Barbara Lally: How my BFRB Changed Me

100 Changemakers for 100 days of BFRB Awareness

100 Changemakers for BFRB Awareness

 

From the title of this post you may be thinking, She means physically right? I mean, it is the hair-pulling disorder after all. And yes, my trichotillomania has physically changed me more times than I can count but I won’t be diving into that. Instead, I am going to share how my body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) changed me internally starting with the very worst way.

 

Unless you have a BFRB, it might be hard to fathom how someone could repeatedly and continually pull out their hair given that the result is bald spots. I wouldn’t have understood it either had I not automatically started pulling out my eyebrows one day at 10 years old. What I can tell you is that the bald spots weren’t the worst part. The worst part for me was the negative self-talk that developed just as naturally as the disorder.

 

At 10 years old I would’ve loved to be outside playing with friends but instead I was looking directly in the mirror and spewing the nastiest things I could at myself. Any insult would do. Why? Because I kept pulling out my hair and I wasn’t able to stop. I didn’t think that my disorder was out of my control. I thought I wasn’t trying hard enough and the adults around me, including medical professionals, confirmed that. Are you really trying? Are you sure? It seems like you aren’t trying hard enough. Over and over those words would play in my mind and over and over I would look in the mirror and insult myself.

 

 

Because of my negative self-talk I lost all of my self-confidence. I avoided looking people in the eye. I was a shell of my former self; a carefree child with an eagerness to try new things and explore the world. A zest for life. I thought this was what life would be like from then on. Hiding away so people wouldn’t notice that something was different about me. I lived this way for 17 years.

 

Out of the blue I became exhausted with my negative self-talk and the heaviness that was trichotillomania. I knew that because this disorder had a name that I couldn’t possibly be the only one to have it. There were other people out there and I wanted to find them so I created an anonymous social media account @thetrichsterdiaries. 

 

Meeting others like me was life changing. I couldn’t believe how much I related to people from all over the world. People had a story that sounded identical to mine down to their own self-talk. Hearing how others spoke to themselves caused me to look internally. What felt so natural was actually hindering my healing. I had to make a change and it was a big one.

 

I began working on my positive self-talk a little bit each day. Looking at myself in the mirror and seeing what thoughts naturally came up, acknowledging that the words I used to say weren’t healthy, rewording them, and repeating the new and improved words to myself. It felt strange and awkward at first but it was exactly what I needed to do.

 

Only once I was able to see myself and my trichotillomania through different eyes, did I finally see the positive ways my BFRB had changed me. My BFRB made me humble, sensitive to others, empathetic, courageous, brave, generous, welcoming, and more. So many, if not all of the qualities I love about myself, had come from living with trichotillomania and the suffering I endured. 

 

This caused me to want to share my story even more than before. What was once a way to get things off my chest turned into a need to reach others just like me, people who thought negative self-talk was the only option, and tell them that it wasn’t. That life is better than they could’ve ever imagined and it all starts alone in front of a mirror.

 

I’m a BFRB Changemaker because I am making the world a better place for those in the BFRB community. In the words of Aneela Idnani, life is about turning your pain into purpose. My BFRB did that for me.

 

 

 

My BFRB community offerings:

 

Support BFRB Changemakers

BFRB Changemakers supports BFRB healing through community. Our mission is 3-fold:
* raise awareness of debilitating conditions of Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) such as compulsive hair pulling (trichtotillomania), nail biting (onychophagia), and skin picking (dermatillomania),
* increase and improve access to care, and
* advance community recovery.

Through the BFRB Changemakers Training Academy we strive to increase access to care by offering Continuing Education training to new and seasoned mental health treatment professionals.

BFRB Changemakers is a 501c3 non-profit (EIN #93-1544492). Please make a donation to support these efforts!

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