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Mai’s Guide to a Trich Free Life

Please note: This is my journey, and what applies to me may not apply to you. Keep in mind that I am not a licensed medical professional, counselor, psychologist etc… This guide is not set in stone. Feel free to modify it accordingly to your needs. I fully encourage you to make your own journey to a Trich Free Life.

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Coming to Terms with Your Past – How I CHOSE to be HAPPY…   

What’s your trigger? Have you come to terms with it? Are you ready to stop using it as an excuse to continue your self loathing? Are your ready to forgive those that have hurt you? Are you ready to forgive yourself? Are you ready to put the past behind you?

My “trigger” or my “excuse” has been because I was physically & emotionally abused by my mother-  for the 17 years I asked the question “Why Me??” – Why was it only me that got beaten for no reason and not my 2 other sisters? Why was it only me that got accused of stealing and doing drugs- when I never did any of those things? Why was it only me that has been cursed by this dreadful disease called Trichotillomania???

WHY ME!!!!! ???? And so I answered the question that has been plaguing me all my life…. It’s me because I am the strongest one out of all my sisters… It’s me because I have the most to offer this world… It’s me because I would not be the person I am now if not for what I have been through. It’s me because this is what makes me unique and special. It’s me because I must have a purpose in this world- why else would I still be alive even after my many attempts at suicide?

When I finally had that Eureka moment, I stopped choosing sadness & depression… I started choosing HAPPINESS… from now on I am going to do what makes ME happy- there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving yourself – loving yourself does not mean that you are a selfish person, it just means that you are putting your own self above all else… You can’t give love if you don’t have love…

All this happened at a turning point in my life 10 years ago- It is a very personal experience, so am keeping it to myself for now… but what’s your own personal turning point? As I said earlier, each person’s journey is different… but the main point here is that you have to be absolutely ready to CHOOSE HAPPY!

I was able to overcome my depression without any medication or counseling, from a priest or a psychologist… what I did do though was PRAY a lot- I had developed my own personal relationship with God and the Universe- I am in no way a religious person, nor am I an advocate for organized religion, my FAITH is my own personal one…. you are free to have your own methods and beliefs.

 

Know Your Disease – Research & Understand

Treating the Physical aspect of Trichotillomania 

Based on my research 10 years ago, I discovered that Trich was not just a mental disease but there is a PHYSICAL aspect to it as well!!! Knowing this meant that I AM ABLE to control this disease, and not the other way around. That I AM NOT CRAZY after all. That there is in fact HOPE- I DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE WITH TTM- this is not who I am!

I scoured the internet to find answers about my disease, before that I have never really even taken any sort of action. I mean I did not even find out until after I moved to the USA that there was a name for my condition. And if you ask me, how come it took me so long to do this to research… well my honest answer now is that I WANTED TO SUFFER- I WANTED TO KEEP PUNISHING MYSELF… Trich was my crutch, Trich was my drug and like many addicts…. I WAS IN DENIAL… at that time (and sadly only a small improvement has been made to this day) there was not enough awareness, there was not enough resources… The internet said Trichotillomania -Wikipedia is an untreatable, hopeless disease- that the only other option is to deal with it- I refuse to accept this! I kept searching… luckily I stumbled upon a site where there was a glimmer of hope (for the life of me I can’t seem to remember what site this was, i mean this was 10 yrs ago, but as I recall it was content published by 2 male doctors of sort, one of them even had trich as well) I remember them saying the same thing about how there is no medication for this, how there is not enough research done on this, they don’t know the causes, no real proven treatment method etc etc blah blah blah… but what really jumped out at me was how he explained that when you pull your hair out, the skin gets inflamed and irritated, and there are some ways that CAN help with this – the GLIMMER of HOPE!

From that article I started to develop my own method. If I can calm down the itching, the inflammation, the burning that I felt on my scalp, the URGE to pull my hairs out would lessen. So this was my goal here, TREAT THE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS – now this may not apply, or may be hard to apply to those who pull from other parts of the body like the eye area especially, for me I pulled from my head- other body parts like legs, arm pits, pubic area- I just highly recommend getting laser treatment for those or waxing, it’s perfectly ok not to have hair in those areas anyways.

TIP #1: GET RID of all your TTM tools – tweezers, nippers, whatever it is that aids you in your mania — THROW THEM OUT  all the way out to the curb where the garbage man can pick it up and you can’t dig it out again. And DO NOT BUY them again… if you need to shape your eyebrows – get them waxed or whatever… the less temptations you have the better. Might i also recommend getting acrylic nails, it makes it harder to pull those tiny little new grown hairs out if you have these on your nails, (now i know for men this might not be feasible, but I hope you get my point) fingers are the best tools we have- and it’s also one you can’t get rid of.

TIP #2: SEA BREEZE SENSITIVE SKIN ASTRINGENT  -According to the article, there were a few substances that helped calm down the inflammation and the irritation to the skin– camphor, witch hazel, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, mint, (there might be others, please feel free to do your own research as well) but this is  what worked for me – Sea Breeze Sensitive Skin Astringent – this has camphor & eucalyptus, it cost about $7 for a 10 oz bottle, you can order this online, you can find this in any drug store near you- Walgreens, Walmart, Target, CVS etc..they typically keep this in the beauty section- Facial Care. I actually just stumbled upon this as I was searching for products that had these ingredients. There is a regular one for this brand- it’s like yellowish in color, but that did not work for me. I tried others too, like some astringents that had witch hazel, I believe there’s an oil that’s just pure eucalyptus, and a pure camphor, but those did not work for me. Sea Breeze Sensitive Skin Astringent was the one that really worked for me, it is my LIFE SAVER. This is what helped bring down the inflammation to my scalp, and it helped lessen the irritation. This also helped heal the wounds on my scalped -which happens when you scratch and tweeze that sensitive area so much- these sensitive areas I learned – are what they call “HOT SPOTS” – HOW TO USE IT: Apply to the affected area or skin- you may use a cotton ball or pad, then apply it, or you can also just pour it directly on the affected areas. (That’s why I mentioned the eye area earlier- you probably can’t do this on your eyes, but since it is an astringent for the face, you may be able to use the cotton pad and dab or wipe the eye area- making sure first of course that you don’t have a bad reaction to this product) I applied this as often as needed. I applied it right away when the Hot spots started to throb, or when I catch myself starting to reach out to my head and pull, I also applied it after I took my shower right before I went to bed. Remember these are just suggested uses, and you are free to develop your own strategy.***Please keep in mind to check and see if you have any allergic reactions to the products you try out, what may work for me may not necessarily work for you. You may try other products that help bring down the inflammation and irritation, please feel free to do your own research as well.

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***To this day since 10 years ago, I still keep this product stocked at all times- just in case those pesky hot spots start to creep up again

A note about HOT SPOTS – these are what I call my danger spots- the bald spots on my head that my hands gravitate to…I seem to pull from almost the same spots all the time, even after hair has already grown on it. Somehow because these spots are so accustomed to be abused… they start throbbing and getting irritated on it’s own- sometimes for no apparent reason, and most of the time especially when you start getting stressed or anxious- when I became aware of this and when I understood this, I was able to control the urges better and nip the inflammation in the bud. Less inflammation, less irritation, less urge to pull. I actually would apply Sea Breeze on all my “known” hot spots just to be sure- sometimes when 1 hot spot acts up… the others follow suit..

TIP #3: AVOID USING CREAMY SHAMPOOS – use the clear shampoos instead- they don’t have to be colorless. From what I understood, creamy shampoos tend to make the scalp more oily and would increase the likelihood of the scalp getting irritated and inflamed- like when you have dandruff. At that time I had to stop using Pantene- which was only creamy at that time. I believe some anti fungal shampoos help as well, like i think there is Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo, You can also try shampoos with tea tree oil and mint like Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle they help calm the skin irritation and inflammation. Or you can use just a simple clear shampoo like Clairol Herbal Essence . The point here is to be mindful of how products can affect your skin/ scalp and this applies to facial washes as well as eye lash glue and make up products. So please feel free to research more on this and to try any product that you feel would suit you.

TIP #4: AVOID EATING certain foods – peanuts, nuts, chocolate, peanut butter, sugar, caffeine – these are the only ones that I know about but I did recently find something on the internet about a UK study they are doing on how your diet affects your urges to pull- Possible link between BFRB & Diet and this one is a really good reference as well John Kender Diet. I encourage you to please research and explore this option more. I strongly believed that this had helped me to combat the urge as well.

Tip #5: APPLY ANTIBIOTIC with CAUTION! (Neosporin First Aid Antibiotic Ointment, 0.5-Ounce) This helps heal and prevent infection as well. One thing to keep in mind is to not pick at the scab that forms. Leave it alone. Allow your skin to heal. It will fall off on its own. I usually apply the antibiotic after the scab has fallen off and i find the area underneath to be still tender. I noticed also when I applied the antibiotic when there is still a scab, it increased the chance for me to pick at the scab and thus causing irritation again. Which then I would apply my sea breeze again. Tender newly healed skin is more prone to irritation. If at all possible, forget that it is even there.

Tip #6: Showers and therapeutic brushes. This is normally how my ritual went before. When the hot spots start acting up, I pour the sea breeze on my head. Then if at all possible, I take a shower and wash my hair, this helps to calm me, helps with anxiety and helps me resist the urge to pull, it helps alleviate the irritation as well. Then after the shower, I brush my hair, I like using the steel or Copper Hair Brushes, this relieves the itching without piercing or wounding the skin- scratching with your fingers is dangerous and this is what tears the skin. I then pour sea breeze on my head again.

The main point here is to get relief for the swelling and irritation, that makes the urge to pull unbearable. NO IRRITATION, NO SWELLING, NO PULL. 

Please keep your mind & your hands busy, do things that make you happy, find joy in the small things like watching TV, sleeping, playing with your kids, scrap booking, blogging, chatting, writing. Whatever works for you, there is no wrong or right answer here. 

Tip #7: LOVE YOURSELF like you have never loved before. (The Best and yes I admit the most overrated advice ever-but it’s true) -I have spent my whole life pleasing everybody but myself. This is my chance to find out what I love to do. What makes ME happy. This is all about me. I am entitled to care about ME for once.  Loving yourself does not make you a selfish person, in fact, how can you truly love another person if you don’t have any love to give? The love that you receive from another person is not really your love to give. You need to create love within yourself in order for you to truly give it away!

My thoughts on support groups. At that time 10 years ago, there was no Facebook, no Iphones etc… the closest thing was Friendster and MySpace and yahoo chat. I was able to find some Trich support group on yahoo messenger, and I joined that for a while. To be honest, it only helped me to some degree. Although I was not really active on it, but it did show me that there are many people out there just like me. And most importantly it showed me that there are survivors out there that had overcome this disease. I guess what I am trying to say here is that different people deal with things differently. There are people that are comfortable sharing their troubles to others, and there are people that like to keep things to themselves. I for one, am the type of person that likes to keep  my struggles to myself. I can be stubborn, and I like to do my own thing so to speak. So regardless, what type of person you are, in the end, we are all responsible for our own actions.

When you keep telling yourself, but, can’t, hard, difficult, impossible, hopeless, depressed, sad, …. then do not put the blame on anybody else but yourself… because the truth is that it’s not that you CAN NOT, but it’s because you WILL NOT. Huge difference. You have FREE WILL-  the CHOICE is yours! Quit making excuses for your disease! I hate how society has conditioned us to not have any accountability. If it is better for you to be defined by this disease, to accept it as part of your life, then own up to it if that is what truly makes you happy. But if what you truly desire is to be rid of this disease, then take action, own it and see it through. 

Conclusion

To be honest, I can’t even really clearly recall at what point in time I had considered myself to be totally cured. All I remember is that I dealt with the physical problem, and when it was not bothering me anymore… I would forget that I even had it. I focused my energy on other things. Having fun, discovering myself again, enjoying life… I really did forget I even had the disease… I was simply too busy enjoying my life as well as my sorrows as well. Next thing I know, my bald spots were gone, there were no tiny hairs sticking out, I could finally wear my hair down, I was not afraid to go to a hair dresser anymore. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world. The real secret here is that I gave my physical and my mental wounds a chance to heal… the more I did not focus on my wounds, the better their chance of healing. This is how I had lasted this long. I had rid myself of the self-loathing that was fueling the disease.

Side note: Again, these are just my opinions, and my view. In no way shape or form am I trying to insult anybody here. 

Feel free to leave your comments, I would love to hear your insights on this.

You can message me on twitter @maizanz or on my FB Group Trich Free for Life

About IaM MaI

Disclosure: This website may be compensated for linking to other sites or for sales of products we link to.

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It’s Clean Enough

Lately I have been noticing that there has been a lot of bickering amongst the Trichotillomania support groups about whether my “Trichotillomania is graver than your Trichotillomania”- and my answer to this is that the weight of the problem is the same, regardless the severity, just because it may seem that the other person’s problems may seem small to you, it doesn’t mean that it is small to them. Although some degrees of severity and circumstances may seem a bit more challenging than some, It doesn’t make it a hopeless case.

An idea struck me when I was cleaning my bathroom the other day, like so many Trichotillomania sufferers, I have a tendency to go OCD – on cleaning etc. ( It was far worst when I was suffering from TTM, now I have learned to accept the fact that close to perfect is enough) Anyways there seems to be some underlying mold problem in my bathroom that is making the grout dirty, I was scrubbing it really hard and then I realized that this was as clean as I could get it and had concluded to myself “It’s Clean Enough” (I did not want to spend the whole day cleaning the bathroom- I might rip out the tiles and I am just a tenant) So I thought that this would be a good approach for those who have pulled to the point of “unrepairable” damage (it is in quotations because unless you have stopped pulling and had allowed the hair and the skin to regrow, you can’t prove it to be unrepairable) If you are one of the many that feel they are at this point and feel hopeless, if you do not at least try, you will never know what you might be able o accomplish. So if you are psyching yourself up to battle with Trich and fight the urge to pull, but feel a bit discouraged because of the severity of the damage that you had already caused, I recommend using the “It’s clean enough approach”. Do not expect the hair to grow like magic right away – be patient… and if it does grow a few bushy ones- leave them alone.. tell yourself “It’s clean enough” – because when you start obsessing about it and not being satisfied with the progress, that is when you start pulling again or like in my analogy – ripping out the tiles. Regardless of the progress of re-growth, you should feel very proud of yourself, that you had made a commitment to fight your “habit”. Sometimes you just have to say “It’s Clean Enough”.

Suitcase Full of Sorrow

Suitcase Full of Sorrow

This would be the last time

I would see the sun rise

For in my world the sun always sets

The night breeze is cool

I feel my body shiver

Finally I can go now to my new world

This will be the last time

I’ll feel your warmth

Kind words, sad songs

All packed into my suitcase full of sorrow

Long has been my struggle

And pain never ending

All that this useless earth of ours

is ever giving

Heaven be not the place i go

Nowhere or everywhere

Long have I been prepared

Vow not to look back on temporary bliss

For it would burn your eyes

Regret is the greatest hell on earth

Rot I may forever

Finally rejoined with the earth

from whence I came

Pity all those who still breathe

the breath of life

Forever drowned in the Sea of Hades

Evil may be my seed

Blown into the soil of life

Destroy me…….

I can not tolerate this state any more

Living only in flesh

My soul has long been buried

My heart stone—

Why hope to die?

When you can be dead!

My pantheon of words stand

Majestic and proud for all to see

That will be the marker of

My ill-fated destiny

I know not what to say

I know not what to write

I know not how to feel

What’s the use in living-

only to be in hell??

I wrote this during one of the darkest times in my life, when I thought the only way to happiness was to die. In some way this is true, I did indeed need to die in order to find happiness, but it was more of a metaphoric death. Because the old depressed me had to die so the new me could be reborn. Although those thoughts of suicide have long left me,  I know this poem today is a bit depressing but it is befitting of what I am feeling right now. Reading this evokes a deep sadness within me that is unexplainable and at the same time somewhat soothing. It’s ok to be sad… sad does not mean you are depressed, It just means that you are human with a heart that can still ache. I am sad today, but at least this sadness has made me realize what is truly important to me and it has given me the strength to go after my dreams.

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To Pull or Not to Pull?

To Pull or Not to Pull?

Life after Trichotillomania is scary.You always have that fear in your sub conscious about relapsing and going on a pulling spree again. It will always be a part of you, a part of who you were, a part that made you who you are today. And it’s a part of you that you would not like to revisit. This is the reason why it took me 10 years to speak up about my recovery. I wanted to put the nightmare behind me and focus instead on my bright Trich-Free life instead. Because the more you put Trich at the forefront of your psyche- the greater the temptation- and this craving, this urge, can manifest itself both physically and mentally- it will test your- it will test your will power.

I noticed that my anxiety has been growing, ever since I decided to speak up about my recovery. Talking about my past struggles has put Trichotillomania back in the limelight again. My anxiety is all a mixture of -Will I relapse? Is this even worth it? Am I really helping people? Does anybody even care? Should I continue to do this even though I know I am putting myself at risk of relapsing? -( I have been successful at keeping my Trichotillamania at bay because to put it bluntly- “I just made myself forget that I ever had it”. ) All this anxiety has indeed taken a toll on my body- but thankfully not my psyche – My skin on my face is breaking out in hives like crazy – and yes your hair grows on skin so those two are definitely related!

This weekend- I was tested. As I mentioned in my earlier post Mai’s Guide to a Trich Free Life , “Hot Spots” often start emerging out of nowhere, sometimes it’s years before they re-appear again, but once they re-appear- they are very dangerous! One just re-appeared at the crown of my head ( it feels like a pimple- sore, irritated and inflamed) and gosh darn it pulling a hair out by it’s root just feels so good-like a release, like a drug. So I pulled one or two… then I STOPPED! I told myself – you are better than this! Thank fully- I have my Sea Breeze handy and proceeded to do my Sea Breeze ritual. And that stopped the urge. My point here is that you have no control over temptations- BUT you have control over how you respond to it- especially when the temptation manifests in a physiological form- you have to be prepared with the “weapons” to combat it.

In the end, I am telling myself, even if I just help or inspire one or two people combat Trichotillomania, it will be all worth it. I know that I am stronger than this disease. I  know that I have a fighting chance, I know that I can slay this beast again… and that this is my purpose in life, to help others slay their own demons.

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Baby Girl

Baby Girl

In this horrid fate of mine

I bear the burden of my mistakes

Sometimes I just wanna give up

Lose everything that is at stake

But my baby you keep me alive

You keep my heart yearning for life

You keep me breathing…

Though I’ve drowned

You keep my heart beating

Even with no sound

My baby girl

You make everything okay

You wipe my tears away

You make the sun shine

Even in my darkest days

Coz my baby girl

You keep my cold heart warm

I’ll protect you from all harm

I’ll keep you safe in my arms

I come home late at night

You still greet me with a smile

Put your arms around me…

You make everything worthwhile

Coz even with this burdened heart of mine

You make my whole life fine

You’re the only thing that’s clear

I just wanna keep you near

I can’t wait to go home

See your lovely face again

Hear your laughter

That melts my heart of stone

You’re the only thing that’s real now

You’re the only thing that’s true

I just want you to know

All that matters now is you

Just you….

I wrote this during one of the darkest times in my life, the only thing that got me through that tough time was my baby girl. My daughters are the reason why I chose to be a better person, they give me the strength to fight all the demons that have plagued my past.

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Farewell Love

Farewell Love

I’ve loved you once

I’ll love you again

You know I’ll love you

Till the bitter end

Though time has passed

And people change

You’re still in my heart

Though only memories remain

The way you laughed…

The way you cried

The way I never really said goodbye…

All those moments

Etched forever in my mind

Evidence that you

Were once only mine

I chose to leave

It was my fault

And now I grieve as a result

Forgive me love for what I did

I was just a naive and stupid kid

Now you’ve found someone new

You look happy with her

Just give me a chance to say

I’m sorry, I’ll love you forever

Through all the tribulations

I’ve gotten this far…

I just wish you the best

Hope you find your shining star!

This poem is for the one that got away… but in my case he became the one that was truly meant for me. I actually wrote this poem for my “NOW” husband, he was not my husband then, but he was an ex-BF who was in a not so new relationship with an old friend (we have a very korean-drama like love story and I might just write about it one of these days) I knew I couldn’t be the person he deserved yet at that time, and although it had deeply hurt me to find out that he was in a happy relationship, (after I had hurt him badly) I thought I would express to him how I truly felt by posting this poem on his “Friendster” wall (since I was too chicken shit to say it straight to his face) which I guess the new significant other did not appreciate me doing… so long story short, after almost over a decade, I finally found the courage to give him the love he truly deserved and we lived happily ever after… I guess he did find his shining star after all!

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Sorrow

Sorrow

Without the night, there could be no day

Without the moon, there could be no sun

Without the cold, there could be no heat

Without the tears, there could be no laughter

Without the pain, there could be no love

The imperative balance of the Universe must be kept…

Life can not exist without death!

And love, love, love…

Without it

There is no meaning to life

We exist only to love and be loved

But we must be ready

To accept the longing that goes with it.

When we feel sad and we want to cry, this is actually a good thing, because this tells us that we are still human, that our heart still beats and still aches… One should not be afraid of sorrow… of getting hurt… because the imperative balance of life will always be maintained, only through great pain can we feel great joy.

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