By: Rawan Khalil

In many ways this is my story, but it’s also a confession to my body and to everyone; it’s an apology to my body and a letter to everyone; it’s a way through which I could raise awareness about something not many are aware of; it’s a way for me to shed tears about the one thing which made me hate myself to bits, which made my body bleed in places I should have never touched, which scarred me in ways I could have never imagined. From a wound, to a scab, to a scar, to a callous. This is my story. This is my pain but it’s definitely not mine alone.

Have you ever heard about trichotillomania? I know many will answer the question with a: “No” and will find the term weird and unfamiliar- I mean there was a day when I failed to even pronounce the word correctly, but now that I’ve lived with it, the word is way too familiar. People have irresistible urges to bite their nails, remove the dead skin from their lips, bite the skin around their nails; all these behaviors are all ways to ease one’s anxiety; they’re all ways to release pain and angers, and trichotillomania is no different- maybe just a tad different. Trichotillomania is the irresistible urge to pull one’s hair. It’s categorized by scientists as one of the Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB). It’s a neurological disorder, something I constantly remind myself with, to tell myself it’s not my fault but is it really not my fault?

Most people who are diagnosed with trichotillomania or maybe most people who speak up about it, or maybe it’s the ones with obvious symptoms are the ones who pull their head hair. Their hair loss is usually evident and obvious. Mine was different though and to me more embarrassing and hurtful. I pulled/pull out pubic hair. I held a tweezer between my fingers and pulled the hair from the root. I held the tweezers in my hands and dug the baby hairs from below my skin. I saw my body bleed. I saw my skin stop growing and instead of stopping and waiting for it to heal I damaged it more.

Having trichotillomania is like being an addict to drugs. You sit and choose the best hair to pull. And after you pull the hair you wanna pull you feel pleasure and satisfaction flood your body. You get drowned in a sense of relief which is short lived. It’s this short term solution to anxiety and pain. What you don’t realise though is that it causes more pain!

The more I try to stop, the quicker I come back. The more I try to stop thinking about it, the more I think about it. I, in every way, tormented my body. I, in every way inflicted the worst forms of pain and infection to my body.

What could be worse? Some people eat the hair. I declare myself thankful to not be one, but very shaken and scared for these people. For these, I am ambushed and I’m in pain because this hair forms lumps in their stomach, because this hair in their stomachs can be the reason they die and stop being capable of breathing.

What could be worse for me? It was my mum’s reaction when she found out. It was the complete disbelief that I have a mental illness that needed emotional support. I was treated as if I had a scratch instead of a wound. I was asked to stop as if it was simple, and I attempted to stop. I threw away the tweezer but then a new tweezer came a few months later. I tormented my brain instead of my body, I ordered it to stop, I cried for it to stop. I mean, if the doctor denied my disease, who was I to live the role of the patient?

Days of pain still pass. It stops alone when I’m happy, when there’s no stress, but once my anxiety kicks in, once I’m no longer free from the stress, it kicks back in to make it both better and worse, to ease one form of pain by another, to be the blood monster which is dressed as a doctor, to be my drug which I’m incapable from stopping, to make me feel elated for just less than a minute.

I hope I helped raise awareness for all the sufferers, I hope I make one person know that they’re not alone, I hope I stop inflicting pain upon myself. I apologize to my body for all the pain I caused. I’m so sorry if you find this disgusting, but it’s out there. There are people who suffer and that’s just one form of suffering. I am sorry if this is sloppy but I am writing this while tears are dripping from my eyes, burning my flesh. My brain is racing, telling me to stop writing, and to not submit this or it will humiliate me, but my heart is fighting wanting to raise awareness, wanting to reach out, wanting to make a person know that they’re not alone, that they’re not an outlier, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them!

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