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.
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.
Éowyn, thank-you for listening to me talk about all of this and being so gentle with helping me work through it, even though it’s taken a long time. To say that I love you never feels like enough. I can’t wait to see you. 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