The Words I Needed to Hear

I first heard Ash Beckham’s TED Talk “Coming Out of Your Closet” the summer after I graduated from college. It was a part of the NPR TED Radio Hour’s episode on secrets.


“All a closet is is a hard conversation, and although our topics may vary tremendously, the experience of being in and coming out of the closet is universal. It is scary, and we hate it, and it needs to be done.”


My Closet

Up until recently, I believed my deepest (and I mean deepest) and darkest secret was my trichotillomania. I always shied away from questions or conversations surrounding secrets as a child. They wouldn’t come up often, but when they would it was in settings like summer camp or sleepovers where being a part of the group felt important. I would often answer with some response about a made-up time when I lied as being my deepest secret - all the while repeating to myself “don’t mention your trichotillomania.” 

I worked hard for years to cover up my trichotillomania, or trich for short. I avoided swimming, never went back to summer camp, and turned down many invitations for sleepovers or playdates for fear that the other girls would be doing each other’s hair. I had spoken to fewer than 10 people, including family members, about my trichotillomania for the near 2 decades I’ve had it.


A Closet is No Place for a Person to Live

“At some point in our lives, we all live in closets, and they may feel safe, or at least safer than what lies on the other side of that door. But I am here to tell you, no matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live.”

I heard Beckham talk about everyone having a closet, and I desperately wanted to believe that she wasn’t talking about me and my trich. I was in a place of shame and embarrassment about my disorder, and shied away from processing her talk then in the same manner that I had done as a child. No one knew my secret, so no one knew I was hiding something. 


Being Honest with Myself

Months passed since I’d heard the talk, and I was getting to a point in my post-college graduation “you’re finally living on your own” world when I started thinking about what I wanted for my life. Think beyond the day-to-day, and question how I want to look back on my years. 

I want to live honestly. I want to live purposefully. I want to give to others. 

This was the point when I slowly started opening my mind to dedicating myself to trichotillomania. I’ve heard hundreds - if not thousands - of podcasts and TED talks, and Beckham’s is still one of the few that I can narrate from start to finish after one listen. Her talk was the voice in the back of my head that I couldn’t forget months after I had heard it. Although I had originally believed it to be a voice telling others to leave their closets, when the time came, I knew Beckham was telling me it was ok to leave mine.

Watch Beckham's full TED Talk: