Saturday, June 9, 2012

The What: What Do I Do?

Let's say you decide that you want to recover from trich. If so, start right now.  Not tomorrow morning. Not at the beginning of the week. Not at the beginning of the month. NOW. But now doesn't mean force yourself to stop pulling. If you could, you'd already have done so.  

Step One: CHANGE YOUR THINKING  Stop blaming yourself for a condition you can't help having, stop calling yourself gross and disgusting, stop thinking of yourself of less than worthy because of the amount of hair you currently have.  What if you had a best friend with trich? A daughter with trich? Would you call her disgusting? Would you constantly shame her? Doubtful. You'd probably say, Honey, I know this is a really tough battle, and it's painful to deal with, but you will get through it and I WILL BE HERE FOR YOU.  Say to yourself, hey I realize I just pulled for probably an hour.  I'm wanting to tell myself how disgusted I am with myself, but I'm starting to see that there is something beyond my control going on here and I think I'm ready to stop blaming myself.  I am going to find a way to support myself emotionally.  If I hear myself think, "What is wrong with you," I'm simply going to acknowledge the thought by labeling it, "Ah, inner critic." I'll say, "Thank you for sharing." And I'll bring my breath and my body back to the present moment. Thought comes in: Oh my god, what's wrong with you? Awareness of thought. "Ah, inner critic. OK. Alright. Thanks for sharing. Back to the present I'm sitting here. I'm breathing, I'm still..  OK." And this may happen again and again.  And again and again say, OK, hi inner critic, thanks for sharing. I'm going back to the present. I like to think of the inner critic as having the emotional maturity of a three-year-old.  If a three-year-old said to you, You're STUPID, would you fear that, oh my, you really are stupid? It might be annoying, but you'd let it go. Think of the inner critic as a primitive voice or thought that is actually trying to help you (with negative reinforcement), but in a very noneffective way.  The more you can acknowledge, label, move back to the present, the better. In the present you can say, I'm feeling sad or bummed out that the pulling happened. It's hard to experience this. But I won't add insult to injury by blaming myself.

Step Two: NEVER START OVER  It's all part of recovery.  Recovery is the proverbial two steps forward, one step back.  Unless you accept this, unless you stop seeing the "one step back" as failure but rather as a part of recovery as a whole, you cannot recover.  Even though there are cases where people have remissions, and stop pulling completely, it often eventually returns.  And those people don't have the inner strength to continue to stay on the path. If you have by some miracle, or by work or by doing the best you can, a week without pulling, don't be surprised if it's followed by a day of pulling.  Or maybe it will be two days of not pulling and one day of pulling. But I will tell you this: When you can have a few days that you do well, and then have a bad day, and say to yourself, I'm sad, this is hard, BUT THREE out of FOUR days I did really well, THAT IS RECOVERY.

Step Three: KEEP A RECORD In order to know you did well, and how you're doing overall, you must create a little calendar just for this purpose. Make it and print it out.  Just the classic month view calendar with a square for each day of the month.  And each day at the end of the day, rate the day from zero to 10.  Ten is YOUR worst day, zero is, of course, zero.  Each day has a number.  It's one number, once a day. Simply by doing this, you are in recovery. If you forget that night, do it the next morning. But this is doable, and necessary. You won't see progress on your head for quite some time, but it is enormously helpful to know you are making it. And nearly impossible to encourage yourself during a rough time if you don't

If you can do these things, you are in recovery.  Also refer back to Oct. 2011 post and the one after that which focuses in detail about how to change your thinking. If you have questions as you are doing this, please post them or send them.  If I can I will answer them.

Two to four people out of every hundred have trich. You really are not alone.  And you really can eventually stop pulling. But understand it is a gradual process and don't beat yourself up for not being "better," support yourself instead for trying.  I've met so many people with trich and it always amazes me how much stronger they are than they think are. Please be kind to yourself. It does make all the difference.

Why Do I Pull? (Because You Have Trich)

Why do I pull? Why can't I stop?  Would you ask yourself this over and over if you had type 1 diabetes? No you would not.  You pull because you have trich and if you have trich, you have urges and you can't stop because you haven't accepted that you have trich and continue to cling to the idea that you "should" be able to stop.

As long as you blame yourself for having trich, you'll have an impossible roadblock in your recovery. It is not anyone's fault that they have trichotillomania or dermatillomania, no matter what well-meaning friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, spouses, parents or anyone else tells you. Even if your pulling is so unconscious that you aren't actually aware of what the urge feels like (when it's not being satisfied), the urges are there.  As long as you tell yourself over and over how sick, gross, horrid and disgusting pulling or picking is, you are making it harder and harder to get better.

Yes, I know you want your hair back, or your skin clear. Of course you do. And I know you're frustrated with the situation. But that's not the same as constantly beating yourself up about it. The opposite of that, feeling like a victim, is just the other side of the same useless coin. Poor me, I have trich, that means I'm ugly and awful and no one will love me.

Well that's just not TRUE. There are millions of people with trich and millions of people with trich who have people who love them. What's more true is you devalue yourself because you have trich and push people who maybe could love you because you don't want to tell them your horrible secret. I can tell you right now that I've been party to hundreds of people's stories about telling a partner or a friend the truth about their trich or derm. In 99% of the cases, partners (mostly men) have said things like, I love you, not your hair; and I support you in recovery because it bothers you so much, but it makes no difference in how much I love you or how beautiful I think you are.

One woman said that telling men she dated about trich before she slept with them was her jerk-detector. Any guy who had a negative reaction to her having trich, she broke it off with them before it went any further.

So WHY you pull is simple. You have trich. It has a genetic basis and produces urges like itches that the body responds to. (In the case of picking there is a similar mechanism at work, but there is usually an additional issue of wanting one's skin to be perfect.)

In the same way you would scratch if you had an itch, no matter how determined you are not to, if you have urges to pull, your body will unconsciously react while you're distracted. Nearly all pullers pull their hair out when they are reading, studying, watching TV, on the phone, driving, at the computer and perhaps in the bathroom. Often there isn't anything wrong at these times, it's simply that your guard is down and the urge has the chance to be satisfied.

The reason I'm going on about this is so you won't. One of the steps to recovery is to STOP asking yourself WHY you pull.  If you did have Type I diabetes, it wouldn't be a matter of why but a matter of what. What do I do so I can be healthy? Not, I SHOULD be able to reverse the condition and NOT have it. I shouldn't have diabetes. That won't help you at all. The condition of having trich is a compulsive desire to pull out hair and the inability to stop. Quit asking WHY you have trich and stop telling yourself you SHOULD be able to stop, and start asking What do I do since I have trich and it's causing me pain? Getting away from the why to the what is progress.