The Power of Secrets: part of my journey with trichotillomania

What could possibly cause an otherwise normal, healthy teenaged girl to wish she had cancer (to explain the baldness) or was a quadraplegic (so that her arms and hands would be useless), or could just die (so that the struggle would be over)?  How about a disorder that no one around me had ever heard of?  How about something that made anyone who noticed stare and whisper and point?

What is it?  Compulsive hair-pulling.  It’s categorized as a disorder that may be related to Turrett’s Syndrome.  It comes with sides of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and some Impulse Control Disorder, all served up on a platter of anxiety and depression.  Nice.   Sufferers lock themselves away from society, avoid fun activities like swimming, and guard themselves from any kind of intimacy.  Constant fear, constant shame, constant failure. 

Helpful friends and family, and even some doctors say things like, “Oh, you just need to stop.”  “Why don’t you just quit?”  Wow.  I NEVER thought of that!  Not in the last 24 years!  (Pardon the dripping sarcasm.)

So, here is part of my story… without the sarcasm. 

When I began pulling as a little girl, I found I could no longer make eye contact with people. I didn’t want them to see I had no eyebrows or lashes. Later on, I switched to pulling the hair on top of my scalp. I had a bald spot the size of a softball with scabs and sores. I felt like the ugliest, most worthless person alive. I didn’t want my picture taken and I was scared to death of being video-taped, especially from behind. This was such a prison, especially at extended family Christmases. I had lied about how I got the bald spot, and thought that if anyone ever knew the truth, they would think I was disgusting and would label me a freak. I couldn’t tell my parents either… my biggest fear was that they would lock me up in a mental institution. I was sure they were ashamed of me and that I was an embarrassment to them. My Dad was a pastor, and my folks were loving, caring people who made a good home for my sister and I. How could I do this to them?  So, from age 9 until age 15 I locked myself away in a prison of lies and concealment to keep me safe from pain and rejection. The thing I didn’t realize was that my thick walls also prevented anyone from helping me, and created the rejection I wanted so desperately to avoid. What was the answer? The only thing I knew to do was add more stones, making the wall thicker and higher.
When I was baptized at age 13, a day that should have been wonderful as I vowed to follow my Savior, all I could think of as Dad poured the water over my handkerchief-covered bald spot was how disappointed he must be in me, and how ugly I must be in his eyes. I just could not believe that there was a loving heavenly Father who accepted me as I was, no matter how many hairs I pulled or how many scabs covered my head. I had to pay. I was bad. I was weak. I wasn’t good enough. All lies… and I believed every word.
The amazing thing about God is that no matter where you are when you begin with Him, He gently takes you from that point and begins to move you forward. He slowly began taking the stones down. The first step was taking a job as a horse wrangler and kitchen help at a Christian camp. I made friends there on a level I never had before. My faltering, feeble trust grew to a point that I was able to tell my 2 closest friends the truth.  And… they didn’t reject me. They now knew my horrible secret, and it didn’t matter to them. They loved me anyway. This was the first glimmer of light into my dark and lonely fortress.

Oh, that light felt good! I began dismantling a few more stones, and more light came in. As more light came in, the less the power of my dark secret. The rules of hiding hair-pulling slowly lost their hold on me. No, I didn’t (and don’t) walk around with my bald spot exposed for the world to see, but I could talk about it with people. I saw that what Satan was using to lock me up, Jesus was using to help others.
 
 

 

I certainly don’t corner the market on pain and suffering, but because I know this pain, I can understand others who are in similar pain. Because I am willing to allow Jesus to touch my raw head, to see my shame, He does not waste my pain. It is a precious tool to touch the lives of others. That doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle. It doesn’t mean that I like myself all the time.  I have bad days. I still pull and pick and fight the internal battles of bitter self worth. The difference? With each passing moment, my “secret” has less and less power over me. It does not define me anymore.  If others see my weakness, I will praise the Lord… for His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

 

He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Advertisements

3 Responses

  1. Congratulations on joining the world of blogs! You’ll add great treasure to the pot! 🙂 Love you, sis. XOXOXO

  2. Jennifer,
    I came across your blog on Trichotillomania today while doing a bit of research on the disorder for a new daytime television talk show. I would love to talk to you about your struggle with Trichotillomania and the progress you have made to overcome this compulsion.

    You can reach me at John.Muske@cbs.com

    Look forward to hearing from you soon,
    -John

  3. i have Trichotillomania since age 12. I am middle aged now. We Are loved. I still pull.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: