The Switch

The hardest part about explaining trich to people is conveying to them why you enjoy/can’t help doing something that most others find painful, weird, and repellent. The second-hardest part, for me, is explaining how I can sometimes stop and sometimes can’t. I usually default to saying something about how there’s a “switch” in my brain and when it’s “on” I can control it as long as I remember to and have a little willpower, but when it’s “off” it’s like no matter what I do I can’t resist that urge.

Well my dear, zero readers: that switch has been on for about a month now, and a few months before that I made it for almost six. So there’s progress! I’m so happy and life is so much easier and less stressful….except for the constant fear that I will slip up. One pull and it’s a slippery slope to more.

There are a few “habit training” apps available that I’ve tried. Most have more to do with organization than actual habit reversal- reminders to work out, drink water, walk the dog, etc. They are definitely geared towards building good habits rather than eliminating bad ones. I have gone through several- one in particular I had high hopes for. It was supposed to put out positive “mantras” several times a day for you to focus on. Just an alert that would appear on your lock screen with a positive message. But the actual implementation wasn’t that great- you could only set the reminder number so high, and since the mantra was random it never seemed to come when I needed it.

The one app that I did like and am still using is called “Quit That.” It’s designed for smokers, but it can be used to track anything really. You simply name the thing you want to quit doing, hit “quit,” and it starts counting. Then any time you want, you can open up the app and see how long it’s been since you’ve done the thing. If it’s smoking, you can enter in how often you did it and how much it costs you each time, so you can also see how much money you’ve saved. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I have to set up multiple “quits” so I don’t lose all my progress if I pull once, For instance, if I go 28 days without pulling that is AWESOME, but if I fall off the wagon once and then not again for another two weeks, do I really have to set that back to zero and lose all my progress? My solution is to keep a separate “just once slip up” quit that I can reset as needed, while still looking at the overall success I’ve had.

I also found it helpful when starting over last month after about a month of doing really badly. I forced myself just to reset the quit every single time I pulled, rather than concentrating on stopping. Eventually I was so fed up with the process of getting out my phone, unlocking it, opening up the app, resetting it, and going back to what I’d been doing before that I really did stop again for real. So maybe flat-out exasperation is the key to the switch for me? Who knows. All I know is that things are going well right now, and I am grateful for that.

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First Thoughts: Why

I wanted to start this post out by saying, “The hardest part about trich for me is…” but then I realized that there were about a dozen different thing with which I could follow that statement. This made me realize that I don’t think there really is one particular aspect of this condition that is necessarily “the worst.” They all pretty much suck.

One thing in particular that frustrates me almost daily, though, is theĀ why.

Why do you do it? people ask.
Why do you do it? my therapist asks.
Why do you do it? I ask myself every day.

The truth is, I don’t know.

It’s not stress. If anything, doing it stresses me out more. The sense of disappointment in myself; hating the way I look in the mirror; the knowledge that I have to get up earlier tomorrow so I can cake on makeup and do my hair to cover up the bald patches… I have a stressful enough life anyway without adding all that. Pulling hair doesn’t relieve stress; it creates stress.

I don’t go into a trance. I know some people do, maybe even most, but I don’t. I’m fully aware of what I’m doing. I think maybe when I first started as a little girl I would do it when I was “zoned out,” but that hasn’t been true in years.

The truth is, it feels good. There’s a sense of gratification that comes with each pull. That tiny little sensation in my eyelid or eyebrow or along my hairline. The gratification when I look at the root of the hair I pulled out and run it along the top of my lip. It just feels good to me, and I don’t know how to explain why. I don’t know what to compare it to. Popping a zit maybe? Popping a joint?

But I don’t feel like I can really tell anyone this. I had a boyfriend for a while who said it was like an addiction, and I should look into addiction recovery stuff to stop. At the time I didn’t really give any credit to that, but now when I think about it maybe he was right. Maybe I’m just addicted to that sensation. That would explain why all the habit-replacement therapy, meditation, self-hypnosis, etc. really only works when coupled with a hell of a lot of will power. I recently managed to quit for three months and I was incredibly happy. I thought I was finally over it.

And then I started again right before Thanksgiving. I’m struggling hard right now, because I still have enough eyelashes and eyebrows that I can make myself look normal. My hairline is looking funny again, but it’s not too horribly noticeable to other people. I’m terrified, though, of losing it all again. Starting over is hard enough; starting from scratch is nearly impossible.

I spent years not even trying, for that reason. Because when you’ve tried and failed, immediately, at something literally hundreds of times, the thought of trying again becomes almost as traumatic as the repeated failure.

But back to the “why.” I don’t know why. I wish I did. Do you know your “why?”