Blog

Trichotillomania

Trich Update

It’s been about a month now since I shaved my head and I have to admit I haven’t made a ton of progress. I wish I could say I had tiny little baby hairs growing where I’d pulled out chunks – actually, that’s true. I do have new hairs. But I also have new spots where I’ve pulled out more hair. I just haven’t been able to keep my fingers away.
I keep blaming these last few months as the reason why I can’t stop pulling hair; I keep saying, “Things have been really stressful” and, “I’ve just been busy” and, “I’ll do better once things calm down,” but…life is busy and stressful. I can’t continue to cope with life by pulling out my hair. And yet here I am! That is how I’m coping with everything.

When I shaved my head, I did it with the hopes that not being able to pull my hair out as easily would help the temptation die down and I’d be able to feel more “normal,” and then start the process of growing my hair out again. But instead of the temptation going away, I’ve just tried that much harder to pull the hairs out. I pinched those tiny little hairs between my short fingernails until I cracked my nails and caused them to split open. And then I cut my nails shorter so hopefully I wouldn’t be able to grasp the little hairs between them, which has just caused my nails to become shorter and shorter until I’ve finally had to start cutting them up into the quick.

I have pulled until the ends of my fingers are raw from my sharp, bristly little hairs and my nails are chewed up and broken and I have bloody, bald spots on my head. I am a mess. I look in the mirror and shudder.

And my sister-in-law’s wedding is this weekend. This coming weekend. As in six days from now. Weddings are supposed to be pretty and everyone attending is supposed to look nice and well-groomed. How am I going to go looking like I just got into a fight with a woodchipper and lost???

I won’t lie – I am freaking out. I broke down into hysterical sobs about it tonight. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to show up to this wedding and pretend like I’m happy and doing well and everything is great. I’m going to see people I haven’t seen for over a year and I’m going to look like the same freaky, bald weirdo as I did when I moved away.

I think that’s what is stressing me out the most – seeing friends and family I haven’t seen in a long time. I was supposed to be getting better and getting a grip on things out here in California, and now I have to go back to Virginia and admit defeat. I haven’t gotten better.

And I didn’t just cry tonight; I pulled out a ton of hair. Yeah, I did. I got the tweezers and just yanked and yanked until the sink was full of tiny little black hairs and there were little pin-pricks of blood all over my head. I pulled them out because I was angry and stressed and I felt like, maybe, if I pulled enough of them out my anger would melt away. Or maybe that I’d release all the pressure bottled up inside my head. Or maybe that I’d look so horrible I’d just have to tell Shawn I couldn’t go to the wedding at all.

I know this is absolute nonsense but the irrational (and incredibly convincing) voice inside me keeps telling me if I go on this trip for my sister-in-law’s wedding, I’m going to die. That’s how worried and stressed out I am! I have this horrible, overwhelming sense of dread like I’m not going to survive the trip. I know it’s ridiculous but I’m still in complete panic-mode.

And let me just add this while I’m at it: I know my problems are trivial. I know there are people with painful diseases, people who are starving to death, people being persecuted for their beliefs, etc., and that my problems are laughable compared to theirs. And that just makes me feel even worse inside because I know I’m such a wimp compared to most people in the world. There are so many people truly suffering right now and I’m complaining about not looking quite normal and having to go to a wedding?

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? (Or even do a better job of acting normal?) Why do I have to blow everything out of proportion and freak out and cause everyone around me to be stressed and upset? A normal person could go on this trip and smile and be happy and enjoy seeing old friends. But me? Not a chance. I have to stress out and pull hair and cry and imagine myself dying in countless scenarios.

I’m sorry this update wasn’t more positive. I know things will get better and I won’t actually die on this trip, but man – right now it’s difficult for me to remember that! I feel like I’m unraveling.

Depression, life

Celebration and Sorrow

The library where I work has a large number of transient kids that hang out there during the day.  They use the computers, read magazines, chat with us, and sometimes even help us ‘manage’ the more volatile patrons.  Many of them openly admit to getting in trouble for minor crimes and have no problem talking about the mistakes they’ve made in their past.  And many of these kids (or at least some of them!) are trying to do something better with their lives.

A lot of these kids are only around for a few days or weeks before moving on to the next town, but others have been there long enough that I’ve struck up small friendships with them and even look forward to seeing them every day.

About a week ago, one of these young guys told me he had a job interview at a shoe store in the mall.  I wished him good luck and said for him to let me know how it went.  Then the next day he came back and, suppressing a huge grin, told me he’d gotten the job.  I was so excited for him!  What an incredible step in the right direction!  It absolutely made my day.  I thought to myself, “Here’s a kid who’s been beaten down by life’s circumstances, he’s made bad choices in the past and gotten himself into trouble, but he’s trying to fix things and make life better for himself.”  It may seem like such a simple, trivial thing but to me it was huge.  I was immensely proud and, honestly, inspired.

Today I found out a different young guy from the library had committed suicide.  I don’t know how or why, aside from the gossip that has started spreading around, but it would  still be heartbreaking regardless of the hows and whys.

I honestly didn’t even know him that well.  I knew his name and I saw him nearly every day, but that was about it.  I don’t know where he lived, how old he was, or if he even had any family in the area.  Nothing.  So why is his death disturbing me so badly?  It’s not because I feel a personal loss – like I said, I barely knew him – but more because it’s such a horrible, mindless tragedy.  To think about what he must’ve been going through in the weeks leading up to that night – the loneliness and stress and desperation he must’ve felt – it just makes me so unbearably sad.

It really puts my own problems into perspective, too.  I know that no matter how bad things get, I will always have a support network to turn to for strength and security.  I have a God who loves me, friends and family – even my dogs offer me incredible comfort.  Did this young man truly have none of those things?  Was he really so alone in the world?  I can’t stand the thought of that.  I can’t stand the thought of anyone feeling that alone and helpless.

I think I’ve learned two very important things this week.  (As if such a tragedy could possibly be summed up into a life lesson.)  First of all, we always have options.  When life gets really hard, we can let the darkness win and just give in to it.  Or we can keep fighting back.  I can’t possibly know what that young man had going on in his life and I’m not judging him at all for committing suicide, but I’m saying we can always choose to keep fighting.  Like the guy who got a job this week and is trying to turn his life around.  We have to be strong and keep finding hope and keep working towards a bright future.

Second, your death would affect people around you that you may not even realize care about you.  (Does that sentence make sense?  Do you know what I’m trying to say?)  I can assure you the guy who committed suicide wouldn’t have known me from a random lady in a grocery store, and he never could’ve imagined how much his death would affect me. When it feels like there’s no one in the world who cares about you or would notice if you were gone, that’s simply not true.  There are people who care about you and think of you that you’re probably not even aware of.  So next time you’re feeling alone and helpless, think about that.  There are always people to turn to who want to help.  Reach out to a loved one, a church, or even the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) if you truly feel like there’s no one else.

Life gets really hard and I understand feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.  I feel like that most of the time, actually.  But suicide can’t be the answer.  God created us for a much bigger and better purpose than that.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dichotomy presented to me this week between the guy who got a job and the guy who committed suicide.  Maybe there are no lessons to take from this and I just have to chalk it up to “That’s life and it sucks,” but maybe not.  Maybe it’s the most brutal life lesson I’ve ever learned from the sidelines.

When life gets tough, get tougher.  Don’t let the darkness win.  There’s always somewhere to turn.  Suicide is not the answer, ok?

(Check out HeartSupport.  They’re an online community focused on encouraging and empowering today’s youth who are struggling with mental health and other major problems.  They focus on the music scene kids but it’s really for anyone.  They are an incredible resource.)

Travel

Enjoy The Journey

Every year, spring makes me itch for adventure.  I don’t quite know what it is but something about the sunny days, blossoming flowers and chatty birds just makes me want to go.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  I feel energized and also incredibly bored with my current surroundings and I just want to hop on a plane and travel far away.  Anybody feel me?

I want to see all the places.  And I don’t just want to – I feel like I need to.  There’s just so much out there and I want to experience all of it!  I crave new places, new sights, new smells, new foods, and new cultures.  I don’t know where my wanderlust comes from but I definitely have it in full force.  I can’t even live in one place too long without getting antsy.  Right now I’ve lived in northern California for just over a year and I am ready for a change!  Something new and exciting!  Like India maybe?  Or Guatemala.  Scotland, perhaps?

It seems like my generation (millennials) is very passionate about traveling…which is awesome except when you yourself can’t travel.  And then you look on social media and see one friend’s pictures from Cuba and someone else’s from Italy and you’re just like…”Why am I still at my house???  I need to be out there!”

I’ll admit it: I get extremely, ridiculously jealous of others my age who are out there seeing the world and Instagramming all about it.  I honestly feel like a failure at life because I’m stuck in one town with a stationery job and no extra money to fly around the world on the weekends.  (I know, I know – the vast majority of people don’t have the opportunity to do that either…but still!)

And then I always think about something my high school principal said once that has stuck with me since then:  “Enjoy the journey.”

He was talking about life’s journey – you know, the paths we take to get us to our goals.  Don’t be so focused on your goals that you don’t enjoy the time you spend achieving them!  And that’s something I majorly struggle with.  It’s hard for me to be content with where I am in life (physically and mentally) because I’ve convinced myself the next place, the next job, the next whatever, is what will make me truly happy.  But that’s just not the case!  We have to learn to be happy where we are in life.  (I’m speaking to myself, here!)

I focus on the things I haven’t accomplished yet.  The degrees I haven’t gotten, the jobs I don’t have, the places I haven’t visited or lived yet, and on and on!  But what I need to be focused on is the journey to those things.  That’s where life truly happens and that’s where I need to learn to be happy.

It’s spring and I am so ready to go somewhere.  I’m ready to hit the road!  I want new places and new adventures so badly.  But that’s just not possible right now for many reasons, and I need to be ok with that.  I need to enjoy where I am in life and find happiness in my current surroundings.  I mean it’s great to have goals, but I can’t be so focused on them I can’t be happy in the meantime, right?  I need to enjoy life the way it is right now.

Whenever I catch myself feeling wistful and itchy for new adventures, I have to remind myself to stop wishing for different circumstances and just enjoy the journey.  I need to learn to be happy where I am in life instead of yearning and hoping the next place, the next adventure, the next change, will be what makes me happy.

Life is the journey, so we should enjoy it!

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.  -Lao Tzu

I cannot be still for long. There is a riot in me all the time. A needy, restless voice in my heart endlessly urging me onward. I ache for new experiences and my hunger for adventure is boundless. My entire life is a perpetual loop of longing for something else.  -Beau Taplin

Christianity

What Do You Expect?

I used to read the news every day in order to keep up with current events.  I’d go to multiple sites to make sure I got a well-rounded view of things, usually starting with the BBC and then checking CNN and Fox as well.  But I don’t do that anymore because most of the news is so insanely depressing.  I know “that’s life,” but man – I just can’t handle it. Especially the stories of extreme animal abuse.  It just messes me up for the entire day and sometimes much longer.

Now I’m going to state the obvious:  There is so much bad crap in the world.  Famine, war, disease, violence, drugs, etc.  It’s horrible.  It seems like every day there’s another shooting somewhere in the United States or Europe and more bombings in the Middle East.  So…why?  Why are humans so incredibly cruel to each other?  Why can’t we all get along and play nice and enjoy worldwide peace and harmony?

Because we’ve taken God out of everything.  Kids are taught in school that we’ve all descended from monkeys.  That there’s nothing special about us – not really – because we’re basically just super-smart primates.  That there’s no life after death and we don’t have souls.  Think about the repercussions of that for a second.  Indoctrinating children with the idea that we’re just animals means there isn’t really any sanctity of life, so murder really isn’t that bad of a thing.  It’s not much worse than accidentally hitting a deer with your car.  And if there’s no God then there’s no judgement, which means there’s no reason for morality, truth, kindness, or anything else like that.  It’s just survival of the fittest.  Which means stealing, lying, cheating, breaking laws, and even murdering others, is acceptable if you’re just trying to survive or get ahead of the game.  And if there’s no God and no Heaven or Hell, there’s no hope.  Not really.  There’s nothing to look forward to and strive towards because after we die we’re just going to cease existing.  That idea is so terrifying to me, I have no idea how others can handle it.

And isn’t this mentality evident after reading just a handful of recent news stories?  Several days ago I read about an eight year old boy committing suicide after getting maliciously bullied at school.  I also read about a teenage girl microwaving her guinea pig.  Then of course there’s all of the recent Facebook Live murders, which have been nauseating to even read about.  How are people capable of such evil?  How can anyone think it’s ok to take someone else’s life?  Or even the life of an animal?

This world is so, so broken.  Without God, we are all broken.  It’s no wonder so many people are full of fear, anger, resentment, and despair, when they’ve been told God doesn’t exist and there’s no hope of anything better than this life.  God is a rock to cling to amidst the storms of life – and without God of course people are floundering and drowning.

I’ve heard many people say, “I don’t believe in God because if he exists, how could he let all these horrible things happen?”  And I understand that – I really do.  There is so much pain and darkness in the world and it makes sense to wonder why God doesn’t just fix it. However, what those people are failing to see is that the brokenness of this world is our fault, and that God has provided us all a way to survive life’s hardships and overcome them with His help.  And on top of that, He is going to fix everything at the end.  We just have to trust Him until then.

This conundrum really bothers me.  I want to fix the world and make everyone’s pain and suffering vanish.  I’m tired, so very tired, of seeing all the horrors on the news that just never seem to stop.  I know I’m going to sound like a naive child when I say this, but I just wish everyone could learn to trust God and work together to make the world bearable!  Why can’t people see how badly we’re failing at everything by taking God out of our lives?  I guess I’m speaking mainly about America since it’s where I live and what I’ve experienced, but I can see firsthand how this country has gone down the tubes as we’ve systematically weeded God and Christianity out of our culture.  If you put it on a chart, you’d be able to see the direct correlation between the dwindling morality (and success) of the U.S. and the attempt to expunge God from every aspect of our lives.  Once God’s gone, there are no rules.  And look at what a mess the United States is in right now!

It’s like watching a train wreck in slow-motion.  The answer to the world’s problems is God, and the world is looking for answers everywhere but there.

In a world headed for self-destruction / the answer is here / are we too blind to see it?           -For Today, “Break the Cycle”

Christianity, Trichotillomania

I Am Free

I was on Pinterest the other night, scrolling through pictures of cute little succulents, animals, and far away places, when a quote caught my eye.  It was Galatians 5:1, which says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

What Paul (who wrote Galatians) is saying is that Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin – we are no longer slaves to our mistakes because Jesus paid for all of them when He died on the cross.  Even after we get saved, we’re still going to mess up and make mistakes and sin, but we don’t have to worry about it because Jesus has already paid our ransom.  On top of that, we now have the Holy Spirit inside us to help us resist the temptation to sin in the first place!  Because of these things, we are truly free.

But I don’t live like I’m free.  I don’t know about you but I definitely carry the burden of my sins even though I no longer have to.  Not only do I feel enormously guilty for past mistakes, I also fall back into the same old cycles and habits I used to fall into.  With God, all things are possible – but I don’t live like they’re possible.  I live like I’m not strong enough to make it through the day, like I can’t carry my burdens anymore because they’re too heavy and I’m exhausted.  But God has made it so that I don’t have to carry all that crap around with me anymore!  I can live free of the sin that used to have a hold over me.

This last week has been incredibly difficult.  There have been a lot of changes at work (most of them negative), and there’s been family drama, and I’ve just been under a lot of stress.  Because of that, I started pulling out my hair.  At first it was just a little bit but it quickly escalated into obsessive pulling, standing in front of the sink for several hours at night just pulling, pulling, pulling uncontrollably like a broken robot stuck on the same task.  After a few nights of this, I had a bald spot the size of a golf ball on top of my head and it was really difficult to hide.  That made me panic and stress out so I pulled even more hair.  I felt like I was losing my mind!  I literally couldn’t even think about anything else except pulling hair.  My fingers were screaming at me to pull and pull and pull.  I had to do something…so I shaved my head.  And I cried watching my three-inch-long hair fall into the bathtub in little curling tufts.  Months of growing my hair back – gone.  And when I looked in the mirror, I was a different person.  I recognized that sad, pitiful, bald girl because I’ve spent a lot of time with her in the past.  But I missed the prettier, more normal-looking, and much happier me that I’d been five minutes prior.  I don’t know when I’m going to see her again.

And I thought about Galatians 5:1.  I’m not a prisoner to this stupid habit, or at least I don’t have to be.  My God can overcome anything which means I can overcome anything with His help…so why am I still living like this hair-pulling problem controls me?  Why am I letting it control me???  I can’t do that anymore – I have to take control back and kick this habit.

I believe with all my heart I was made for more than this.  I was made for more than spending my nights crying and pulling hair, and then spending my days feeling ugly and wishing I didn’t have to leave my house.  There has to be a way I can beat this with God’s help.  I honestly don’t know what else to do…I’ve tried everything I can think of to beat my Trich.  Therapy, fidget toys, wearing a hat, meditation, etc.  Everything.  But that can’t be it; I can’t give up.  I won’t roll over and take it because my God is a mighty God and He is capable of helping me beat this.  I believe that.

Christ has set me free.  I need to live like it.