This is about to get really deep and really personal REAL fast. #BellLetsTalk day was last week and it got me thinking about my own struggles with mental health, especially something that I have that I never heard about. It is really easy to feel alone when you are suffering in silence, so I am finally breaking mine.
I have lived with Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours since I was about 12 years old. This is something that most people don’t know about me and I do my best to hide. It is also a group of disorders that a lot of people have never even heard of.
So what are Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours? They are a group of habitual behaviours that focus on the body including skin picking (Skin Excoriation), hair pulling (Trichotillomania), and nail biting. Skin Excoriation and Trichotillomania are both in the DSM-V because they are considered “disorders of concern” and lucky me I have both! They are considered Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
I just took this photo yesterday and love it, but when I look at it all I see are my missing eyelashes. You can really tell that I am missing all of my eyelashes accept for a few on the outer edge.
But is it just a bad habit? I can totally stop if I want to right? I hear this a lot and I bet at least someone reading this thinks that exact thing. Trust me, I wish it was that easy. You know the saying “I want to pull my hair out”? Well, that is me all the time and it isn’t just a figure of speech… I actually do.
Sometimes I pull out my hair absentmindedly when I am watching TV or not really thinking. Other times it is like an itch that is driving me crazy and sometimes painful. I feel like a certain hair is bugging me and will end up pulling out a ton of other hairs trying to find what is bugging me. Spoiler alert, I don’t think that it is ever a single hair that is bothering me. Sometimes I pull out my hair when I am really anxious or stressed.
I mainly pull out my eyelashes. I currently have only a few top eyelashes and most of my bottom lashes. I go through periods of having no lashes, bald spots, and almost full eyelashes. They don’t grow back as full as they used to, but at least they do grow back! I do pull from other areas but they aren’t as noticeable as my eyelashes. Sometimes I pull my eyebrows but it is easy for me to fill them in with a brow pencil.
I take a lot of photos and it can be really distressing to post photos because I feel so uncomfortable that people will notice that I am missing eyelashes. People have pointed it out loads of times in person… Why, I’m not really sure? Maybe they are just curious? But they often phrase it like “Wow! Did you know you are missing eyelashes?”. Yes. Yes, I am well aware.
I went through a period of time where I wore fake eyelashes every single day to hide my missing lashes. This was really expensive, but at least I got good at putting on fake lashes, a talent that has come in handy many a time going out with friends. In order to hide my missing lashes, I also always wear fairly thick winged black eyeliner. This helps hide that I don’t have a lashline like most people, because without I just have a pink lid that kind of reminds me of my Grandma Jean.
I would love to have more self-confidence or not feel like I am constantly hiding, and I think this is one of the first steps in that process. Plus, maybe someone will read this that also lives with Trichotillomania and it will help them feel a little less alone.
If you are living with Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours and need someone to talk to, please reach out! I know it you probably feel like you are the only one, but trust me, you aren’t.