your hands occupied if you feel yourself reaching for hairs. I keep a bracelet of jagged washers in my purse at all times.
Monitor Your Thoughts - Don’t beat yourself up in the moment. Relapses are normal - we’re all human.
5. Be proud of your trichotillomania.
This is the hardest mindset shift to make. Hair loss can be a point of shame for many; when it’s self-inflicted, it’s all that much worse. For years, I thought that I couldn’t be happy or beautiful until I stopped pulling out my hair. It took years of unsuccessfully trying to stop pulling to realize that my trichotillomania was always going to be a part of my life - even if I did stop pulling one day. I could choose to be ashamed of my trich for the rest of my life, or I could be proud of it. That sounds easy in theory, but in practice, not so much. One day, I kept on repeating to myself, “I am proud of my trichotillomania.” It didn’t take one day, but I continued to push myself to visualize my disorder as something positive in my life. It can be for a week, day, hour, or minute - repeat “I am proud of my trichotillomania” or your own affirmation to yourself. Just as your perception is your reality - the more you perceive your trich as a positive part of you, the more you too will come to accept and love your trichotillomania.