I May Succumb to Trich but Compassion and Forgiveness will Prevail
In honor of at the Trichotillomania Learning Center’s Trichotillomania and BFRB Awareness Week, here is what it’s like to take my mental health temperature today. It’s clear with a few scattered eyelashes.
I have to say that I’ve been on the losing end of my #trich fight for the last few months and I know that it won’t get any easier for the next few weeks. There are a few emotional events coming up and, knowing that past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior, I know I will be struggling mightily and using all of the tools in my toolkit. One of them, the newest and shiniest tool, will be the cool dual-tool of self compassion and forgiveness.
For the 30 years that I’ve experienced the on-again, off-again need to pull but it’s been within this last year that I’ve identified just how hard I am on myself after a pulling session. It’s taken me that long to realize that the messages I send to myself to combat pulling are not supportive and peaceful but fraught with combativeness and self chastisement. I essentially punish myself for having found a way to sooth myself when life gets to be “too much”, so no wonder there is such enormous emotional pain and shame after the seconds long feeling of relief that pulling provides. I’ve been making the survival instinct within myself into the enemy. I’ve been telling me I didn’t like or approve of me. Talk about a no win situation.
Much like my struggles with BED, my experiences with #trich have left me at different times so ashamed and disappointed in myself that I didn’t want to see friends or family. Especially not family who knew I struggled because they would take one look at me and identify that I was having a hard time. I felt like I had no privacy – no ability to keep prying eyes out of my personal life because I wore my struggles on my person for all to see. And from my perspective, it was like layering different forms of shame because I felt different; I didn’t have hair where traditionally people glamorize it, and then to have the missing hair represent that I was in emotional turmoil, and beyond that, being seen meant announcing my state of vulnerability to the world. Blarf. That sucked and it was HARD.
Over this last year I’ve done some really great work with my eating disorders therapist and it’s helped me to better understand vulnerability, shame and how to protect myself emotionally which in turn has translated into some more proactive healing in my trich journey. It’s a learning curve and I’m definitely still riding it, but I’m better at identifying events where I know I will struggle and can do some work in advance.
Because of this, I now know that an essential part of this work is self compassion and forgiveness. Compassion for knowing that my emotions will get inflamed and that will be really uncomfortable – some situations are unavoidable and the best I can do is be prepared; forgiveness in the event that I am triggered and I am not able to avoid the behavior that has served to sooth me for 3 decades. This is not to say that I won’t be putting in place good nutrition, solid sleep, exercise and mindfulness, it means that if I come back home and I’m missing eyelashes, I will stop for a moment to remind myself that I’m thankful that I made it home, that I live in a loving environment and that I’m ok. I survived. I can love me the way I am – eyelashes be damned. And I will try again.
I will be packing lots of extraneous stuff for my trip like I always do but the two things I’m taking with me no matter what are self compassion and forgiveness because even the parts of me that pull out my eyelashes are parts of ME. They, in their odd way, are keeping me safe and sane as best as they can – but eventually, with compassion and forgiveness, they will understand that I have other, better tools to keep me OK. Until then, they’re still part of the team and I will accept them as such.