Since age 12, I have suffered from an obsessive-compulsive condition called trichotillomania, which involves constant urges to pull out my hair. Sometimes I feel my scalp burning and ripping out a strand creates a sense of relief. Other times I pull hair subconsciously. I have tried using stress balls, wearing rubber gloves, cross-stitching, wearing hats—all to keep my hands away from my head. I’ve not been able to find successful treatment, despite expensive therapy bills. In short, I cannot stop. I imagine my last movement on earth will involve my pulling out a strand of hair. I accept my disorder, but I always feel unattractive, and I often dream about a life in which I have sexy, enviably thick locks.
In a day of my life
As my day continues, I keep busy with both hands on the computer. (It helps to have a job that keeps both my hands occupied the majority of the time.) Meetings are difficult to navigate. After lunch, I meet with my superior. Because my anxiety rises in the presence of authority, I pull wig strands out throughout the meeting. I feel embarrassed; it makes me look unprofessional yet I cannot stop.
My condition has sadly hindered my upward movement at work—my coworkers know about my condition and that I wear a wig, but the pulling continues to give the impression that I’m disengaged. Supervisors have offered this feedback during every job review, and although I know for certain that I am fully present, my body language suggests otherwise.
When the workday is complete, I return home and rip off my wig. Wearing it can feel heavy and cause my scalp to itch. Next I dress for exercise; I prefer to run alone outside as it spares me from the discomforts of wearing a hat at the gym. Running outdoors suits me because it keeps my hands out of my hair and I feel free to go bald.
However, inclement weather means I head to the gym instead. I pull my baseball cap as close to my ears as possible to hide the bald spots. When I arrive in the locker room to cool down after a cardio session, I remove the cap and expose my head. An older woman standing next to me shoots me a sympathetic look. I get this look often—people assume I have cancer. I say nothing because explaining trichotillomania makes those sympathetic faces morph into confused ones. I shrug my shoulders, throw on my cap, and offer her a half smile.
Once home, I shower before bed to keep my hair wet until I fall asleep, as wet hair makes the strands too difficult to pull out. I wish I could keep my hair wet all the time.