Confessions of a trichster

As The Bloggess (www.thebloggess.com) is now disclosing her struggles with depression and self-harm, I’m sure many more than I are also outing ourselves.

I self-harm.  In different ways.  For different reasons.

The most common way I do is pulling at my hair called trichotillomania. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichotillomania

It is calming.  I focus on the broken end and zone out.  The rest of the world blurs and I can’t see or hear clearly.  Minutes will pass, sometimes half an hour.  I have no memory.  Often I do not even realize I am doing it.  It is automatic.

My triggers are boredom and stress.  Anxiety, clutter, deadlines, tiredness, sunny windows, mirrors, and self-loathing work too.

A ‘helpful’ commenter asked the Bloggess to think about her 5 year old daughter seeing her self-harm as inspiration for stopping.  Guilt does not stop something likely triggered by guilt.  I know.

I tried various techniques to stop it.  I used to go up and confess at every altar call I could.  If I really loved God, I would hate this sin enough to stop.

Self-hating techniques backfired, so I tried telling myself that I loved my hair.  Which would work until a trigger happened along.  Angry at my failure, I would punish myself with more tearing or something else like overeating.  Or just name calling and begging forgiveness from God for a worthless sinner chained by sin.

(via pixi-jls-deactivated20101221-de)

If I couldn’t stop for God or myself, maybe I could for my husband.  Maybe I could love him enough to stop.

It didn’t work.

Then Lil’T came along.  I had to stop for her!  Or she would do it too and it would be all my fault!

It got worse.

I don’t have a magic answer.

If I take my vitamins (heavy Bs and Mg) it is much better.  I can manage my triggers a little.

I do this more now after having kids, but at least I don’t punish myself for it.  And I no longer think of myself as the one person with shameful secrets.  That in itself is a relief.

(via ofthefaeries)

12 thoughts on “Confessions of a trichster

  1. Maybe you don’t want to stop. I mean, not that you don’t want to stop. Obviously you have tried to stop. What I mean is, maybe it is your body telling you that you need a coping mechanism.

    I’ve never experienced trichotillomania, but at times I do a 1000 meter stare. I just “zone out” for minutes, or a half hour, or whatever, similar to what you describe.

    The thought occurred to me recently that that state of being zoned out is somewhat similar to the state of meditation. Because of its similarity, I wondered if doing regular meditation would prevent me from slipping into zoned out states. But because recently I have not frequent episodes of being zoned out, I haven’t bothered experimenting with meditation.

    If there comes a season when the trichotillomania really kicks in again for you, it may be worth a shot to try regular meditation for a week or two to see if there is any improvement.

  2. Good for you, prairie nymph. Guilt and shame seem far more damaging and debilitating in my opinion. I don’t know much about trichotillomania (sp?) but I believe Just Zena over at Random Fartings blogged about it once. Is it a type of coping mechanism as The Wise Fool suggested?

  3. Lorena says:

    I think the best medicine is to talk about it. So, good job!

  4. Ahab says:

    I’m not so much worried about the trichotillomania as I am about any underlying issues that the trichotillomania could be a coping mechanism for. You wrote that boredom, self-loathing, and stress trigger the hair-pulling. Maybe these emotions are entwined with depression, anxiety, or some past trauma?

    I’m glad that you’re talking about this, and I’m relieved that you don’t punish yourself over it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  5. D'Ma says:

    {{Hugs}} It’s hard to talk about some things. You should be proud of yourself.

  6. JZ says:

    My 19 year old daughter has had this since third grade. It is definitely a coping mechanism. We ALL have ways we cope with things, this just happens to be yours and my daughter’s. If there was a magic answer, I would have found it with all my momma bear anger at something that literally disfigured my child. I’m glad you finally know that you are not the only one with a secret you considered shameful. Love and accept yourself and take it one day at a time. That’s all any of us can do. (((Hugs)))

  7. prairienymph says:

    Now that I call it a coping mechanism instead of sin, I’m ok with it.
    I have tried meditation. It is work to focus on something that isn’t muscle memory 🙂 I’m working on it, but not too urgently.
    Ahab, I really think I’ve had a great life but perhaps I am more sensitive to things? (I’ve heard many intelligent people are 🙂
    JZ, one of my big fears is that my daughters will do this too. It must be so hard to watch and not be able to do anything, although never underestimate the power of acceptance.

  8. Sarah says:

    Is that what it’s called. Thanks for posting this! I’ve done the same thing for many years and felt worse about it than the things that make me do it. So(rt of) glad I’m not the only one.

  9. Fiery Aries says:

    I came across you post when googling “trichster” and I have to let you know, I have been struggling with it for 18 years. I do not believe it is a sin (and you following up with saying it is a coping mechanism is right!), as a sin would be something that we have a choice over, whereas trich is not a choice, it is a disorder that is in our DNA! There are a few wonderful websites out there with communities in which there are support systems. trich.org is one and trichworld.com is another. I wish you the best of luck in conquering this devastating disorder!

  10. prairienymph says:

    Thank-you for the encouragement and the websites.

  11. K.E. says:

    I do realize this is an old post, but it is new to me.

    It was not until I had read this that I entirely grasped the concept of trichotillomania as a means of self-harm. I knew of it only in terms of a possible manifestation of OCD/anxiety. Thank you for educating your readers.

    As someone who has participated in self-harm in the past, and one who occassionally will lapse into destructive cycles presently, I can appreciate the emotional process you may have gone through to share this (though I won’t assume anything).

    “Guilt does not stop something likely triggered by guilt.” Very, very true.

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