what i want you to know about trichotillomania

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Emily.

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My son was born with this beautiful shock of platinum hair... it was almost silver and seemed to glitter in the sunlight. As he got older, his hair lightened up, and grew into this beautiful, thick head of hair with just the right amount of curl. His hair is already his trademark at 20 months old, and now it is changing again, growing thicker and darkening into a surfer blonde, the kind of hair women pay hundreds to mimic in the salon. His hair is the same shade as my hair, only so much more beautiful.


He was sitting on my lap the other day, and I was playing with his hair when I noticed a black hair, a dark streak in his golden head. I looked at that hair, touched it to see if it was thicker than his other hair. I tried to isolate it from the other hairs, seeing if I could get ahold of it by itself. I didn't dare slide the hair between my fingers because I was afraid the temptation to pull it would be too strong. I told my partner and mother-in-law about it, they smiled, just me being me, and said his hair is just changing. I let his other hair fall down to cover the black hair, and then I found the hair again. I told them I wanted to pull it, they told me not to. I promised I wouldn't, brushing it off as a joke.

I thought about that hair all day long. I tried to find it at dinner, and before bed. And the next day when he came to sit on my lap, I checked to see if it was still there. But I didn't pull it.

I have trichotillomania, and I pull my own hair out. I am especially prone to pull hairs that are "wrong"; Black hairs, thick hairs, hairs that are too light, hairs with split ends, hairs that have a strange kink in them, even if it is only from a ponytail holder, and hairs that just don't "belong" all have to go. I will pull hair from anywhere on my body including my arms, underarms and pubic region.

I am lucky. My case seems to be pretty mild. I have never pulled so much hair that anyone would ever notice it. And there has only been one time in my life that I had bald patches. It was after a break up, and I pulled a patch out behind my ear, and another about the size of a quarter from the top of my head. When the hair behind my ear grew back, it grew in with a curl. Every time I see that curl it reminds me of what I did, and I am equally torn between making sure I never do that again, and wanting to find out if it would come back curly if I pulled all of my hair out.

I want to say that this black hair is the first time I have felt the urge to pull one of my son's hairs, but it isn't. I pulled one of his hairs a couple months ago. It wasn't especially dark, but it was "wrong" and didn't belong. He didn't even feel it, and at the time it felt like the right thing to do, but I am crying now as I type.

A coworker just saw me pull a hair out (it was black) and "getting caught" just brought me back down to reality. Time to get this under control again. I'll put my hair back in a ponytail and leave it there until the urge to pull my hair goes away. I can do this. The urge only pops up every once in a while now, and I caught it soon enough that I can stop it, even though my the hair on my head itches to be pulled as I write this. I will not pass this on to my son. I will not have him pick this compulsion up and have it worse than me.

I will not have my son believing that there is even one single hair on his head that I don't completely love.

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