Trichotillomania: A Lifelong Struggle

It’s difficult to try to explain to a person ignorant of trichotillomania why your $10 mascara is your favorite, most prized possession. She doesn’t understand, and with good reason. To her, adorning her lashes is a natural, everyday ritual. It’s not much different from brushing her teeth or washing her face.

She wasn’t there when you were still a small child, tugging out your eyelashes with no concept of what that meant. You just knew that something in you felt you should. Your mother threatened you, pleaded with you, demanded you stop. There were no studies, no internet searches, no networks to join. She had no idea what you were doing, or why. Mom was powerless to stop you, and you didn’t understand why you were in trouble for something that felt natural.

She wasn’t there when you grew out of picking your nose and biting your nails, but still couldn’t manage to stop pulling. By now you knew that this was frowned-upon behavior, but it felt good to you, like scratching an itch. You couldn’t stop, and you didn’t really care. You didn’t feel ugly yet. You were homeschooled, and there weren’t any kids around to call you a freak or make you feel bad about yourself.

She wasn’t there through your mother’s ill-advised tactic of shaming you in front of friends and family to try and stop you. It just made you feel worse, exposed and betrayed by the person who was supposed to protect you from harm. It didn’t change your behavior – if anything, you got increasingly anxious and self-conscious, pulling more than before. At this point, it was only your lashes. Your eyebrows looked normal. Maybe it’s not that noticeable, you told yourself. Then your mother stripped that hope away.

She wasn’t there when you started going to public school after your parents divorced. It was eighth grade, and you knew nothing about the social dynamics of middle school. You’d been going through a lot, and the pulling got worse. You’d started in on your brows, and your lashes were in sad shape. People at school started noticing, and kids are cruel. They began making fun of you, taunting you, and asking you what happened to your face. You didn’t know what to do or how to defend yourself. By now, you had no mother figure in your life. You moved in with your father after the divorce. You and your mom had become estranged. You had no one to turn to, no one to teach you what to do, so you became depressed and reclusive.

She wasn’t there when you began wearing dark makeup to try and hide your problem. You wouldn’t learn to apply eyebrow pencil until years later, so for now they remained awkwardly pencil-thin. High school is torturous enough without a physically disfiguring condition that even you don’t understand, and you struggled. You did have friends who cared about who you were on the inside, but you remained shy and insecure. You didn’t date. Ever.

She wasn’t there when you did date, in college. You met a wonderful, handsome boy who improbably loved you just the way you were and you stayed with him for four years. You did not believe that any other man would ever accept you the way that he did. You held on long after the relationship was dead – you were young. You didn’t know any better. When he finally broke up with you, it took you months to get over him. You thought you were ugly, and he had seen you as beautiful. You couldn’t handle losing that.

She wasn’t there when you moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, despite your affliction. You’d had periods of temporary recovery in the past – you told yourself you could do it again. Then, you let your breakup and your excuses sidetrack you. For years. You put off pursuing the one thing you cared about because you were ashamed and insecure about your looks. You had no idea how you would ever face a makeup artist or explain why you could not – ever – go barefaced. No one had ever seen you without makeup, not even your college boyfriend. By now, eyebrow pencil and eyeliner were simply a part of the physical mask you wore to try and hide your pain.

She wasn’t there when you made the difficult decision to go ahead and try to make a real go of the acting thing, despite your fears and shame. She didn’t hear your awkward conversations with agents, directors, teachers, and makeup artists. She never saw you sitting alone, pulling with defiant self-hatred or simple nonchalance. She never saw you curled up in the fetal position, sobbing with impotent fury at your own inability to stop. You knew better, and yet you just kept doing it. You knew it was ruining your life, making you miserable, destroying any chances you had at a career – and you couldn’t stop. This felt unbearably idiotic, and you detested yourself.

She wasn’t there through the few periods of remission, the times when you actually stopped pulling long enough to develop a full set of eyelashes, only to ruin it all yet again. Those were the hardest times – it was incredibly difficult not to loathe yourself for this. You know you can’t help it, but you feel that you should. How hard can it be? Something so simple and yet so agonizingly difficult – your twenty-something years of suffering are testament enough. She wasn’t there when you realized that the endless pulling had taken its toll. No matter what you do now, you’ll never have thick full lashes. You’ll never have eyebrows that grow in enough to go without eyebrow pencil. You’ve done permanent damage, and that you must live with…even if you do manage to stop pulling for good this time.

She’s here now, when you’re experiencing a time of growth and stability. She doesn’t understand because she doesn’t know – but you can change that. You can explain to her what trichotillomania is, and how you’ve suffered from it for years. You can open her heart and teach her to sympathize and understand instead of judge. If there’s one thing you can do with your experience, it’s educate and inform. It’s easier to do this when you are in a recovery period, but find the strength to do so when you’re going through the dark times as well. There will never be understanding without

education.

Demand to be loved and valued for who you are, not for some weird patches of hair on your face. You’ve spent so many years hiding because you’re afraid of what others think of you. Love yourself and value yourself enough to know this: you are not your eyelashes, or your eyebrows. You are not the hair on your arms, your head, or wherever else you feel it’s necessary to pull. People judge because they don’t understand. Edify them.

Know that you are beautiful, with or without your lashes. Your journey is beautiful. Your strength in embracing and accepting who you are – that’s beautiful. Never let anyone else tell you otherwise, sweet, vulnerable trichster. Never.

I Have An Amazing Life, So How Do I Stop Yearning For Love?

In all honesty, I have a wonderful life. I live in a vibrant city full of every kind of person imaginable. The culture is diverse and fantastic, and there is no shortage of unique activities both indoors and out. Nearly every day ripens into perfect weather and both ocean and mountains are at my fingertips. I am employed, I can pay my bills, and I am lucky enough to have a flexible schedule that allows me to do what I like with my free time.

 

Not only do I enjoy my work and my playtime, I am blessed with a large group of friends who provide me stability, support, and best of all, endless laughs. I know that they have my back no matter what – a gift I do not take lightly. I wake up every single day grateful for all that I have accomplished and learned so far. Still, no matter how busy I am or ambitiously I look forward to my future, I cannot shake that nagging desire for a partner to share in my adventures.

 

I have friends who gladly join in my shenanigans, but it’s just not the same. I’ve been through a lot and I feel ready now – ready for the man who wants to skip joyfully down the road of life with me.

 

To keep the longing at bay, I constantly move forward – towards new endeavors, new adventures, and new scenery. Traveling and getting outdoors make me happy, so I strive to do as much of both as possible. Inevitably, at some point everything stops and here I am,  surrounded by love and blessings on all sides and yet also alone.

 

I feel guilty having so much and still wanting more. Sometimes I tell myself, maybe it’s just not in the cards for you to find the right partner. Maybe you’re already pushing it on the luck front. You have so much going for you. Don’t be greedy. That doesn’t stop me from wanting him to drop into my life like some rare magical gift.

 

Despite my impatience, I’m also not willing to force anything. I’d like to meet someone organically. I’m aware that this heightens the risk of me not finding the right man, but I’m taking that chance. I hope that if he’s out there, we will find each other. Call me foolish, but that’s how I operate. I’m keeping my eyes, my heart and my mind open, but I’m not going to kill myself searching. Pushing my agenda doesn’t work – everyone can sense my desperation.

 

Perhaps I simply need a change of scene – I’ve lived in the same place for many years now. Maybe I’m not actually ready for a partner even though I feel I am. It could be that I need to work through more of my inner issues first. Whatever it is, I have to take a deep breath, feel what I feel in the moment, and accept what life gives me at this time. There’s no point in being unhappy with the current situation – it’s too damn good for the most part.

 

I don’t see my heart’s desire for a love that fulfills everything I’ve ever hoped for ceasing any time soon. I’m a romantic by nature – always have been and apparently always will be, despite a healthy dose of realism creeping in as I get older.  It’s a core part of my personality so I have to accept the ache that comes along with it – fortunately, this quality also allows me to keenly appreciate the beauty in the world around me. I won’t take my amazing life for granted, even as I seek that one last missing piece.

How To Cope When You Love Someone Who Is All Wrong For You

You knew better. You tried desperately to suppress your feelings, but you couldn’t resist. You stumbled into the depths of love and now you’re screwed. Every time you told yourself to pull back, to let go, to forget about it … you didn’t. Some irresistable force drew you there in spite of your best efforts to sever the connection.

 

The temptation lies in the surety that the two of you have something special. It’s impossible to deny that intangible spark, the ease of knowing you can be wholly yourself with another human. You discuss, with stark honesty and curious depth, the subjects you barely touch upon with most others. No matter how you attempt to pull away, this person senses you’re becoming distant and reaches out to you. Hardest of all, the two of you effortlessly make each other collapse into giggle fits of delight. It’s maddening. It’s intoxicating. It’s terribly hard to resist.

 

You long to let it go. It’s killing you knowing that no matter how badly you want it, the situation would go entirely sour. You enjoy exploring each other’s minds, but that process reveals that you need different things. It’s not about money, or time, or space, or emotion. Even if you  transcended all of the superficial obstacles, even if you admitted the way you yearn for each other, you could never align your differences.

 

You’ve always liked a challenge, but your common sense tells you that you have to give this one up. There is far too much at stake – a lovely friendship, for one. For another, the happiness and truth of two very separate individuals. You adore this human’s inner workings, but that doesn’t mean they can coexist with your own. Every single day you hold a stern meeting between your heart and your brain and you reconcile the fact that it isn’t meant to be. Then that aggravatingly special someone brings sunlight into your life yet again with some small word or gesture, and all your internal work is for naught. You’re a fool and you know it, but you cannot harness feelings born of a wildly stubborn heart that wants exactly what it shouldn’t.

 

So you keep hurtling down this stupidly destructive path, ignoring all the signs that you should do precisely the opposite. You like the giddy anticipation even though you know it’s bad for you. Your heart aches every single day because you don’t know how to stop loving this person despite the fact that you intrinsically comprehend – for a fact – that you’re doomed to crush your own heart into a billion tiny fragments if you keep on.

 

Know that, in spite of your embarrassment and shame, you are not crazy. When your soul and heart cry out for something within another being, it is the most difficult task in the world to remain strong enough to ignore that siren call. How can you clearly interpret what message the universe sends your way when your emotions messily impede the truth? You are a creature of love, light and kindness. It’s not a bad thing, but it certainly makes life tougher when the stars do not align in your favor. You must remember that try as you might, you cannot rearrange the patterns of the predetermined.

 

Protect yourself, dear sweet giving heart. Treat yourself with compassion. You already have these undeniable feelings, so decide to shelter your heart from further harm. It’s a lost cause, so let it go, without struggle or fear. Let your desires float away from you on the breeze softly, gently, disregarding the urge to grasp or restrain. You internalize so deeply that this seems like the end of your emotional world, but it is not. The root of your soul knows that you are strong and this is a temporary inconvenience. You will rise again and love again, better than before. May you choose wisely and may that affection go to a person who will adore you, cherish you, and willingly walk a parallel path alongside you.

 

Don’t Fall In Love With Your Idea Of Me

I know what you’re doing – I’ve done it myself a million times. It takes a dreamer to recognize one. You tell me I’m an incredible woman, and I appreciate that – but what do you really know of me? Don’t plug me into your dream girl fantasies. I am not her. In reality, I am so much more than she could ever possibly be – but I am messy and I am honest and I do not fit into your brain box.

I am not here to be what some man thinks he wants. I am here to be appreciated by the man who knows that he wants me.

You ask me questions and I can tell with every turn that my answers are not what you predicted. That’s how I know you’re building up an image in your mind, a person that I can not and will not be. Can you remain open to the real woman I am, or are you only fascinated by this mirage in your mind? I see you. I have no pretenses about what you are – I see your flaws and your strengths, and I’m not yet sure how I feel about the entire story. At least I’m aware. At least I’m honest with myself about the man I’m encountering here – I wonder if you can say the same. Perhaps you aren’t aware that you’re obsessing over some fantasy girl while I stand here in front of you in all my imperfect majesty.

Trust me. I’ve been there. I understand exactly what you’re doing. I too have loved the potential in a person without accepting the reality of who he was right then and there. There’s no point in falling for an idea. You have no guarantee that anyone will turn out to be what you hope they will be. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment – I can tell you from experience that it’s not worth it in the least.

I’ve dated men before who loved the idea of me – who plugged me into their fantasies of the perfect relationship. I realized later that it had nothing to do with me, really. I was simply the girl of the moment who could fill the gap in the fairytale in their heads. High on the rush of impetuous romance, I was too young and naive to see what was truthfully at play. Later I’d wonder if any of them cared for the real me at all.

I won’t be duped again. If you want me, approach me with clear eyes and a level head. Throw your preconceptions and prototypes out, because I won’t fit a single one of them. Consider me sexy, by all means, but know that my allure comes from understanding exactly who I am and what I desire. I may be easy-going, flexible, and kind, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you can change me or modify my behavior. I catered to the whims of other people for too many years. Take me as I am or leave me be.

I am magical in my individuality with all my quirks and idiosyncrasies and deserve better than to be categorized or normalized. It took hard work to get to a place where I know and love myself. I’ll never let a man’s idealization of my persona minimize the effort I’ve made. You may not even realize that you’re doing it, but I’m here to gently, firmly urge you – don’t fall in love with your idea of me. It’s not my responsibility to become the image of what you hope I am. It’s my responsibility to live as fiercely, authentically, and beautifully as I can manage.

My Father’s Daughter

I am my father’s daughter.

The proof is in my face, an undeniable carbon copy of his own but in a slightly softer female form. It is in my fierce opinions, my quick flashes of temper and impatience, and my tendency to find humor in strange places. It is in my predisposition to feel sentiment deeply and cry easily. My dad and I both tear up at the drop of a hat. I give him shit about it, but I have the same problem. I secretly think it’s one of his sweetest, most endearing qualities.

My dad has been my only active parent since I was barely twelve, and the road has not been an easy one. I know now that raising an angry, motherless, depressed teenage girl cannot have been fun for a single father. At the time I of course thought only of my own rage at him not understanding me. He was my sole source of support but I hated him at times for not knowing how to help me feel better.

As I became older, I settled down and so did our relationship. We had our struggles but he was always the person I talked to in my times of need. When I moved across the country to California, we made a trip out of it. We had an adventure of sorts, driving through states neither of us had ever seen before. When he flew home, leaving me out there on my own with no job to my name and barely any friends, I cried my eyes out. I’d never felt as alone as I did then. I missed him horribly.

This is the running theme of our visits. He may drive me a bit crazy when we’re together, as family often does, but there’s never an instance when we take leave of each other without some sadness on my end. I’ve grown up and learned that I can survive much more than I ever knew. I’ve learned that I will endure – and hopefully survive – many future obstacles. The one that I fear most is losing my father.

I know that my inner softness is my strength. I challenge myself to remain kind and loving in difficult times. Still, my emotions often prove to be my downfall. I’ve nearly let a few romantic relationships ruin me entirely, but instead pivoted the pain in order to strengthen and grow. It could’ve gone either way, but I reached deep down inside and found some primal, unconscious instinct to survive.

I’m scared that I won’t have that strength when it is my dad’s time to go. It’ll happen eventually no matter how desperately I will it away. I’m afraid that my inner vulnerability will eat me up and consume me whole. I can’t even entertain the thought without collapsing into helpless crying fits. I’m aware that this isn’t love on my part but instead selfishness. It’s a need for someone to lean on, the one person in my life who accepts me exactly as I am. The one person in my life who is always there for me no matter what I say or do.

Until he isn’t there anymore.

It’s a lot of pressure to put on any one relationship, and I believe that a parent-child relationship is perhaps the only kind that can withstand the burden. I know that some don’t. I know I’m lucky to have such a close relationship with a parent at all. My dad is my best friend. I know that some children never get that, and having it, I’m all the more terrified to lose it.

I hate seeing my dad’s mortality because it reminds me that one day the inevitable will happen. I hate watching him grow older, and I become impatient with his recent lapses in memory and attention because it scares me. I just took him to Costa Rica with me as a belated 60th birthday present. As I sit on my flight home writing this, I know that trip was as much a gift for myself as it was for him. I wanted to give him a unique adventure that I know he appreciated, but I just as keenly wanted to give myself an unforgettable memory of quality time with him. A memory to hold close to my heart with all the others someday when memories are all I have left of him.

I am my father’s daughter, and as my father’s daughter, I will not let grief slay me. In my darkest times, when he’s no longer there to talk me through my anguish, I’ll listen to his voice whispering wisdom in my head. I’ll remember that he was always proud of me and always loved me. I’ll remember what he gave me and sacrificed for me. I’ll refuse to crumble, because he would want me to stand strong. He would want me to breathe and laugh and snatch everything I want from life with fearless joy. He would want me to finally love myself the way he loves me.

You got it, Dad.

I Am Woman – Hear Me Roar

I’ve grown so strong. Do you see me? I’m a woman now. In spite of all the issues that still remain, I’ve persevered. I control them. They are a part of me, a part of my history – but they are not who I am. I learned to understand them because you can’t fight an enemy you don’t see. I put in the work and I battled and I came out ahead.

That’s not to say everything is perfect. I have my days, just like we all do. That doesn’t make me weak. It makes me human. Life isn’t always easy, but I don’t get low the way I once did. I don’t let my fear submerge me. I will no longer give it that satisfaction.

It’s not as if I just woke up one day and everything was magically different. I’ve been working so hard for such a long time. Once I accepted that nothing in life comes easy, it wasn’t so difficult to buckle down and adjust my attitude. Yes, it’s been quite uncomfortable. I now enjoy feeling a bit unsettled because I know that means I’m doing the right thing.

There is no change in comfort. There is no comfort without change.

I’m fierce. I’m ferocious. I am a woman newly awakened to her own power. It is a truly magical place to be. I’m not invincible, but I now joyfully embrace my SELF. I love who I am, my strengths and flaws alike. For the first time in my life, I believe in my own boundless abilities.

I was limited before only because I limited myself. Fear is the greatest enemy and I’ve let it dictate my journey for years. The time to reject my fear was long overdue and so reject it I did.

I am finally me. I am wholly, unapologetically, honestly, amazingly myself. After all those days of masks and uncertainty and doubt and insecurity, I burst through the walls and escaped my self-made prison. I can tell you from firsthand experience that the freedom is blindingly beautiful.

I am a woman. Know that I will stand up, I will speak out, I will defend, I will resist. I’ve come into my own and there’s no stopping me. I am a powerful voice that demands to be heard. I’m intelligent and loyal and compassionate and fiercely loving. I’m everything and more.

I am a diamond in the rough, but I don’t need polishing. This fire will never burn out. It’s smoldering quietly, biding its time, and it refuses to die. I’m strong and now that I know it, nothing can ever keep me from reaching my destiny.

I never understood all those years that the only thing holding me back was myself.

I’m unchained and I’ll never voluntarily cage myself again. I’m blissfully freed and I have my own tireless work and efforts and strength to thank. I made this happen.

Hear me roar.

Book Teaser

As with anything, would love any feedback or thoughts. Clearly this is a small excerpt of the book itself, but if you don’t feel like it’s fun to read or intrigues you to read more, please tell me! No point in a teaser that doesn’t tease. 😉

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I smile and look up at his beaming face, glistening with a thin layer of sweat from wearing his silly suit in the unseasonably sweltering sun. “I’d take a picture with a beautiful redhead under my arm any day,” he drawls to the friendly Al Capone impersonator holding the camera. I quickly duck my head, sure that I’m blushing brightly under the perky little hat perched atop my wilting curls. I’ve been pretty quick with the witty comebacks all day, but at this moment I’ve got nothing at all. Intensely aware of our proximity, I smile brightly for our first photo together. Finally I make a feeble quip about how sticky he feels and let go of him under the pretense that he obviously needs to take that jacket off before he passes out in front of everyone. It’s stupid, but it allows me to take some distance.

I wander away from him for basically the first time all day, making the excuse that I must quickly call my father. It’s not a lie, but first I gather my thoughts. The fear and doubt are creeping in on me again and they’re terribly difficult to fight off. I dream longingly of a first encounter as exciting as this one, and when it at long last arrives, I’m scared shitless. It’s laughable. With the potential for great joy comes the potential for great pain. Like I said before – I don’t deal well with pain.

But hey, I’m a bit ahead of myself. I’ve known this guy for exactly two days, so I take a deep breath and spend some time on the phone with Dad. Obviously I don’t bring up Tom, but since my father is my emotional touchstone, it makes me feel better regardless.

Several hours pass, filled with witty repartee and intimate conversation. If you’re feeling skeptical of the speed at which Tom and I connected, think of it this way. We spent upwards of twenty-six hours talking over the course of two days. That’s the equal of a whole lot of dates, is it not? We jumped on the accelerated track to getting to know each other. Plus, I’ve now spent a crazy length of time with him without becoming sick of him in the least. I would say I’m thrilled, but that comes nowhere near describing the sensations running through my body at the moment.

He regales me with hilarious stories of growing up abroad in island countries, due to his father’s line of work. I reveal less about my past, but laugh freely, rewarding him for the effort he’s putting in. I haven’t been truly seen in so long, and I feel his eyes boring deep into my soul, searching for secrets I’m not ready to reveal. I weirdly sense that he’s found them despite my prickly defenses.

Then suddenly concludes the night I wish would never end. “It’s a wrap!” announces the director, and we’re dismissed to return our costumes and fill out all the necessary paperwork. I’m suddenly unsure, awkward, fearful that he won’t make a move. Why would he? No one else ever does. Then again, I don’t feel that Tom is like everyone else. Not one little bit. We continue chatting as I once again gather up my things, but there’s a hitch. “Where’s my phone?” It’s dark out in the tent now and I’ve no idea how I could’ve lost it.

Tom tries helping me look for it, but our joint efforts are for naught. He ducks his head away from me, the shyest gesture I’ve seen from him yet. “I can call it for you if you want,” he offers, attempting to throw it out there casually.

I try to hold back, but a little snort escapes. “Well, it’s on silent, obviously…so I don’t think that’s gonna work. You know…if you want my number you can just ask for it. You don’t have to steal my phone and hide it from me so you can pretend to call it.”

He wheels around to face me, puppy eyes wide in disbelief. “Shut the fuck up. How did you know?”

I practically collapse into delirious, hysterical giggles. It’s been a very long few days, and I need some sleep…but I’m willing to wait. For Tom, I’ll wait. “You shut the fuck up. Seriously? I was kidding! I mean, not about you trying to get my number, but did you actually take my phone and hide it? You’re ridiculous. I mean, that’s definitely going above and beyond. Are you that sure I won’t give it to you?”

He shrugs, still staring directly into my eyes. “I don’t know. You’re kind of a ball-buster. Not many girls intimidate me but I have to say, you’ve been giving me a run for my money. I absolutely love it, but honestly? I figured there was about a fifty percent chance of you laughing at me and walking away, never to be seen again.” He reaches out, touching me purposefully for the first time. I imagine that his fingerprints are forever imprinted into my upper arm, the heat rising up through my chest scorching my lungs. “And I’m sorry, but I can’t let that happen. I couldn’t take the risk.”

We stand there in a fixed gaze for what seems like an eternity but must’ve been about a second or two, my cheeks burning with need. Are you reading my thoughts? If you are, I’m screwed, because you can see how easily you’ve won the upper hand. I’m mush, and I’m terrified. Please, be gentle with me. I breathe a silent sigh of relief as he turns away, rummaging through some leftover debris on a chair in a dark corner. He soon emerges with a self-satisfied chuckle and hands over my mobile device. “Thanks so much for finding that for me,” I jab dryly as I take it back.

I’m so flustered from the current of sexual tension simmering in the air that I take off towards the parking garage without giving him my number at all.