Note: This is a deeply personal post about my struggle with trichotillomania. I’m writing this as a form of self-therapy. If reading about psychological issues around self-harm is triggering for you or TMI, you should skip this post.
It’s kind of hard to know where to start.
I always used to pick at my scabs when I was a little kid. I still have the scar on my face from the first chickenpox that I got — which I picked at before I knew what it was — and then I have a few more chickenpox scars from pox that I picked that even after I was told not to scratch them.
When I hit puberty, I picked it my face incessantly. I squeezed blackheads, I popped zits, and I just generally couldn’t help myself anytime I saw a blemish. Just keeping my face clean wasn’t enough: I needed to be doing something about these imperfections. It was bad enough for a while that my mom was trying to keep me from doing it. I remember she kept reminding me about not picking at my face, and I think for a while I even tried to keep track of how many days I could go without popping something.
After a while, I got into college. I still picked it my face a bit, but it wasn’t all that bad.
And then, about eight years ago, I got my first full Brazilian bikini wax. Afterwards, I noticed that the aesthetician had accidentally missed a few hairs. So when I got home, I got out my tweezers and tried to clean things up a bit. And then when new hairs would start to grow in, I figured I should take care of those, too. And then there were ingrown hairs — I couldn’t just let those alone, right? It didn’t seem like they would go away on their own…
And that was how we met. Over the next few years, sometimes several times a week, I would find myself looking up at a clock with a pair of bloody tweezers in my hand, realizing that I had just lost twenty or thirty minutes of my life.
A couple of years ago, I started seeing a therapist. And after a number of months, I finally decided to tell her about you. I was mortified, but I was really tired of losing so much time. I accepted that you really weren’t all that good for me, and I wanted to try to do something about it.
I’ve now spent months talking with my therapist, trying unsuccessfully to find other behaviors to replace you with, and so I’m writing you this letter.
I think what you have been doing for me is providing me a way to punish myself. I think that’s probably what I was doing when I used to pick at my scabs and blemishes, too. I was punishing myself.
I was raised in a very conservative, religious household, and guilt over my sins (both things that I had done that I shouldn’t have, and things that I should have done that I didn’t do) weighed very heavily on me, even as a child. I took to heart the idea that when I sinned, God was sad and disappointed. I internalized the notion that every time I sinned, every time I made a mistake, I was fundamentally a bad person.
Once I left religion and once I moved out of my parents’ house, some deep part of me still clung to the notion that I was a bad person. You gave me one way to deal with that. And I guess it’s kind of counterintuitive, but I thank you for it. You gave me a way to deal with stress and a way to escape my life when things were difficult. I needed that. Thank you.
I appreciate everything you did for me in the past, but I have to move on. I don’t have any reason to punish myself like this anymore. I love myself now. I love my life. I’m not perfect, and I make plenty of mistakes, but, fundamentally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with who I am, what I want, or what I need. Being queer, or being kinky, or being an atheist, or being a sex blogger, or being a toymaker, or being a wife who is any of these things — some people see those as morally wrong. I’m just not one of those people anymore.
Leaving you means that I’m fully committed to accepting myself. And in a way, that’s kind of scary: I have to own my identity, and my decisions, and my actions, and my mistakes. I have had enough of lost time, bloody tweezers, and tiny scars. I would rather love myself and my body the way that I am.
You’ve kept me company for a long time, but I am no longer the little girl who truly believes she is a bad person. Let’s part ways here.