Raising Some Eyebrows
I vividly remember the last night I had normal (if overgrown) eyebrows. While doing some last-minute cramming for a college exam, my idle hands set to smoothing out my brows. There was a stiff little hair, so I yanked it out with my fingernails, unintentionally taking out several others in the process. I didn’t have a mirror handy, so I relied solely on what I felt as I tried to even out the other side to match. This, friends, was a big mistake. My shirt was littered with eyebrows; only ugly, patchy shadows remained where they had once perched over my tearful eyes.
Almost a full decade since that fateful night, I remain a face of the impulse-control disorder called Trichotillomania (trich). Eyebrow-pulling escalated from a one-time event into something of a nervous habit and compulsion.
Often, I give no thought to the pulling until I see the resultant damage. Other times, though, I find the pulling deliberate—much more intense when I’m stressed or feeling anxious. I’ve experienced periods of relative calm with discipline to let the hairs grow. But inevitably, I’ve failed to reach my goal. Either the hairs start feeling stiff and prickly again during the growth process or I encounter a rough time in any number of areas and my frustration manifests as an urge to pull.
Trich begets a vicious, self-deprecating cycle. It makes me look bad and occasionally stirs headaches. My fingertips ache and develop calluses, and the behavior generally makes me loathe myself. I’m acutely aware that I am the sole reason this afflicts my life.
Believe me, I know it seems a simple enough problem to solve: “wear gloves” or “just don’t touch your eyebrows.” But for me…for some reason…it hasn’t been that simple.
The number of people sharing their own trichotillomania stories online over the past few years is encouraging. There is comfort in knowing I’m not the only person to do this; and, admittedly, it’s a bit cathartic to see that mine seems a somewhat more mild case. No matter the severity, trich is physically and psychologically damaging.
Until I find a way out of this battle, cosmetics are a saving grace*.
They’ve helped me maintain some semblance of normalcy, though I know people must still wonder why my brows are so thin and colored in. I imagine passersby conjecturing if I’ve had cancer or some degree of alopecia…or if my tweezers brutally attacked me under the cover of nightfall.
It was pretty embarrassing back in 2004 when The Passion of the Christ hit theaters, because Satan didn’t have any eyebrows either. Maybe Mel Gibson wasn’t really an anti-Semite, after all—maybe he just had it out for us eyebrow-pulling misfits.
So why am I sharing this embarrassing bit of trivia? Well, for three reasons.
First, I’m hoping that my candor might help others. There’s so much shame connected with this condition, because the aftermath is quite literally laid bare for all to see. I spent several years believing I was perhaps the only person on earth with such a strange compulsion. As with anything, there are few options for help and support when you don’t even know what you’re up against.
Second, disclosure is therapeutic. I freely admit that I’m a person who has a problem; it just so happens that my problem isn’t easily hidden. I feel a lot less self-conscious when I’m not fretting over what others may (or may not) be thinking when they see me.
Third, there’s an element of accountability here. When I’m talking about trich, I’m actively thinking about it. When I’m actively thinking about it, I’m not as prone to relapsing and getting sucked back into the cycle of destruction. I’m owning it and claiming eventual victory over it.
So there you have it. I’m hoping that one day I can report a nice full set of natural eyebrows. And when I do, there will be (virtual) cake for all!
*If you’re struggling, the NYC Browser Kit is part of my everyday makeup routine, though I use a lip brush to apply it rather than the goofy little applicator that’s included. Plus, it comes with a very budget-friendly price at Target. You’ll notice I used it in my corporate headshot.