Something that many people don't know about me is that I suffer from an impulse control disorder. Trichotillomania, to be specific. You've probably never heard of it, but if you have I commend you, as you're one of a rare few.
You probably could infer what an "impulse control disorder" is from the name alone, but what is Trichotillomania? (Or as many of us with it call it: Trich.) "Trich" is the almost incessant urge to pull out body hair. Some pull from their scalp. Some (like me), pull their eyelashes and/or eyebrows. Some pull their arm and/or leg hair. Some even pull the hair down there.
Yeah, it ain't too pretty.
For me, it comes in waves. While Trich is an impulse control disorder (meaning, no matter how much you don't want to do something, you really, and I mean really, can't fight the urge), it also is an anxiety disorder. I've had pretty bad anxiety my whole life, like probably the worse-than-average kind. My Trich flares up in times of stress, specifically when I'm studying for a test, doing homework, etc.
The evil thing about the condition is sometimes you'll start to pull hairs without even thinking about it. Trich's subconscious nature is what makes it such a monster. Like, you could be writing an essay in deep thought, and then be unknowingly pulling out your eyebrows at the same time.
I've had Trich since as far back as I can remember. It was a lot more noticeable when I was younger, but I can't say that it was necessarily more serious back then. I'd say it's about the same, as I write this missing about half of my right eyebrow (which is conveniently covered by my bangs.)
My Trich used to be much more noticeable, as for the majority of my childhood... I. Didn't. Have. Eyelashes.
Despite the fact I had a thick monolid and had the "Oh, I have short eyelashes because I'm Asian," excuse, I still was often questioned about my eyelashes or lack thereof. "Why don't you have eyelashes?" or "Where are your eyelashes?"
It's fair to say that up until a few years ago, the word "eyelash" was a trigger word for me. I hated the word. It made me feel everything that I associated with my disorder and having no eyelashes.
Shame. Embarrassment. Resentment. Ugliness. Weird. Unnatural.
I always wanted to stop — trust me. But stopping was and still is easier said than done. I had a few reasonings back then behind why it was so hard to let them grow back in. One was that if I did decide to grow them back, I was afraid I'd look drastically different to my friends and family. I'd always hated unnecessary attention — I'd do anything to avoid a personal "spotlight," even if that meant being eyelash-less for half of my childhood.
The second reason was the fact that I just couldn't help it. I'd go, say, a week without pulling. I'd be extremely proud of myself. I could see my little black eyelash buds peeking through, and would start to feel a bit more "normal" looking...almost pretty. But then, I'd be in bed one night, thinking about school, or drama — something a bit stressful. Back then I didn't have any good stress-coping mechanisms, so my one solution would be to pick and pick and pick until there was nothing left.
It felt so relieving at the moment. As if every eyelash I pulled removed one of my problems or stressors. But soon after the fiesta, I'd come to realize what I had just done. I'd reach my hand up and feel my bare eyelid and tears would come to my eyes. All the progress I had made toward "having eyelashes" again would have been erased in that split second. And to top it all off, yes, my real-life problems would still be there, except I didn't have a way to make myself "feel better." I still remember that empty, disappointed feeling I'd get in the pit of my stomach.
This cycle continued for five years, until the eve of my 11th birthday. I remember this night specifically because it was when I finally conjured up the courage to "tell" my mom about my problem. She obviously knew I didn't have eyelashes. But I had to verbally tell her in order for me to feel a sense of allowance to let them grow back in.
To me, telling her would be the only way I could "solve" the issue, cause I was too scared to do it on my own.
It probably took an hour to tell her. As I mentioned before, "eyelash" was a trigger word for me. I just couldn't say the word. I couldn't even write it down. But after many sobs, and charade-like questions around the topic, my understanding, and wonderful mother figured out what I was so upset about. She gave me a long hug and told me to try letting them grow in again.
And so I did. I was finally given the green light I'd been waiting for, for five years.
While I may have eyelashes today, my condition still lives on. I still pluck when I get anxious, when I need to do something with my hands, or when I'm bored. My Trich has mostly moved to my eyebrows, which has made the prospect of growing out my bangs (that I've had since middle school) a bit uncomfortable. But regardless, I actually am beginning to grow them out. I've come to realize that hiding my sparse eyebrows will only make my journey with Trichotillomania more cumbersome.
I wish I could end this article with some epiphany or deep moral lesson that I've come to learn from having Trich. But to be completely honest, I'm still in the heat of it myself, and am still learning how to coexist with it.
This condition is not curable, so like all my other flaws, I'll just have to learn to accept it as part of my imperfectly perfect self.