On Living With Trichotillomania In A World Obsessed With Beauty

On Living With Trichotillomania In A World Obsessed With Beauty

If you look me in the eyes, you wouldn’t be able to guess there’s anything wrong with me.

Take a make up wipe to my face and you’ll find that I have almost no eyebrows; they’re roughly 1/6 the size of an average person’s eyebrows. I wasn’t born like this; in fact, a year ago I had fully intact eyebrows.

About nine months ago my anxiety disorder transformed itself into a fun new disorder called Trichotillomania or TTM for short. TTM is the unending and unquenchable desire to pick at and pull out one’s hair. For me it is specifically body hair, mainly my eyebrows and my legs. I hate when people feel bad for me so I hide my anxiety and depression behind little white pills and fake bouts of food poisoning.

Now, for the first time in my life, my mental illness lives on my face.

Having TTM means that pulling out that one specific eyebrow hair is best feeling in the world. It’s better than chocolate and warm blankets and sex, but that rush is so fleeting, it’s impossible to not want to immediately do it again. It can also be subconscious. When I’m deep in a work project, spending long hours staring at word documents, I often find myself pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes until my skin turns red. I put rogaine on my face twice a day, but it doesn’t make a huge difference because the impulse doesn’t go away. It gets worse when I’m stressed, anxious, or sad and it is the most ashamed I have ever felt.

I was lucky growing up; I didn’t really have body issues. I was naturally skinny and athletic. My curves came late, but when they did they brought me a lot of attention. I didn’t love my large nose or my frizzy hair, but they didn’t bother that much. Now, I am suddenly learning how to be terrified to look in the mirror. I paint my eyebrows on everyday with stupidly expensive brow gel because I can’t bear the thought of having to answer why I suddenly have patchy tufts of hair instead of the smooth, defined eyebrows that are so on fleek right now.

What’s been the hardest for me is that once people notice my brows are painted on, they ask questions as if my face is any of their business. They make comments as if they’re entitled to tell me my face is wrong. I usually laugh it off with a lie about a bad waxing accident, but sometimes I just want to scream “I have an impulse control disorder and I’m aware it’s destroyed my face, please PLEASE stop pointing it out to me.” My favorite thing is when people tell me as if I’m not aware, “Did you know half your eyebrows are missing? Are you okay? Do you have that male pattern baldness on your eyebrows?” It’s ridiculous and it’s intrusive and it hurts the crap out of my feelings.

Developing this disorder has made me so much more aware of bullshit beauty standards. I almost dropped $700 to get eyebrow tattoos because I couldn’t take the comments anymore (but I decided to pay rent instead). I’ve come up with excuses for my appearance instead of telling the truth because society tells me I should be ashamed to be different.

If you take away anything from this, I hope you’ll be more aware of your impact on other people’s wellbeing. Don’t comment on other people’s appearances and please don’t tell people something about their appearance worries or upsets you. I appreciate your concern, but I’m aware that I’m compulsively destroying my own body for the whole world to see and I don’t need to be reminded. I’ve sought help and I’m working on it. So, the next time you see someone with missing eyebrows or a bald spot or anything else on their body that shouldn’t be your concern, don’t point it out, don’t ask questions, just talk to them like the person they are.

To learn more about trichotillomania, click here.

Cover image courtesy of Getty Images.