Anxiety Makes Me Pull My Hair Out

When I was in school, studying for my exams felt like the most important thing in the world. It’s hard to explain now that I have completely left academia and am more emotionally distanced from that place, but I quickly became convinced that my existence only mattered if I got good grades, you know? As regular readers of this blog will already know, I was somewhat surrounded by people that didn’t believe I belonged in the mainstream education system, most especially my peers and teachers. With this, of course, there was always something to prove. Nobody was at all sure that my life would amount to anything meaningful beyond my schooling, so this was the one thing that I had. My one chance to show everyone that my brain didn’t always let me down. My one chance to provide them with evidence that I wasn’t completely useless. Although my family were endlessly supportive regardless and this pressure came from nowhere except myself, it was a level of stress that I wasn’t equipped to handle in a healthy way.

Eventually, I started pulling my eyelashes out, which is about as sexy and glamorous as it sounds. I couldn’t explain why, I just knew that this behaviour made everything feel more manageable for a little while. However, it wasn’t long before this was bad enough for me to develop infections even more frequently than I’d otherwise been used to, so I had to stop. I had to find another way to feel in control. Unfortunately, though, the story doesn’t end here. It turns out that this type of thing can very easily twist into a compulsion. Translation: stopping is far from simple — especially when you’re a teenager. It’s actually quite scary.

I was okay for a couple of months, if I’m recalling properly, then I moved onto my eyebrows. I can’t remember what triggered this exactly, but I was able to rationalise it in the beginning: just like waxing, if I can manage not to get carried away. Without even always being consciously aware of it, I have now been pulling my hair out in various places for the past eight years. What started as a way of finding control within stressful situations has instead started to control me. Whenever I experience any particularly overwhelming emotions (good or bad), this is where I turn, even if only through boredom.

A drawing titled “new years resolutions” by @crazyheadcomics on Instagram. It’s a piece of paper on a yellow background, which reads as follows:
“be nice to myself
stop putting unrealistic expectations on myself
aim for progress instead of perfection
do life at my pace
recognize the small cozy moments of everyday life
ask for help when I need it
get through the year the best I can, and cheer myself on at every step”
I’m leaving this here as a reminder for myself and everyone else. Let’s try and be gentle with ourselves, friends. You can follow the artist, Matilda, on Instagram here.

So, why am I choosing to write about it now, with no inspirational story of recovery or overcoming hardships? Because in 2022, I’m determined not to run away from my problems — or hide them in order to make my presence more digestible for everyone else. I intend to be painfully honest about these things, even when they’re not pretty. I intend to set myself free from shame. Mental illness can be messy sometimes — that’s always important to talk about, even before it becomes cool in October. It’s hard to be a disabled person right now, let’s be honest. Still, this is me, deciding to take back power and believe that my beautifully complicated self is worth investing in.

Megan, thank-you for always being so open about your own journey and inspiring me to be brave for a second, even without realising it. Imogen, thank-you for the pep talk when I got scared to post this. You are wonderful. xxx

7 thoughts on “Anxiety Makes Me Pull My Hair Out

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I have suffered from trichotillomania since I was 11, after major surgery on my leg. I feel you 100%. It’s important we talk about this! Your strength is inspiring.

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    1. Well, now I want to CRY???? Thank-you so much for that because I have probably never felt so validated??? I also found the surgery I had to be destabilising, so you’re not alone there, either. I think you’re wonderful & would love to be friends, if you’re comfortable with swapping details somehow. (No pressure if not — I totally understand! The offer will always be there.) 💗

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    1. I’m CRYINGGGGGGG. Thank-you so much for this. I think I might have said this before, but even more than ever, I see myself in so much of your story. I feel so deeply honoured to be even just a small part of your healing. Thank-you for reminding me that I’m not alone. You are a wonderful person and I’m gonna message you with my details as soon as I figure out how, lmao!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this. The feelings you describe remind me a lot of what my friends who cut have described, just with a different sort of medium. It’s a feeling of everything being out of control, but then having control over that one part and experiencing a release, even if the results are less than desirable. But also, forgive me if I am putting words into anyone’s mouth. How can we FEEL without punishing ourselves? That’s something I need to answer for me first. As always, you are doing a fantastic job at being honest, and you are going to be light years ahead of everyone else in understanding human nature. I hope you know that.

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    1. You have nothing to apologise for! I totally understand what you mean. There’s so much intensity attached to pain or otherwise self-destructive behaviour, physical and emotional, especially when everything else about the world feels a little bit numb. I am working through it all in the best way that I know how — writing in this little corner of the internet. A group therapy of sorts, lmao. I am constantly trying to learn and grow in amongst it all, you know? To use my experiences as fuel for better, instead of letting the dark side of it all consume me completely, as my younger self did for such a long time. It’s nice to hear that I am, at least in part, succeeding! Take care of yourself, please 🧡

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