The Power of 15 Minutes of Hair Pulling

I was in New York last weekend packing up everything I’d left behind. 


We sold my childhood home; it was finally time to take or trash all my childhood possessions I’d chosen not to bring with me when I left home. "Reliving the past” meets “will the past fit in my small one-bedroom apartment?” A lot of work and very little time.


I was on high alert for hair pulling going into the trip. I usually pull more every time I go home. Not because going home is stressful or boring; but because of the years I’ve spent pulling in my bedroom. 


I used to have places where I did and didn’t pull out my hair. Until high school, I would never pull at school. I wouldn’t pull when I was out at restaurants, the movies, or friends’ houses. But in my bedroom, pulling was normalized. I can look around my room and remember some of my worst hair-pulling episodes - the first time I pulled from my hairline, the times I took out 20 hairs in one pull, and the many times I wiped away months of regrowth in one sitting. 


What do you do when you’re back in the place where you spent years pulling out your hair?


This might come as surprise to those with trichotillomania, but I don’t believe in telling myself to “stop” every time I have the urge to pull. Going into the weekend, I knew my trichotillomania would be at its worst. That didn’t mean I had to spend my time fighting urges and beating up on myself every time I pulled out a hair. 


I gave myself 15 minutes of hair pulling. It was 15 minutes of acceptance and self-compassion. Accepting that even though trichotillomania is always a part of me, it doesn’t define who I am or what I do. Having self-compassion when unwanted thoughts and emotions come up as a result of facing places where I’ve previously pulled. 


Anyone can create their own 15 minutes - trichster or not. We all have thoughts and behaviors that we struggle with when we’re in places from our past. But by focusing on fighting the person you were, you don’t leave any room for the person you’re becoming.