Monday, August 18, 2014

Eyebrows and Nails....and Jamberry?..... OH MY!

So, here I am...SIX months later! I haven't written because, well, I had a complete and total relapse. I have NO eyebrows...again!  It's a catch 22, really. Have nails or have eyebrows...I can't have both.  In order to grow them out I had NO nails.   I mean none. Bitten down to the quick to the point of bleeding and pain.  And I hated it. I didn't have a choice, you see, it was bowling season. And I can't bowl with nails on.  I said that the day bowling season ended, I was getting nails put back on-and I did.   I thought I was "cured." I thought I could handle it. I had done so well...not picking, not pulling, that I thought I could get nails and keep going on the path I was on.  I. WAS. WRONG!  It's embarrassing.  It's humiliating.  And I felt like I was letting people down.  Tom was (and is) such a support. And all the ladies in my phone, too. Telling me how great I was doing. Telling me how proud they were. And I let them all down. I felt ugly (again).  I felt shame. I couldn't stop, though. I watched all my hard work fade away. I was back to not being able to leave the house without makeup on. I was angry. But I couldn't stop. I could literally cry writing this. I went from almost full eyebrows to nothing. Again. I stopped writing because what was the point of writing a blog about overcoming Trich when I couldn't.  I was embarrassed. I couldn't write about how terrible I was doing!!   But my nails HURT when I don't have fake nails on them because I bite them so bad.   My face doesn't hurt with no eyebrows.  So I always chose nails. I like how they look. And then I don't bite.

I know what you're thinking..."just polish them," they say.  "Just use that no bite stuff," they say. "Just get a no chip," they say.  Or here, how about this one...."just stop biting them, then," they say!   Let me tell you-there is NO "just" with Trichotillomania.  You can't just stop. You can't just put your hand down. I so wish I could explain it...but that's like trying to explain how someone feels with depression, or alcoholism.  Unless you have have no idea.

So...enter Jamberry. My fake nails started breaking (one broke all the way down to the quick..ouch!) My friend had started selling Jamberry and I was able to try it while visiting her. I had, at that point, put it on my fake nails, and let me tell you - that doesn't work! They were peeling from the front by the next morning. But anyway...not the point.  She had told me that Jamberry had really helped people grow out their real nails. I figured it couldn't hurt to try. So, as my nails broke, I went home and put a wrap on. For days I had half real nails with JB on, a few fake nails still and one wonky broken one.  ha ha. It was a trip, but I didn't care.  No  joke....FIVE MINUTES after a fake nail falls off, I bite it down to the quick.  Every.Damn.Time.  This time, I made it all the way home from work (20 minutes) without biting the ones that had broken that day. I put a wrap on, and 3 days later, I still hadn't bitten them!  THAT WAS HUGE!   I went to the store and bought acetone to soak off the rest of the fakes.  And finally, after over a week, last night, I soaked the rest off, did the whole "get rid of cuticle" routine (should have taken before and afters of this, but I only took an after).   And then a whole new set of Jams.  2 and a half hours people.   But worth every minute if It means I don't bite my nails.  Some are short, some are super pointy, some are longer and actually have a nice shape.  But we are going over a WEEK without biting.  I have faith that they will eventually be "even" and look nice. Patience.

I was SO SICK  of Jamberry.  Really, just for the fact that it was EVERY post in all my social media feeds and the fact that I was invited (without being asked) to no less than 5 parties per week (sometimes joke).  And now...I will probably be a customer for life.(and I'm posting my pictures)  (so now people are probably sick of me!  LOL).   They make my nails a little stronger-but not like a fake nail) And, it seriously boils down to like $4 per manicure (since I magically used only 3 1/2 wraps for all 10 fingers)- much cheaper than what I paid at the salon for fakes..and cheaper than no chips (which I tried once and bite).  I don't care if  have to do it EVERY week - I HAVE NAILS!

But back to the eyebrows...How does this help that?  With my real nails, I can't pull (as easily).  Fake nails are hard and thicker.  So I could get a good grip and pull.  My real nails bend.  My real nails I can't get a "grip" on the hair with them.  So I don't pull.  It is as simple as that.

To end, I want to make clear, this is in no way an advertisement for Jamberry. I am not selling them. I am not going to sell them. I am simply writing my experiences and what is going to help me overcome a lifelong battle.  I am happy to once again start over and grow my eyebrows (and now nails). I thank you all for you continued support.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Progress Report!

I’ve had a really good week. 

My eyebrows are actually looking like eyebrows.  I get up in the morning and think I still have makeup on!  It’s the craziest thing!!!

Here is my theory….totally uneducated….

As they grow, they get more deeply routed so it is actually more difficult to pull them.  When I am totally stressing out (yesterday) I feel them.  I lightly “pull” on them.   Not to actually pull them out, but just to feel how long they are.            To feel how many there are actually are. There are still spots that are sort of sparse and sporadic, so I don’t like looking super close in a mirror.  That makes me feel like I’m doing a bad job….because I can see every blank spot.  I can see that they aren’t even, and it bothers me.  It’s an interesting adjustment for “putting on my eyebrows” now.

Makeup Application

Before: it was totally drawing them on 100% - it was easy, but took a while. Well, easy most of the time. Sometimes I couldn’t get the inside point to look the same and naturally, the more I tried to get them to match, the more I would screw it up.  Of course, I could see that they weren’t exactly the same, even though I was probably the only one. I really had to learn to stop messing with them. Put them on and be done…even if they aren’t “perfect”

Now:  It’s like a whole new learning process. You would think it would be easier (and it is) but it’s a whole new game of trying to get them to match.  The right eyebrow is where I went a little pull crazy a few weeks ago…so I still have that bald spot on the end. So I start there…I have to actually put some color there first.  Then, the bottom middle of the right has a tiny little empty spot that where the left one has hair.  So, I have to try and put just a little color there, but not too low and not too much.  It’s like I’m trying to fill what just one or two individual hairs would.  And then the same on top.  There is one little “not as full” spot.  Then I have to try and make the fronts match. This is harder WITH hair than it was without.  One comes to more of a point that the other.  The other is more “rounded.” I think there is about the same amount of hair there, but they are, like, totally different!!!!! Talk about driving a girl insane! Then becomes the same problem as before, don’t keep trying because it just makes it worse.  If I keep adding more makeup, it just makes them thicker and thicker…and that just doesn’t look good at all!  LOL!  Now I seriously use 3 different brushes. One for the end, one for the tiny little spots and one for the total fill in across.   

I try not to put too much makeup on them now.  I try and just fill in the empty spots and then fill them “in” a little bit (like a normal person would). It’s really hard. I actually HATE how they look.  I feel like the hairs look all wild and wiry once I put makeup on them. There are still spots that there are only 1 or 2 random hairs and then there are still spots that are empty.  It’s like “ok there is hair here now” so you don’t need as much  makeup, but still not enough fullness to make the makeup “not noticeable” and just make the eyebrows look “fuller.”   And of course, there are spots that hair IS growing that a “normal” person would wax (to make it neater) or even “pluck” on their own.  But…..rule #1:  no pulling even for that!  All that would do is send me into a downward spiral again. So…I haven’t pulled any stray hairs at all!  And I am certainly not at the point to go get any kind of waxing done.

I’m laughing in my head right now…that sounds so funny to me!  Me…getting my eyebrows waxed!!!  Hilarious! 

Progress Picture:  Top- I don't know when. Middle: This Morning  Bottom: With Makeup (I should have taken it at home in the same light...I didn't think about it)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The High School Years

Looking back at pictures, I realize my pulling has gotten progressively worse as I have gotten older. My Senior Picture in high school…I have some eyebrows. Still no eyelashes, though. That was first for me…the eyelashes.  I think that is what was worst for me. Ironically, still is. I mainly pulled from the outsides of my eyebrows.  Reflecting…as I strive for "pull free" now…if I currently pull…it's from the outsides first, too.

I suppose these were probably the worst years. At this point I still had no idea there was a name for this thing that I did. Still thought I was crazy. I remember trying to hide it from everyone. Friends, family, etc. I don't really recall if anyone had ever said anything to me about it. (family, I mean) Peers did (add that to the list of things I was made fun of for).

Tests were the worst. I would sit and stare at my papers, pulling away. I wasn't a good test taker. Psychology, for instance… I LOVED psychology…but didn't "grade" well in it. It was stressful for me, which of course, equals pulling. If I was bored in class-pulling. If I was trying to grasp a concept and couldn't understand it-pulling! I would, of course, try and hide it…..

But figuring out how to cover it with makeup wasn't yet fully in my world. I wore eyeliner but I guess I hadn't discovered eyebrow pencil/powder….so I wore bangs. Let me try and paint a picture.  (awww…screw painting a picture with words…see the picture below even though it isn't the greatest quality).  I SHAVED my head in high school, but I wore bangs. All because I had to cover my eyebrows. My hair ranged from about an eighth of an inch to a spiky two inches..but I always had bangs. I was shocked I ever got asked out…shocked I actually had a boyfriend in high school. I felt so incredibly ugly. I would go to great lengths to hide/cover my face. Anyone noticing and "calling me out" was pretty much the worst thing that could happen. For years, I would literally just start to cry if anyone said anything to me. The amount of SHAME and the TERRIBLE feeling that went with this is impossible to explain. I was this crazy person that pulled my own hair out!!! I couldn't stop, no matter what I did. No matter how hard I tried. Go ahead…try explaining that  to a teenager who is making fun of you.  (I definitely know now…looking back…that If I had known there was a name for it, those years could have been very different for me. But they weren't…and I'll get to that in a later post).

I remember distinctly…my graduation party.  Held at my dads house. My crush of all times actually came.  It started out all fine.  Everyone was having a great time. But then….we started wrestling. It was like heaven and hell all at the same time. I had contact with him. It was like he was "flirting" with me.  I should have been over the moon, right? No.  All I could think about was don't look at my eyebrows.  Don't touch my face. Don't get too close to me, or you'll see that I'm nuts. (I have a picture from that night, too….it isn't good) I hung my head in shame fearing that people would get close enough to see…and would say something. This was my party, and I was in fear through the whole night of someone "noticing". (wow…I could cry reliving all this right now). I never wanted anyone to take any pictures of me.  I was constantly "fixing" my bangs, making sure they were covering the right spots.

I remember graduation day.  I had to wear the cap and had to try and fix my bangs just right so that they didn't look totally stupid under the cap, but still, you guessed it, covered my eyebrows. I remember dances…being afraid to dance because I would get all sweaty.  Sleepovers were a form of torture…having no makeup on and waking up "fresh faced." It consumed my life. Trying to hide it. Ignore it. Cover it up. Explain it away. And yet…still….nothing from my parents.  No one ever said anything to me.  No one intervened.

(My Senior Picture for the yearbook.
 You can see on my right eyebrow, there isn't much there at the end)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I have a Bald Spot

Yesterday was a BAD day! 

What are the triggers? What makes pulling worse? Stress! Boredom. Frustration. Anxiety. Fear. Uncertainty. Nerves. 

But STRESS is by far the number one trigger.  Yesterday was a stressful and frustrating day. Pretty much right now my whole life is a little stressful and I am amazed how all of sudden, NOW, I chose to try and quit!  Ha!  (and somehow seem to be succeeding) But yesterday…I left a bald spot.  A day in the life….

I sit at my desk (problem number one is I have a desk job…lots of time to do things with my hands). I do part of my job on Instant Message, meaning…while I am waiting for the person on the other end to respond…my hands are idle.  So, I pull.  Usually, I am waiting for them to be nice to be me with what car they decide to take back for whatever car it is I need from them.  I'm anxious…so I pull. Add to that normal daily task the fact that for the life of my dealership, we can't manage to keep keys where they belong. This may not seem like a big deal, but it!  So…I sit at my desk and I start to pull. "One.Two.Three.  STOP! STOP! Four. STOP. Five. OH MY GOD…..STOP!"  There is a little pile growing on my paper in front of me. I look at them. They're so long. I have a silent conversation with myself on why I can't stop.  As I am staring down at the paper with several (very long) eyebrows I have managed to grow…my hand is STILL feeling my face. I manage to put my hand down. I blow away the evidence in front of me and change the subject in my mind.  "Go back to work, stop thinking about it"  five, four, three, two, one….I'm pulling again.  I don't even know I'm doing it.  Repeat last 3 sentences.  

I do this all day long.  I know I'm going to be mad at myself later. Shit, I'm already mad at myself, and I haven't really examined the damage yet. I chastise myself on all that hard work / time that is now just poof gone.  And that I have to start all over…Again!  Oh, and it wasn't just the eyebrows. As my eyelashes grow, I find that I can't stand the feeling of the ones in the middle. They're gone. I went full force tweezer action on those! (Rule #1 when trying to beat Trich….GET RID OF THE TWEEZERS!  Haven't managed to do that yet…) A trick is to freeze them in a block of ice…because you have the "safety net" of them being there, but the idea is that by the time you melt them and can access them, the urge to pull has gone.  Again….mine are NOT frozen. 

So I got through my work day and came home.  Stress number two.  I sit in my upheaved living room and don't even know where to start. Moving in three weeks and I just am at a loss. I sit on my couch, and start to pull…again…..more.  It feels good to be able to actually grab at something (since the eyebrows are, in fact, growing).  So more get pulled. More time and hard work gone. Damn it! I eventually talk some sense into myself, get my butt off the couch and start packing. Finally, I stop pulling. I'm moving. Doing. Working. Hands are busy.  I finally stop obsessing in my mind.

And then I go wash my face.  It deflates me. Totally. Why? Why can't I stop? So Angry! I take off my makeup and there is a total bald spot from the day. ONE day. How many weeks to get here and it's ruined all in just one small day.  The spot is actually tender and red today from how much I pulled all right there! 

This morning I took pictures. I figured If I'm going to document this in words, I should document it in pictures, too. So…Here is where I am today. I have more eyebrows than I have had in 23 years. Twenty-Three YEARS! The hard part is to KEEP them!  Eyelashes are much more tricky (no pun intended) to keep. They poke me.  I feel them. I see them. Baby steps.  I'm super happy about actually getting the courage to go outside my four walls without makeup on because to a normal person, my eyebrows just look a little "thin" and most people probably wouldn't even think twice about them. It's just all in my brain that it is "obvious" that I pull. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Severity Level

Ok….Let me start with, in the beginning, this blog might seem a little "all over the board." I'm going to go from the very beginning to (basically) NOW.  Talking about what it is like for me.  And I'm sure you're all wondering, what about all the years in-between. I'll get there. I promise. But for now…

There are sooo many different severity levels of Trich.  Just like anything, I'm sure. People say they bite there nails and I'm all, "um…really? I'd kill for nails like yours"  You get the point.   So let me explain just how deep my Trich goes. I have read a lot (and I mean A LOT) about Trich.  I have read that it's just hair and that if you "skin pick" you are in a whole different "disorder" etc.  Same with nail biting, etc. Experts can't seem to agree on what falls into what category. They also can't seem to agree on if Trich is the same or just similar to "obsessive compulsive"  The difference (the argument is) is that Trich is is subconscious and  OCD is not.  If you are OCD you KNOW what you are doing, and you just can't stop. Trich, "they" argue….you don't even realize you are doing it…and therefore, they put it in a whole different category on it's own.  I'm here to tell you….I don't give a shit what they say.  Here's how it really goes.  It's true, When I first start to pull, I have no idea I'm doing it.  But once I consciously realize I am….it doesn't make it any easier to stop. Especially if I have found that one hair.  When you have trich and you find that one hair…the one that feels can't stop until it's gone.  So, yes, even when I realize I am in the act of pulling it is almost impossible to put my hand down until I "get it."  And then….well, it's downhill from there. See post 1 where I talked about how it feels good. A sense of relief. Like scratching and itch.  Hence the downward spiral of having a full blown "pull session"  followed with the guilt and shame.

But I digress.  I was talking about levels of trich and what all is included in the category.  Hell if I know!!!! I pull my eyelashes out.  I pull my eyebrows out.  But I don't stop there.  I bite my nails. For those of you that know me, you know that I've had fake nails on, well, basically, forever.  It stopped me from biting my nails but made pulling worse (because it's easier with nails). Now reverse it.  In the spirit of really really trying to stop pulling I've taken my nails off, but I bite them till they bleed.  No joke.

I have NO eyelashes.  None. I have NO eyebrows.  None.  I have NO nails.  I hope my next statement doesn't offend anyone because it is just how I relate.  I have always said about myself, "I feel like a cancer patient when I have no makeup on"  My face is a total blank slate.  Maybe a blank porcelain doll is a better wording, but you get the point. (I should disclaimer this paragraph with "at my worst."  As I work on healing and NOT pulling…at the current moment, I don't have "none" but …. I had a nice set of brows going and then had a "session" and started all over again….with none. The majority of my life, up to and until this point of trying to heal, NONE very much was the case).

I also bite the inside of my lips.  I used to bite my cheeks, too, but somewhere along the way, that just stopped.  My dentist asks me EVERY.TIME. if I chew (tobacco).  People stare at me.  Clearly I look funny when I do this, distorting my face as I chew my lips to nothing.  It feels the same to me. Has the same sense of "relief."  Impossible to explain.

I also, in the spirit of trying to "divert" the pulling from my face, have pulled out my leg hairs.  I have never admitted that to anyone before. It's not exactly something you just go around telling people.  So, let me be clear…this is not easy for me. I could sit forever with a pair of tweezers and pull out all the hair on my legs.  I know…"doesn't that hurt?"  No.  It feels good. The idea (and I read this as a real remedy) is to satiate your brain so you don't pull in more obvious places.

But never, ever the hair on my head. I have always wondered about that.

I can't leave my house without makeup on.  I am a prisoner in my own body.  And I hate it. Even as I sit and write this…as I pause between sentences I immediately  start to chew my lips.  Scratch lipstick off any routine of mine!  People tell me, "try fake eyelashes." (so sweet).  They require something to adhere them to in the first place! Even worse with the fancy extensions salons now do.  They have to have something to glue them to. I only have skin.  There is NOTHING there.  Swimming? Forget about it! HA! God forbid I get my face wet. My eyebrows will come off.  Or worse…they'll come HALF off! (Sidebar:  A friend of mine just recalled a night that we went out dancing, and half my eyebrow sweat off and all she had was a red lip liner…we filled that bad boy right on in.  It was dark! True Story).  When I was in high school and had to take swim in Gym it was terrible.  I had to put my makeup on just to put it on again. I tried like hell to not put my face in the water (but I also wanted to pass!) I wouldn't do anything that might upset my face.

So you're probably wondering about the Triathlons.  I found (as usual, it was discontinued…the good stuff always is) a Waterproof makeup sealer.  (made by benefit…it was called 'shelaq').  I go into triathlons, and any race really, with full on makeup.  I have goggles that are a different fit so that (hopefully) they don't wipe off the makeup. Ideally, the goggles will work the FIRST time I put them on so I don't have to touch and adjust. When I take them off, I start at the bottom and they come right off. During Transition, I whip out my mirror and makeup and fix them before I start on the bike.  ha ha…no….I'm just kidding…I don't do that!  On the bike, when I am sweating, I do, however, take great care in not wiping across my brows. (oh yes, all this thought WHILE I am racing). And at the end…go ahead…go back and look through my pictures….. Not very many without my sunglasses on!  Pathetic isn't it?!?!  Ideally, this year, you'll see some pictures WITHOUT my sunglasses!

So, my severity level is high.  Extremely High.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Beginning

I remember my first time. We (my Mother, sister and I) had recently moved. I was sitting in the living room.  On the "comfy" chair. I wasn't watching TV. I wasn't doing anything….I just sat down and started pulling out my eyelashes.  I have no idea why. I can't remember any details leading up to the physical pulling that day.  I pulled and pulled and pulled them out.  I would rub them between my fingertips.  I liked how they felt. Then I set them down. I collected them. Put them all on the arm of the chair.  Lots of them.  It was a growing little pile.  And then, when I was done, I got a sandwich bag, and I put them all in a sandwich bag. That is where my memory of that first time ends.  I must have saved the bag, but for how long I don't know.  

What is "trich" you ask? Well, it's Trichotillomania and the dictionary defines it as "a compulsion to pull out ones hair."  I have also read other "definitions" such as: 

"Trichotillomania is a rare psychological disorder in which people have the strong compulsion to pull out their hair. It is an impulse control disorder that can involve pulling hair from the scalp and also from various other parts of the body such as eyebrows and eyelashes."

I have also read "it is a stress onset obsessive compulsive related disorder" (insert pull your own hair here)

Some people pull hair from their head. (I have never done this, or had the urge to). Some people pull only from either their eyelashes or eyebrows.  I pull both. Some people eat the hair. (I have never done this, or had the urge to). Its the feeling of the hair. Its thicker….longer.  And it feels GOOD when you pull it out. The best way I have come to explain it (to people that are usually looking at me like I have two heads) is that it is like scratching an itch. You know what I'm talking about…that itch - in the middle of your back - that you CAN'T reach..and then…you get someone to scratch it for you and you're like, "Ahhhhhhhh!!!"  That is what it is like. It feels good. It is a "pleasure".  Oh but that pleasure doesn't last long. It's followed with immediate shame and guilt.  I hate that I do it. I hate that it has control over me. 

I had the thickest, longest, darkest eyelashes. I remember getting compliments on them. I remember.  There is still a picture of me on my parents refrigerator. Man…They were amazing.  And my eyebrows--the same way. (I would have had to do something about that as an older version of myself.  There would have been some waxing, some threading, something…cause that just wouldn't have worked out). But…I suppose I took care of that myself. By getting rid of them all. 

At school, I would use my eraser. It gave a better grip on the hair.  My fingertips would hurt because of the pressure of squeezing my thumb on the eraser. I would still make little piles on my desk.  I would still rub each eyelash in my fingertips. When I was "done" I would blow them all away. Eventually, it was really noticeable. So, I wore bangs. To cover up my eyebrows so you couldn't see the patches.  I did this (wear bangs) all into my adult years (on and off). My parents, if they noticed, never said anything. The only person that ever confronted me on what I was doing was my Fourth Grade teacher, Mrs Fechtner. She would tell me, right there in the middle of class, to stop. So then I had to try to hide it. To try and do it when she wasn't looking. Because I HAD to do it.  I couldn't stop.  Thinking back, I wonder if she knew this was "a thing" and was trying to help me.  (I had no idea it was "a thing" at this point…more on that in a future post). I wonder if she talked to my parents about it.  If she did, again, they never did anything. I wonder to this day, if someone-my PARENTS-had DONE something, if I could have been treated early. But I wasn't.