Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Time I Pulled Out a Huge Majority of My Hair Because of Anxiety

High Anxiety is kind of an underrated Mel Brooks movie. MADELINE KAHN, people.

If you ask me right now, "What's troubling you?" I can honestly say in a loud and clear voice, "ANXIETY."

I had an anxiety attack about just writing that sentence. It's been bad this week.

Often, when I mention to someone that I have anxiety, they respond with things like, "Oh! Everyone has anxiety! I'm anxious all the time." But it's not the same thing. Really, it's not. I'll try to help you understand with a tale of anxiety that comes from my true life. It's called...

The Time I Pulled Out a Huge Majority of My Hair Because of Anxiety

Looking back on my life, I think I can safely say that fifth grade was when my anxiety started becoming significant. Probably because I was growing boobs, and that was when things started getting weird. If you have boobs, you know what I'm talking about. You think things like, "Is this as big as they're going to get?" "Are they always going to look this stupid and floppy?" "Can people tell I'm wearing a bra?" and "Can people tell I'm NOT wearing a bra (because I totally forgot to put one on today)?" Furthermore, you think things like, "Are we going to have to run the mile in P.E.?" and "Am I the stupidest ever at math?" Basically, it's like Are You There, God? The Cat Ate My Gymsuit ALL THE TIME. It's a very anxious period in the life of a young woman. (I cannot speak for the experiences of boys, but I can imagine they are quite similar, but with two fewer boobs.)

Some people handle this type of stress well. Some people don't. For me personally, it was this stress that led me to fixating on my hair follicles and pores, like, all the time. There is no explanation for this except that I was obsessed with imperfections in my skin. I believed that if my pores were gross, I was gross. Therefore, over the course of two weeks in fifth grade, if I found an imperfection, I pulled all of the hairs around it in some attempt to "fix it." I would do this without even realizing I was doing it. I would just be sitting and thinking about things and twisting a hair around my finger. Later, I would stand up, and there would be a gigantic pile of hair next to me.

It's called trichotillomania, if you want to get all scientific about it.

As you probably guessed, if you spend two weeks pulling out your hair, someone will eventually notice. And my mom did and although I don't remember her actual reaction, we can pretend that she screamed and screamed and probably fainted. Both sides of my head were totally bald in patches the size of my hands. So, if you put your hands on both sides of your head right over your ears right now, you'll know the significance of my baldness. When my mom noticed, I finally realized how much damage I had actually done. And that was when I probably screamed and screamed and fainted as well.

Now, at this point, you might be wondering a few things. The first is why didn't I stop pulling my hair? Well, because it was a compulsion over which I had no control. It's like if you put a cookie on a table in front of yourself and then try not to eat it. You fixate and fixate and then finally give in, telling yourself it's just a cookie and doesn't matter. Pulling my hair gave me some kind of similarly gross satisfaction. Like I was being bad. I thought, "I really shouldn't eat this cookie/pull my hair, but I'm going to anyway."

The other thing you might be wondering is 2) Why am I telling you all of this when most of the things I say on this site are total nonsense? Well, sometimes I go through periods where I have trouble writing because of my anxiety. I can't concentrate. I fixate on something terrible or the possibility of something terrible happening and will not allow myself to move past it. And I thought maybe I should write about my anxiety during one of my anxious periods. Because what better time to talk about it? Maybe I'll even find ways to make it funny.

Nowadays, rather than fixating on my hair follicles, when my anxiety is bad, I'll check my email 300 times in a row. I'll obsess over something I've done or something I need to do to the point where I will shut down and not do anything at all for several hours. I'll pick at my fingernails or my skin. Or I'll have an anxiety attack. You can tell I'm having one because I start cracking my knuckles or shaking my hands in front of me like I'm fanning myself very quickly. I'll grind my teeth. Or I'll hyperventilate, although I haven't done that in forever. Basically, I turn into Rain Man. Luckily for you, you probably won't ever catch me having an anxiety attack because my anxiety is better when I'm around other people. That's not the case for everyone.

So, where were we? Ah, yes. My fifth grade baldness. My hair grew back, and I was able to stop pulling it. Although, to this day, the compulsion is still there. I went through a phase for a while in my 20s where I would pluck my eyebrows obsessively, every single day, to the point where I developed a permanent bald patch. That is why I have a HANDS OFF policy on doing my own eyebrows and have them threaded every month instead. I eventually went to therapy, and my therapist made me talk about things from my childhood. Then, she said, "Well, you have anxiety," and I was like, "What's that?" And she told me. And it all kind of got better. I finally had a name for my problem.

Now, you know everything about me. I've literally said it all. This is the point of the personal sharing where we make out or whatever, but it's cool if you don't want to.


Anonymous said...

I had a friend who had this condition- also compulsively picked her skin. I think a lot of people have anxiety and it comes out in all sorts of ways.

Btw- do you have a public email address or whatever? For people to write you?

The Honorable Mayor of Bethville said...

Yes! I do. Themayorofbethville@gmail.com

The Honorable Mayor of Bethville said...

I'll post it on the blog. Thanks for reminding me!