How TLC Got MTV Talking About Trich

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Did you see the awful MTVNews.com article about trichobezoars that was posted online earlier this month? Probably not – it was only up for 24 hours.  Thanks to TLC and our members.

In the style of tabloid journalism, the article was full of offensive commentary and jokes about trichophagia (eating hair) and the young woman affected by this life-threatening intestinal blockage.

Leslie Lee, who manages TLC’s outreach  programs, saw the article and immediately took our cause to Twitter.  She  messaged MTV, MTV News, and the author of the offending piece:
“@MTV should #Fightstigma  not cause it. #trichotillomania.” 

Within an hour, MTV removed the offensive piece, and the author contacted TLC with an apology and an offer to write a helpful story on trichotillomania.

Yesterday MTV posted the new article – and it is a big improvement!

Read the  new article here  >>

We couldn’t be more proud of Katherine, Nicole, and Mackensiethree members of TLC’s millennial task force who came forward to share their stories,  Nor could we be more grateful to TLC members Dr. Marla Deibler and Dr. Suzanne Mouton-Odum for giving MTV the facts and setting them straight, and to Rachel for the great lead photo.

While the new article has remnants of the shock-and-awe journalism that MTV is known for, we are pleased with the result and are grateful that MTV immediately corrected the situation. The new story has already reached tens of thousands – and the comments show how many people are still struggling out there - thinking they are the only ones with trichotillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors.

Sharing Our Stories makes a big difference – educating the public and providing support and hope to all of us coping with BFRBs.   Please share yours at: http://www.trich.org/involved/together.htmlTOGETHER we are strong!   
 
Jennifer Raikes
TLC Executive Director

#BFRBWeek – Your Six Word Memoir Submissions

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Inspired by SMITH Magazine’s 6-Word memoir concept (and with their permission), TLC Facebook followers submitted their own 6-word BFRB story for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to store.trich.org. The online community voted for their favorites – and here are the results!
  • Pick myself up again, start again
  • Hair is overrated. Wear a crown.
  • Successful recovery doesn’t mean pull free
  • My daughter pulls, she’s still beautiful
  • If I could stop…I would
  • KEEP your Head HIGH, Hands LOW!
Keep reading for a list of all submissions – they are really inspiring!
Hair is overrated. Wear a crown.
My daughter pulls, she’s still beautiful
If I could stop…I would.
Pick myself up again, start again.
 I’m trying my best. Don’t judge.
My mind can’t stop my hands
For as long as I remember…
Don’t say ‘STOP’!, ask me questions. : )
Goodbye obsession, anxiety, self-hate. Hello acceptance.
Love yourself and all your imperfections!
No one ever really sees me.
Understanding my disease shows you care

Fought against it, I am free.

Trich doesn’t define who I am

“I pull but I’m still human.”

I pull BECAUSE I’m only human. I got close and will again

 

 Why does it hurt so good?

 

 In Jesus’s name, I’m not ashamed

 

I am not alone any more (various trich support groups and FB pages)

 

“I just can’t control it mommy.” Says my 5 year old daughter.

 

 I used to be so pretty
 I am more than this condition

 

 Hair or not, love life anyway
 I pull I talk I heal

 

 You can live a normal life

 

 I would stop if I could.

 

 Please don’t hurt me for this.
 I don’t care what people think

 

 “I’m doing the best I can.”

 

 If you only knew the pain.

 

 Try telling that to my trichotillomania

 

 It’s a battle every single day.

 

 Pile of hair on the floor.

 

 I pull in order to control.

 

 Strength from within, not from appearance

 

 I wish it was that easy!

 

 If only I could just stop.

 

 I am more than my hair.

 

 Trich teaches empathy and inner strength.

 

 “Pull hair, pick skin, feel guilty”

 

 “Why? Dunno. Stop? Sometimes. Overcoming daily.”

 

 Sometimes it is what it is.

 

 Hands busy go away trich monster

 

 Everyday is a battle with Trichotillomania.

 

 I am so grateful to TLC!

 

 Trichotillomania doesn’t define who I am.

 

 

Months to regrow, seconds to destroy.
 What have you done to yourself?

 

Put these tired fingers to sleep.

 

 “Hair pulling doesn’t make me crazy.”

 

 I am more than my hair (What my daughter says to herself)

 

 If only it was that simple.

 

 I’m tired of fighting this battle.

 

 “What a stupid thing to do”
 “Put your hand down,” he says.

 

This Is Me, Living with Trichotillomania

 

Nothing is worse than shampoo commercials.

 

 It doesn’t hurt physically, but emotionally.

 

 Dealing with trich is very tricky

 

 Its made me who I am

 

 I want the world to listen!

 

“Beauty despite busy fingers pulling hair.”

 

 Pull free days are achievable, believe

 

 Focus on you, not your hair

 

 No it doesn’t hurt. Stop asking.

 

“Just say no” will never work

 

I got better; you can too.

 

Yes it is not that simple, also i never really thought it is a disease !!

 

My hair is mostly drawn on

 

So many years in hiding.

 

 Letting go to keep from pulling

 

Daily struggle against a misunderstood addiction.

 

Get your hands out your hair

 

 I am more than my BFRB

 

 I’ve become my disorders disorder

 

 I’m sick, and therefore, an alien?

 

Best friend hurts. I wanna help!

 

 “Why don’t you just try harder?”

 

 My hands won’t listen to me

 

I worry this will never end

 

Sometimes I can’t let it go.

 

If it’s easy try not breathing.

 

 I’m not crazy, I’m just human.
 Eye pencil is my best friend

 

 I am more than my hair

 

 It’s ok I still love you

 

 “No, I’m not a drug user!!!”

 

 I am beautiful no matter what

 

 “Trichotillomania is a PART of me”

 

 Shhhh don’t tell me to stop!

 

i just want long hair again

 

 tomorrow is another day, stay positive

 

It’s not just pulling hair out/
Try to understand, not just help

 

 I’ll never stop trying to stop.
Do you see how you look?

 

 Trich doesn’t define me. I do.

 

There is nothing wrong with me.

 

But I was doing so good
Stop Beating Yourself Up For It

 

 I Wish I Had No Hands (inspired by Christina Pearson)
 Won’t Feel Right Til It’s Gone

 

 Idle hands do so much damage.

 

 I just want to be normal.

 

Trich loves, I hate trich

 

What can I say, trich sucks
 Too long to just stop NOW!!

 

Trapped in the mirror, help me!

 

Stay strong,because recovery is possible.

 

 “Just stop,” you say. I agree.

 

Ignoring doesn’t mean it’s not there.

 

Please support me or move on!!

 

“world’s greatest makeup and hairdo deceiver”

 

Unknown battle, seven years, I’m possible!

 

No, I’m not pulling my hair….

 

It’s no big deal, I pull …. 
Why do i do this? Stress

 

Picking eyelashes seems normal to me

 

I can do it by myself.

 

I wish it was that easy. (To “just” stop)

 

Scared I will die from this

 

Telling me to stop doesn’t help

 

Just one more, then I’m done.

 

Will I ever wear mascara again?

 

I don’t do it on purpose.

 

Minute by minute, every moment counts.

 

I got this, you do too!

 

It’s not just about a hairstyle

 

“Lightning strikes, hide from all light!”

 

I will rise above my disorder.

Kicking Trichotillomania’s A** — Excerpt from ” Doesn’t it Hurt?: Confessions of Compulsive Hair Pullers”

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81yuFpO7gWL._SL1500_It is estimated that 2-4% of the American population is living with trichotillomania. Because so many cases go unreported, the numbers may be much higher. Living with trichotillomania can lead to feelings of shame, depression and anxiety. Some living with the disorder feel so much shame it leads to isolation. Many go to great lengths to hide a truth they feel ashamed of: They are pulling their hair. Some will not get treatment for fear of being judged and want to avoid feelings of embarrassment. It’s time to let go of these feelings of shame. It’s time to release the worry of what others will think and say. It’s time to embrace the beauty that each and every one of us possesses. Let’s believe we are beautiful – because every single one of us are. 15 contributors from around the world openly share their personal journeys. We’re making profound discoveries together: There is hope. We are not broken. We are not alone. Read on, and find the next chapter of your story…

KICKING TRICH’S ASS
KATHERINE, LATE TEENS, NEW YORK

No matter how well I write my story I’ve come to the conclusion that a person cannot fully understand trichotillomania unless they’ve laid in bed at 2 a.m. covered in hair, painfully aware of their throbbing scalp. However, it’s crucial for those suffering from trichotillomania to talk about their experiences, not only to educate society, but also to help other trichsters feel less alone.  

Trichotillomania is about so much more than hair, or lack thereof. It can be socially crippling and certainly emotionally exhausting, and yet, I wouldn’t trade my experience with trichotillomania for the world. ​​​​​​​​​Like many sufferers, I started pulling my hair out at the peak of adolescence. I can vividly remember the first time I pulled out my hair. Of course, I could have been pulling before this point unconsciously, but I’ll never know for sure. ​​​​I was around twelve years old and heading to Florida for a vacation along with my mom, younger brother, and close family friends. It was supposed to be a relaxing and fun-filled week with friends and family. I don’t remember a single detail of the vacation except that as each day went by the spot where my hair parted grew thinner and thinner. Right before vacation I had gotten bangs for the first time and bleach blonde highlights. I was standing in front of the illuminated mirror looking at the small imperfections on my skin and examining my bangs thoroughly to see if all the hairs were even in length. ​​​​​​​Suddenly I noticed one dark hair, which was slightly longer than all the others, and promptly plucked it from my scalp. Little did I know that I had just started something that would change the course of my life forever.

Something that still leaves me in awe is how nonchalantly I pulled that first hair. I found nothing wrong with ripping the strand from my head; I assumed everyone did that when they had hairs out of place. ​​​​​​​​​​For the remainder of the vacation I pulled individual strands of hair as if it was no big deal. Eventually my mom noticed my hand constantly going to my head and began finding the strands of hair all over the couch and my bed. She panicked, saying she had seen something about this on a medical show. When she said there was something wrong with my “hair pulling habit” I laughed at her and insisted I was absolutely fine. ​​​​​​​​​​​Nevertheless, once we got home from that vacation she began doing her own online investigation of the topic. She never showed me what she found while she was researching, but it was enough to make her take me to a local dermatologist.

Now we’ve probably all had a bad experience at a doctor’s office, but my ordeal might just take the cake. I don’t blame my mom for taking me to this doctor; I mean what are you supposed to do when your kid starts pulling out their hair? Where do you go? All I know is that this was my first encounter with the absolute ignorance of my condition. ​​​​​​​​​​When my name was called in the waiting room I walked into the room with my mom and was greeted by a young, attractive nurse. I remember thinking her long dark hair was gorgeous. She started off by asking basic questions like height and weight before she finally got to the kicker, “Why are you here today?”

I could feel myself struggling to answer but finally blurted out, “I keep pulling out my hair.” The look of horror and disgust that washed over her face was something that will be forever engraved in my mind. I immediately felt embarrassed and the judgment in her voice felt like daggers when she exclaimed, “Well why don’t you just stop?!”  I tried to explain to her that I couldn’t stop. It wasn’t that simple. She finished taking down my information, and I held back the tears that I knew were inevitable.

As soon as she walked out of the room I began hysterically crying and asking my mom to take me home.​​​​​​​​​​​ I didn’t have much time to dry my eyes before the doctor came in and began looking over the notes the nurse had taken down. The rest of the appointment was a blur and to be honest I tuned out most of it. In the end I was diagnosed with trichotillomania via a Wikipedia article the doctor found when he Googled hair pulling. ​​​​​​​​​​​​I left that office feeling more alone and isolated than you could possibly imagine. I now knew this “hair pulling habit” had a name, but I didn’t know much else about it. I felt like the only person in the world who did this to herself. All I could feel was frustration with myself and with the world. If a doctor couldn’t even understand what was wrong with me how could I expect my friends and family to understand? Hell, I didn’t even understand it myself! ​​​​​​

My first few months after being diagnosed were some of the most difficult. I searched drastically for answers that were nowhere to be found. Of course my mom was also searching for answers and in the process told tons of people about my hair pulling problem. This is when the tension between us first started to arise. I had realized by then that people didn’t take well to my habit and thought of me differently once they found out about my problem. I was beyond pissed off at my mom for telling people about my hair pulling; after all it wasn’t her secret to tell. ​​​When my parents realized the problem wasn’t simply going to vanish on its’ own, they decided to take me to a local counseling center. I fought going to therapy for as long as I could because I assumed if I gave in to therapy I also gave in to the idea that I was crazy.

The first therapist I went to was a young woman named Samantha who knew nothing of trichotillomania and spent most of our sessions discussing friends and family life. She was nice enough and made me feel comfortable with the idea of therapy but there was no improvement in my pulling. There is only one thing I remember vividly about my sessions with Samantha and that is how she was the first one to notice my early signs of depression. After not being able to say anything positive about myself she told me to stand in front of the mirror in the office bathroom until I could identify one trait I liked. I spent three entire sessions standing in front of that mirror and was never able to say anything good about myself; instead I critiqued my body and personality until I filled up with self-hatred and began crying uncontrollably. ​​​​​​​

From there my parents decided to try a psychiatrist who had come highly recommended and supposedly treated trichotillomania before. He was an older man who was very soft spoken and had a big fancy office. After my initial evaluation he explained to me that if I were put on the correct mixture of medications I would easily stop pulling my hair. At the time I had no idea that there is no “cure” for trichotillomania and that many times medications don’t help or only help slightly. This doctor gave me so much false hope that when the medications continued to do nothing I became even more depressed than before. Not to mention, I was a 13 year-old girl taking an obscene amount of anti-depressants. Foggy isn’t even the right way to describe how I felt, I was completely out of it for most of that year. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​So after my parents finally realized the medication wasn’t working, I was carted off to lots of other psychologists and psychiatrists. To be honest I can’t even remember the names of all the doctors I saw. There must have been upwards of a dozen. All the while my hair was getting thinner by the day and I had to find new ways to cover up the bald spots. ​​​​​​​​​

At first I pulled my hair strand by strand and usually stuck to a single patch of hair at a time. Wearing my hair in a high ponytail or wearing a thick headband over the bald patches easily covered this. Slowly but surely I began pulling more hairs at a time, and before I knew it I was pulling fistfuls from all over my head. By the middle of eighth grade I had no choice but to wear hats every day to cover my balding head. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​

One of the more difficult parts of having trichotillomania in middle school was dealing with my peers and so-called friends. An important lesson I learned throughout my experience with trich is that people tended to judge what they didn’t understand. This definitely holds true for 13 and 14-year old kids.

Since hats weren’t generally allowed in my school, everyone wanted to know why I was allowed to wear one. Kids became overly curious and started trying to figure out why I was getting special privileges. After a social studies test one day my best friend came up to me and explained that everyone had watched me pull out my hair from under my hat during the entire test. I hadn’t even realized I was pulling, but as I looked back at my desk I saw the huge clump of hair on the floor right next to it.​​​​​​​​​​​From then on I got constant stares from random people in the hallways and people whispered as I walked by. Nothing bothered me more than the whispers and pointing. They didn’t even have the respect to say it to my face!

Instead they snickered things like “what the heck is wrong with that freak?” right in front of me, as if pulling my hair came with hearing loss as well. The toughest blow was when my best friend since preschool no longer wanted to be seen with me in public. I was kicked out of my lunch table and began bringing my lunch to the library and eating by myself. ​​​​​​​​​​​I closed myself off from the world and spent most of my time alone in my room. I slept as often as I could because I hated the reality I faced when I was awake. My world was being swallowed up by darkness and self-pity. I was engulfed in depression at this point in my life.

The end of eighth grade was the first time I spoke publicly about my trichotillomania. I went to a teacher who I admired and asked her to tell the other kids in my class to stop bullying me. She suggested that perhaps if I explained the condition to them more, they would stop mocking me. Figuring I had nothing left to lose, I stood in front of my science class and explained that trichotillomania is a medical condition, and that I was no different than any one of them. I just had less hair on my head. I threw out the few facts I knew about trich, like that it had no known “cure.” ​​​​​​​​​​Some of my peers apologized for their previous cruel remarks, but others continued to harass me and treat me like an absolute freak of nature. Sadly, I began to see myself as a freak as well. They say the more you hear something, the more likely you are to believe it, and so by the end of eighth grade I had convinced myself that I was a horrible human being who didn’t deserve sympathy or kindness from others.

That summer I retreated into my room and stayed locked there for most of my time. The few times people called looking for me I made excuses that I was busy, when in reality I was sleeping or staring at the walls of my room feeling like they were closing in on me. ​​​​​​​​​On top of all my internal conflict, my relationship with my mother was continuously deteriorating and there was plenty of external conflict as well. She had always been a controlling person, telling me how much makeup to wear, how to dress, and she even fixed my hair for me until I started pulling it out of my scalp. All my life I felt a certain pressure to be the perfect daughter, but I never expressed it to her. Now suddenly I was a wreck, and I felt like she was ashamed of me. I remember thinking to myself, “When did perfect little Katherine get so screwed up?” ​​​​

There is nothing worse than seeing your parent cry. Knowing you are the cause of their sadness makes it even worse. On several occasions she came to me in absolute hysterics with fistfuls of my hair that she had cleaned off the floor. She begged me to stop, she told me she loved me and that I shouldn’t be doing this to myself, but nothing she said helped. Nothing anyone said helped. ​​​​At first her disappointment and sadness made me sad too, but then I got angry. In fact I became nothing short of enraged. Did she really care that I was suffering from this condition or did she just care what the neighbors thought? Didn’t she understand that if I could just stop I would?

The fact that nobody understood how I felt, as much as they tried, became my biggest frustration. ​​​​That summer I made the decision to go to a Catholic high school instead of returning to my public school where I knew I would be shunned once again. I saw high school as an opportunity for a fresh start, and I prayed that people would be kind. However, I made the decision to hide my condition at all costs. So the first step was to buy a wig and hope that no one would notice it was a wig. Buying my wig brought me so much happiness at first, but eventually it became such a burden to hide my hair pulling secret.​​​​​​​​​​ High school was great in the beginning! I even made friends, told a select few about my condition, and they were really supportive.

Despite my new friends, school became more difficult and my depression got worse with every passing week. Every bad grade, every fight with my mom, every morning I put on my wig, I fell deeper into the dark hole. Any resemblance of the happy person I was before trichotillomania had vanished completely. ​​​​​​​​​​​The only people who ever witnessed me without my wig were the girls on my local church basketball team. I wore a bandana over my now totally bald scalp so I wouldn’t sweat under my wig. The girls all assumed I was a cancer patient and as horrible as this may sound, I let them continue to think it. At least if they thought I had cancer I would get sympathy instead of judgments and glares. ​​​​

I kept waiting for life to get better, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was drowning in my own sadness. The best way I can describe it is being locked in a room that is continuously filled up with water and no matter how hard you try to keep your head above it, you know you’ll eventually drown. The days started blending together and when I would lie in bed at the end of a school day, I couldn’t remember a single detail. ​​​​​​​​My entire life became an out of body experience. My eyes felt glazed over and I seemed to be trudging through a fog everyday. I knew something was seriously wrong when I couldn’t even feel sadness anymore. I was fully numb. Sometimes the feeling of a hair ripped from my head was enough to bring me back to reality, but when it wasn’t, I started turning to a knife for relief.

Many people neglect to discuss their experiences with depression or self-harm when talking about trichotillomania, but for me they went hand-in-hand. ​​​​​​​​By my sophomore year of high school I was overcome by feelings of hopelessness. Just going through day-to-day life made me absolutely exhausted. At some point I stopped trying to fake a smile and accepted the fact that I had lost myself. ​​​​​​​​​​​​I don’t remember the first time thoughts of ending my life entered my mind, but I know that once I let those thoughts in they only grew stronger. I thought I was a waste of space, taking up room that someone else could be enjoying in this world. I saw the strain I was putting on my family, between my mood swings and my hair pulling, I was more trouble than I was worth. To top it off I knew my family would be financially better off without me, not having to pay for doctors or medications that never worked. ​​​​​​​​​​​When I pictured the world without me I saw my family happy and stable once again. I saw my friends, who would be a little upset at first, but after a few months they would forget about me and move on with life. They would graduate and go to college. Perhaps get married. Maybe someday they would think back on “that girl who pulled her hair out,” but nothing more.

The world I pictured was bright and optimistic without me in it. ​​​​​​​​​​​​Besides, I couldn’t picture a future for myself and on the rare occasions that I did, I didn’t like what I saw. I imagined trying to date with trichotillomania, but let’s face it, who wants the bald girlfriend? I pictured living alone in college because what roommate in their right mind would deal with finding clumps of hair all over the dorm? On the off chance I got married, I saw myself walking down the aisle wearing a wig and sporting scars all over my wrists. I could see no way to go on living. The room had completely filled with water, and I was finally drowning. ​​​​

I started planning out my own death. Pills seemed too comfortable. I wanted to suffer. For some reason I was convinced that my hair pulling had caused all the problems in the world around me, and I deserved to feel pain for all the pain I had caused others. While other students doodled on their papers after finishing tests, I was writing out my own suicide note. ​​​​​One night after a bad day of pulling and a screaming match with my mom, I decided to see how deep I could cut.

With a razor and box opener I tore myself open and didn’t stop until my mom came upstairs to find me. When she asked if I was trying to kill myself, I lied and said no. Truthfully I didn’t want to die, I just wanted all the chaos in my life to stop. I wanted to feel happiness again. I wanted the voices in my head screaming that I wasn’t good enough to be silenced. I didn’t know any other way out. ​​​​​​​​​​

It was late and my mom looked me in the eyes and said, “If I leave you alone to go to sleep can I trust that you won’t try to kill yourself tonight?” I wanted so badly to tell her I’d be fine, but I knew that would be a lie. Deep down I was aware that as soon as she left me alone I would finish what I had started. I couldn’t bring myself to say what we both already knew, so I sat there shaking my head and wiping the blood on my pants. ​​​​​​​​​​My parents waited in my room until I fell asleep that night and the next night I was brought to a teen psychiatric unit at a local hospital.

My experiences in that hospital are indescribably horrific, and I swear I still have nightmares of that place. Many patients were sedated or restrained in straight jackets, there were cockroaches in the bedrooms, the only contact with the outside world was through a payphone, showers were supervised, and restricted items included sweatshirt strings and shoelaces. It didn’t really set in that I was in a psychiatric hospital until I was being evaluated and asked if I ever heard voices that no one else heard. By the end of the week I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder and put on more anti-depressants.​​​​​​​​ That week in the hospital was the lowest point in my life.

I wish I could say that once I got out things turned around completely, but the truth is I was still pulling everyday, and I even cut on occasion. I was forced by the hospital to attend dialectical and cognitive behavior therapy twice a week with my parents. Believe it or not, that therapy would change my life and eventually help me stop cutting altogether. If there was one thing the hospital showed me, it’s that there are so many people worse off than me. I channeled that gratitude into every step of my therapy, and it motivated me to want to get better. ​​​​​​​​They screened me for something called borderline personality disorder, which I had all the criteria for but couldn’t be officially diagnosed with because I was too young. Regardless, It felt oddly reassuring to know there was a reason for my sudden mood swings, extreme emotions, and chaotic relationships. Sadly, despite the numerous efforts of my therapists at the center for cognitive and dialectical behavior therapy, they were not able to help me cease pulling.

Believe me, I tried just about every tactic I could come up with to stop myself from pulling. The strategies ranged from playing with silly putty and stress balls to wearing tape on each of my fingers so I couldn’t grip the hair, to putting ankle weights on my wrists so it was difficult to lift my hand to my head. ​​​I found that one of the best strategies was actually more mental than physical. What helped me the most was communicating with other people who suffered from trichotillomania. The first time I went to a workshop in NYC hosted by the Trichotillomania Learning Center I couldn’t believe all the similarities between the so-called “trichsters” and myself. I thought I was the only one in the world who examined her hair follicle and sometimes chewed on it after pulling it from her head, and yet there I was in a room full of trichsters who did the exact same thing. Educating myself about trichotillomania made me want to educate others. I couldn’t help but think that maybe if people understood the condition, it might help them have an easier time accepting it. ​​

The next two years of high school were mundane and are honestly a bit of a blur to me. My struggles in school and fights with my parents became common occurrences. I continued in therapy and tried hard to smile for the sake of my relationship with my friends. I even dated a guy for a while! That ended pretty badly though when he pulled my wig off while we were hanging out because he was curious about what I looked like without it. Not only did he violate my privacy and make me extremely uncomfortable, he proclaimed “Ew, no wonder you wear the wig…keep it on!” when he saw my bald head. ​​​​​​​I continuously missed out on events in my life because I was held back by trichotillomania. I refused to go to sleepovers because I didn’t want to take my wig off, I could never go to pool parties or swim at the beach despite the fact that I love the water, and I never went on rides at theme parks. Looking back I wish I had done the things I love instead of letting my lack of hair hold me back. ​​​​

I’ve always been a compassionate person, and strangely enough, even though I couldn’t stop myself from pulling, I wanted to help other people stop. One day I decided to make a YouTube channel on a whim. I started off filming myself “vlogging” about trichotillomania and other mental illnesses on my laptop webcam. Eventually I decided to make a video in which I took off my wig and talked about my battle with trich. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that the video would gain popularity on a blogging website called Tumblr and become known in the trichotillomania community.​​​​​​​​​ I watched in awe as the views on my channel racked up, and I received lots of messages from people confessing their hair pulling to me. To date, my YouTube channel has 13,000 views! The positive aspect of my exposure is knowing I’ve helped some other trichsters feel that they aren’t alone in their fight. The downside was being contacted by shows like “My Strange Addiction” and “True Life” that wanted nothing more then to exploit me and make trichotillomania look bad.   

 ​​​​​​​In October of 2012 I attended my second Trichotillomania Learning Center workshop in NYC. There was nothing special about this day, and I didn’t plan on the changes that were about to take place in my life. I was going to simply talk with other trichsters and feel a little less alone. Christina Pearson, my role model and the founder of TLC who has been pull free for years, spoke about loving yourself and accepting who you are. After her presentation I told her about my frustrations with trich, and how badly wanted to stop, to which she responded: “It’s okay if you’re not ready to stop right now. Someday you will be.”

Suddenly something clicked inside of me. I swear at that very moment I became determined to change the course of my life forever. I remember telling my mom, “I don’t want to wait for someday; I’m ready now.” ​​​​​​​​​​​I made a promise to myself that day to try harder then ever before to stop pulling my hair. I swore I would not give in like I had all the times before. I knew that one thing holding me back was the pressure of keeping my hair pulling a secret, and so a few days later I made a post on my public Facebook page explaining that I had trichotillomania. To help people understand it I posted links to the trichotillomania learning center webpage and asked people to keep an open mind. The response I received was emotionally overwhelming. Family, friends, and peers alike showed their love and support for me. People started throwing around words like “brave” and “inspirational.” That was the moment I began to love myself again. ​​Since the Facebook post had been such a success, I decided to also give a talk about trichotillomania in front of my Christian existence class. My goal became to educate as many people as possible about the condition.

Ignorance and lack of knowledge about hair pulling is half the problem, and it’s a problem that we can solve if we try hard enough. ​​​​​​​​​As my days “pull free” tallied higher and higher, I didn’t want to break the trend. The first week or two was easy because of my high motivation but then the urges got stronger. I often compare my urge to pull in the second and third month of being “pull free” to the feeling you get when you are trying to hold your breath for a long time. The need to feel the follicle disconnect from my scalp was just as strong as the need for oxygen to fill my lungs.

Yet, against all the odds I continued to keep my hands off my head. ​​​​​​​​​​​The question I get most often from fellow trichsters is how I stopped pulling. I so desperately wish I could give an exact formula to stop or hand you a pill and say, “just take this.” What I can say is that it was the hardest feat of my life thus far. I had to be conscious of where my hands were one hundred percent of the time. I counted the days “pull free “ and the higher the number got, the more motivated I became. One night I got into bed and realized I hadn’t felt the urge to pull all day. Slowly the urges lessened and I knew I was in control of my own actions. ​​​An important part of my recovery was realizing trichotillomania does not define who I am. I am Katherine Elizabeth Paris, the girl who loves to read, play music, and help those in need, not Katherine “the girl who pulls her hair.” I had to rediscover who I was apart from my diagnosis. Somewhere down the line when others defined me by my condition, I had begun to define myself that way too. ​​

After being six months pull free I had the privilege of not only attending the Trichotillomania Learning Center conference, but also speaking at it. I presented a workshop for teens where we talked about things that help us not pull and also discussed the things that make us unique besides trichotillomania. It was an honor to be able to present that workshop, and I met some of the most beautiful and kindhearted individuals I have ever been lucky enough to know. ​​​​I also spoke on a panel of incredible individuals who all had success stories involving trichotillomania or skin picking disorder. Some, like me, had stopped their pulling cold turkey. Others had learned to love themselves and accept who they are despite their struggles with hair pulling or skin picking. The women I spoke with on that panel gave me the inspiration I needed to continue being pull free even when life got stressful.

​​​​​​​​​​​    I am ecstatic to report that as I sit here typing out my story I am a year and two months pull free. I am blessed that my hair has grown back full and thick! Recently I was able to put my hair into a ponytail for the first time. I cried when I realized that was the first time I had put my hair back in over five years. ​​​My entire life turned around and now it’s hard to remember a time when I couldn’t picture my future. Not only did I graduate high school with a full head of hair, but also got into my first choice college where I now study psychology in hopes of someday becoming a psychologist who specializes in treating those suffering from trich.

After kicking trichotillomania’s ass I decided I had enough determination to do anything I want in life. So I began changing my life in other ways as well, such as losing over one hundred pounds in less than a year. ​​​​​Being a somewhat religious person, I believe that I was given trichotillomania for a reason. Even more strongly, I believe I was given the strength to overcome the condition for a reason. I know with ever fiber of my being that I am meant to help those who still feel alone and alienated because of their hair pulling. ​​I wish I could talk to every single person still suffering from trich and tell them that they are precious, and they are worth it.

Everyone has a struggle and everyone has a story. It’s imperative to remember that before judging a person, and I hope society can start realizing that. If there is one thing I want people to take away from my story, it is that anything is possible. ​​​​I can promise that the journey to being pull free won’t be a walk in the park, but it is so worth it. And if you don’t want to be pull free, don’t beat yourself up about it. Remember to be gentle with yourself and love every aspect of who you are. ​​

To wrap up my story I’ll leave you with this: despite all the pain and strife trichotillomania caused me, I wouldn’t erase it from my life even if I could. My obstacles and battles have made me the strong individual I am today. I believe those with trichotillomania are the most beautiful, compassionate, creative people, and someday we will change the world for the better.

*I can be found on Twitter: @katparis.

*You can watch my speech at the Trichtoillomania Learning Center’s 2014 Conference here >>

Call for Proposals: 2015 Conference on Trichotillomania and Skin Picking Disorder

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ATTN: BFRB researchers, treatment providers, and TLC community members,

You are invited to share your knowledge and expertise at the Trichotillomania Learning Center’s
22nd Annual National Conference in Arlington, VA — April 10-12, 2015.
The TLC Conference is the only multidisciplinary conference in the world that focuses specifically on hair pulling disorder, skin picking disorder and related body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs).    Nearly 500 clinicians, researchers, patients and their loved ones come together for a weekend of hope, inspiration, and education.

Clinicians, researchers and BFRB community leaders are all encouraged to submit proposals. TLC specifically seeks workshops that address:

  • 13931174428_e6d3ea49f8_z (1)
    Dr. Jon Grant, Dr. Marla Deibler and Karen Pickett, MFT, answer audience questions during an “Ask the Experts” Panel.

    Evidence-based treatments

  • Current research outcomes and effects
  • Common co-morbid issues such as stress, anxiety, and self-esteem
  • Recovery maintenance and relapse prevention
  • Specific sessions for skin picking
  • Sessions on any of these topics for kids, teens, adults, and parents
  • Research poster presentations – - Two poster presenter travel grants are available!

 

 

Click here to read the submission guidelines and submit your proposal >>

Deadline for proposal submissions is October 30, 2014.

Share your experience and knowledge – inspire others:  Join us in Virginia!

With love,

TLC

PS: Please contact Leslie at TLC with any questions: leslie@trich.org, or call 831-457-1004. 

Conference attendee registration info will be available soon!

Tips for Submitting Conference Proposals

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Are you interested in presenting at the TLC Conference? If so, read through these tips and suggestions – it may just help your proposal be selected.

The TLC community is growing – awareness about hair pulling and skin picking disorders, as well as other BFRBs has expanded exponentially. As a result, TLC receives more conference presentation proposals than ever before, and most  attendees already have a basic understanding of BFRB phenomenology and treatment. Therefore, the Conference Committee seeks proposals that provide more in-depth, comprehensive information on behavior management, coping skills and community building.

We’ve analyzed conference feedback and engaged some community members to help us come up suggestions that may help you craft your conference presentation proposals.

  1. Fresh Content: About 30% of conference attendees have been to a TLC event within the past three years. Therefore, it is crucial that the Conference maintain a diverse and engaging agenda – different from the year before. If you’ve presented the same workshop for two or more years in a row, chances are high it will not be accepted again (research excluded if new data is being presented).
  1. Experiential Workshops receive highest ratings: The days of one-way lecture with a static powerpoint are headed to the same place as rotary phones. In this technology era, attendees crave interaction. Role-playing, Q & A’s, and group process workshops are highly desired – particularly for families, children and teens.
  1. BFRB Diversity: The conference audience consists of both people with trichotillomania AND skin picking, primarily, as well as other BFRBs. Workshop proposals should either encompass ALL BFRBs, or be clearly defined as BFRB-specific. We do not want to create further isolation by holding a BFRB workshop that is actually only  about trichotillomania, and excludes skin picking or other behaviors.
  1. Don’t leave out the millenials: TLC’s widest audience is between the ages 13-34. Workshops for people in these age groups are highly desired! Specifically, workshops that offer concrete behavioral management strategies, communication and social skills, managing co-morbid disorders, dealing with issues at the elementary, secondary and college educational levels, and overall health and life management skills for children, teens and college students are needed.

Here are some workshop topics that we are particularly interested in. Be sure you review our submission guidelines to make sure your content fits into one of our three categories: evidence-based treatment, research, personal growth.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: utilizing in the practice for professionals
  • Diet and Nutrition and their role in overall well-being
  • Fear of intimacy due to BFRBs
  • Defining Recovery
  • Co-occuring intellectual disabilities
  • Advocating for a BFRB student (elementary, secondary and college levels)
  • Wound care and healing
  • Recovery Maintenance
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Peer Support
  • Interactive sessions for children (<13 years old)
  • Interactive sessions for teens (13 years old and older)
  • Family Issues
  • Coping strategies for family members
  • Communication Skills and Strategies
  • Raising Awareness locally and Globally
  • Related Disorders:
    • OCD and Skin Picking
    • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
    • Learning Disabilities
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Perfectionism
  • Treatment resistance
  • Accessing effective treatment
  • Accessing private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid for coverage possibilities

This is by no means an exhaustive list. And certainly, this list does not include the basics about treatment and research. It’s more of an idea list to help those who would like some fresh, unique ideas to bring to the conference in 2015.

Are you ready to submit your proposal? Click here to review the official guidelines and submission form >>

 

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Dear Friends,

I want to take just a moment out of your busy day to talk to you about TLC Membership.

We’ve always believed that TLC Membership is a special thing. Becoming a full-fledged Member sends a powerful message: that you are a person who has hope, and passion, and persistence in your journey of recovery–and that you care deeply about the recovery of others.

When you become a Member, we’re able to provide you with access to webinars for free, and reduced rates for other things —  like products in the store, workshops, the conference and other events: because your Membership donations helps us develop and maintain these great resources.

We want to make being a Member as easy and low-impact as possible — so we’ve added a new monthly donation plan for those who’ve had to hesitate at the annual cost.

Now, for just $4 a month, you will not only receive all the benefits of Membership, you get to give. Your recovery will benefit from what we’ve accomplished so far-and you’ll know you are helping TLC continue to make progress for all of us.

Please, take advantage of this new option, or regular Membership, today. As special thank you, we’ll send you a BFRB Awareness Bracelet — you’ll be ready for Awareness Week October 1-7!

With love and gratitude,  
Jennifer Raikes
Executive Director 

BFRB Resources for Parents, Educators, & Students

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“Most children with (BFRBs) experience some resumption of the behavior during the first quarter of the school year,” says TLC Scientific Advisory Board members Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, and Ruth Goldfinger Golomb, MEd, LCPC. Teens, college students and adults with BFRBs may also experience an increase in these behaviors as schedules fill up and pressures mount.

How to cope? Planning and preparation can significantly ease the transition from long summer days to busy fall schedules.  TLC has helpful tools and resources for coping with BFRBs, plus books, fiddles and educational materials to smooth the transition to a more hectic time of year. Keep reading for links to these resources, plus a coupon for back-to-school supplies and more from the TLC Store!

Educator Resources
Get professional advice and downloadable handouts for teachers, guidance counselors and other school personnel at www.trich.org/toolsforschools.html.

Professional Advice and Information

More Articles & Videos

TLC Members: don’t forget there is an extensive archive of webinars available! Email us if you need access link.

Not a member yet? Join here and get instant access to our ever-growing archive of video presentations from top BFRB experts!

 

With love, TLC