In life, I have found that love and support are two of the biggest incentives, while fear being the great deterrent. In January of 2020, my dance studio, like others, was preparing for competition season in the spring. Little did we know, however, that competition would not come. We were finalizing our dances, adding the finishing rhinestones to our costumes, and doing everything a dance studio does to prepare for competition. As the merriment, happiness, and excitement spread around my studio, I was preparing to tell my dance teacher that I had trichotillomania. Trichotillomania is a type of mania associated with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This entails that the person diagnosed has the compulsion to pull out their hair. In January I had had trichotillomania for around a year. Because I had it for so long, my bald spots were becoming quite noticeable. It was inevitable, I had to tell my dance teacher that I had trichotillomania because she was going to start noticing the inconsistencies with my hair. At practice one night in January, I asked my coach if we could have a little sit down together after practice because there was something I needed to tell her. With her warm smile, she said, “of course”. After practice let out and everyone left, we sat down and I told her that I had trichotillomania. I then went on to tell her I had an obsession with pulling my hair out and therefore, I was not going to be able to adequately do the hairstyle for competition. The hairstyle we chose would show my bald spots and the baby hairs that are growing back would stick up no matter how much hairspray I applied. All of the anguish, pain, disgust, and shame that I had felt about myself in the early months of my diagnosis, came flooding back. At that moment I wanted to cry and get out of there because I could not bear it if she were to ask me, “why?” I had no answer, I didn’t fully know why I liked to pull out my hair. She didn’t ask me anything though. She opened her arms up and told me to give her a hug because everything was going to be okay. Then she said that she would always be there for me and that she loved me. As we embraced, I knew that she didn’t fully understand what I had just told her. To be quite honest, I didn’t fully understand trichotillomania or why I had it either. She didn’t need to because she gave me something so much more meaningful than a simple understanding. She gave me love. It was all that I needed, sometimes it is all that we need, just the love and support of one another. With the love and support from my family, teammates, and coach, I was able to put a smile on my face and fight for one more day. Trichotillomania was not going to define me, and I was not about to let it.
© Easton Waller. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.