Trichotillomania, for anyone unfamiliar with it, is also called “hair-pulling disorder,” which gives you a good generic idea of what it entails. Essentially, it’s a compulsion to tear out your own hair. It is often caused by anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it kind of sucks.
I’d been struggling with it for two years before I knew there was a name for it, and this fall it will be eight years since it started — during what I now consider my first proper depressive episode.
My trichotillomania is focused on my eyebrows, with occasional detours towards my eyelashes and nose hair. There’s something satisfying about tugging at something and having it come out, and once I start, I have a lot of trouble stopping — even though I feel pretty gross right from the get-go.
I already wrote about my history with it. It’s one of my most popular Google Search posts, but it only covers up to two years ago. My year in London caused pretty major changes to the way I saw my eyebrows, so I thought an update was in order.
We left off at a time when my trich was mostly under control; I had occasional relapses, especially when I tried to write, but I’d quit doing that, so it wasn’t as frequent. I had eyebrows again and everything — thin, sometimes barely-there brows. The hairs are also pretty coarse, I imagine from pulling them out so often.
Most of this is still true. The main difference is I accept my eyebrows now. Unfortunately, my trich is an actual disorder; even if the reason I went for my eyebrows instead of the hair of my head was, originally, that I hated them and didn’t know how easy it would be to pick up a pair of tweezers and not doom myself to a chronic impulse disorder, I did, in fact, doom myself to a chronic impulse disorder.
But: I have thicker eyebrows now. I have eyebrows that makeup artists can work with. That is the real change here. I no longer constantly pluck them. I do, sometimes, but not as thoroughly, not as extremely. I like them. On some level, I knew before moving to London that people purposefully filled out their brows with shadow and pencils and products; that thick eyebrows were in (I haven’t gone that far with liking those) and invisible eyebrows are weird (I knew this properly, on all levels) and, essentially, that my teenage self was a really clueless, really insecure girl. Standing on the mountain of her self-important ego. But that’s not the point.
The point is makeup artists made my brows more noticeable. They shaped them and they darkened them and they straightened them up. And I looked great.
Now, modeling has given me zero confidence about whether I’m pretty or not — I still dislike my face, and I know I’m not a stunning beauty, and sometimes I feel like I’m opening myself up to scorn by modeling at all, presumably because scorn has reached me a time or two. (“You don’t know anything. You call yourself a model.”) But on the eyebrow front, it has been awesome.
My relapses are rarely less than three weeks apart, these days, and they nearly always happen at night. Know how I said I feel pretty gross as soon as I get started? That usually keeps me from touching my brow hairs the rest of the day. I’m a bit of a neat freak about personal hygiene. If I don’t feel super clean, I can’t think straight or get anything done. As soon as I can, I forcibly drag my fingers away and I head to the bathroom to wash my face and tell my reflection to “Stop it. Stop.”
Sometimes that happens later than I’d like, but it’s only been once or twice in the past year. Those are the worst moments, though, that second I rush to the mirror thinking, “God, I hope I didn’t totally fuck them up.” The once or twice I have has really hurt. The thing about impulses like this is they leave marks, and when you’re already messed up about everything — finances, living situation, work, having to move back home, the last thing you need is to mess up your eyebrows, too. That doesn’t feel like control to me. That feels like spiraling. It feels like yet another thing you’ve failed at. I’ve failed my eyebrows. I’ve failed my next modeling gig, and I wasn’t even actively looking for any.
But that’s another reason to avoid it. Another thing I don’t want to feel that trich relapses bring about — another reason to fight the instinct. I want my eyebrows to stay full. I don’t want to have to grow them out from scratch again.
So, thanks, modeling. Or, more specifically, because the industry kind of sucks in a great many ways, thank you, makeup artists I’ve worked with. You have inadvertently helped me accept my eyebrows — and on a not-as-thorough level, my acne, just by covering it up and acting like it was Totally Normal, which I know it is, but still — and for that, and for how beautiful I looked in the pictures, I am forever grateful.