Just be weird (it’s probably not as weird as we all think….)

Me:  “Landon, do you mind if I write a blog post about you {referencing to a specific incident}?”

Landon:  “Yes Mom, I do mind.”

Me:  “But it’s such a great story – and I know you’d need to be brave to let me share it, but it could inspire someone else, or help them feel less alone.”

Landon:  “Mom….I don’t need that story being told to the entire United States right now.”

Me (dejectedly):  “Um my readership does not consist of the entire United States…..maybe one day….but it’s a mere couple of hundred people….so…..can I?”

Landon:  “Still no.  But I have an idea – Write about your own story.  It’s basically the same anyway.”

Me:  “Ohhhhhhhhhh………ummmmm…….hmmmmmmm……”

Isn’t it weird how it’s so much easier to tell someone else’s story, and try to convince them to be brave and vulnerable, but when it’s suggested we tell our own, we want to climb into a cabinet underneath the stairs and die??  Or maybe that’s just me…..but he’s right, that 10-year-old of mine…Darn it all anyway!

I guess that if I should ever wish to tell his story, I should get brave enough to tell my own.  It is, after all, nearly the same….This is my “coming out” story, as a person that lives with neurological abnormalities – specifically Trichotillamania, OCD (and it has been suggested but not diagnosed that Tourette Syndrome may be the more encompassing diagnoses for the other two).  Good times, yeah?

Just Be Yourself

It’s quite bizarre to write that….(Oh my God Landon is probably right and the whole United States might officially know what is “wrong” with me now!)  After all, it took nearly 30 years for me to admit these conditions to anyone out loud, and I almost never admit to having both at the same time – I mean my goodness, I don’t want people to think I’m totally crazy (even though I am, without any diagnoses needed).

The other day my shame over my conditions was triggered, once again.  During a conversation with a new acquaintance she, nonchalantly, asked “Are those your natural eyebrows?”

I answered honestly enough – telling her that my eyebrows are tattooed, as is my eyeliner…while omitting the underlying truth:

I have facial tattoos because I have suffered from Trichotillomania and OCD since I was in Kindergarten – at least that’s as early as I remember experiencing the compulsion to pull on my eyelashes.  And not just to pull ON them, but to pull them out entirely.  It started when a classmate suggested that if I made a wish on an eyelash, my dad wouldn’t die in a plane crash.  I wasted no time in assuring his safety by going completely bald in my eyelid region.  Good news – I probably saved his life with my wishes on eyelashes…and that little trick has been with me ever since!

Truth be told, over the years, my trich and OCD has waxed and waned – there have been times, months and even years on end, when the compulsion is gone entirely.  And there are times when it comes back with a vengeance – I look in the mirror at night and think “Ah shit – I’ve done it again” while not even realizing that I was at it.

I have targeted my eyelashes, eyebrows, and at times the hair on my head – and always triggered by an overwhelming sense of anxiety, boredom or fear.  And what’s most annoying?  I cannot hide it.  It’s right there on my face – literally.  The gaps in eyelashes, the lack of eyebrows.  It is oh-so-vulnerable, and shame-filled.  And while the shame has improved, over time and with support – there was a time in my life when that shame would drive me deeper and deeper into the compulsions.

I remember a time, during college, there was a guy in my then-boyfriends fraternity: Randy.  Oh how I hated Randy.  He was never nice, and was a pretty natural bully – to anyone that seemed like a viable target.  I vividly remember standing in the hallway during a frat party one night when he walked up to me, stared right into my face, and yelled “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR EYELASHES?  THEY’RE GONE!  GROSS!”  My face turned red hot and tears welled in my eyes – it was so humiliating.  The urge to go hide in my room and yank the rest of my eyelashes out loomed oh-so-large.  Thankfully, my boyfriend and my lovely sorority sister jumped in to my defense and told him (in no uncertain language) to be off and leave me alone.

Nearly 15 years later, I experienced something very similar in a work environment, when a colleague started mercilessly teasing me about my constant fidgeting with my hair (not really knowing the reason behind it).  I don’t know what made it come up, besides this person’s own insecurities, but it took me right back to that place – “Oh boy, they see what a mess I am, they know I’m different….I’m so ashamed….” and yet again, another dear friend jumped in to inform this person that it was not becoming to be such an a-hole, and that it made no one look stupid but them.

I have the best people.  Truly.  I am one of the lucky ones.

And still, at times, these conditions have felt completely debilitating.  I have been ashamed, humiliated, and even wondered if I could ever really be successful at anything (all the while experiencing great success) while hiding from the world with these “very strange habits” (as I have always referred to them in private).  There have been bullies.  There have been moments when I thought my brain was getting the best of me, and that I was the weakest person in the world….because the hair pulling (the trich) is the most obvious of my “habits”…but there are others as well – more hidden, just as unavoidable when they arise.  I’ve chewed my inner lip until I bleed, I have a twitch in my upper arm that can last for hours.  There’s a blinking thing, on and off….but it’s less constant.

Sometimes I have felt like “less than”, or “weaker than”, or “weirder than”….but there have always been the other times too.  The times when the people that I love the most come to my defense.  The times when I have risen above these conditions to create a really beautiful life.  The successes I have experienced despite struggling to fight the part of my brain that makes me twitch my arm muscles, or bite the insides of my cheeks, or pull out my eyelashes and eyebrows.

And there’s the other stuff…the part of Trichotillomania and OCD (and maybe, possibly Tourettes) that has created the person that I am now:  The loyal friend.  The defender of the defenseless.  The embracer of “the different”.  The Coach that wants to walk alongside anyone that struggles with anything that makes them feel a little “less than”, or “weaker than”, or “weirder than”, to help them embrace who they are, and be confident in what they have to offer the world.  The woman that decided to leave behind the things that make me most anxious, to pursue a life of lovely enjoyment.  The parent that has been equipped to guide my child through similar challenges.

Yes, sometimes being different is very, very hard.  Sometimes it can shake one’s confidence.

And sometimes it can catapult us into being totally brave, completely vulnerable, and absolutely willing to walk alongside others on their journey to their most beautiful lives, helping them around and through the potholes in the road.

Thanks for letting me share my story with you – If there’s someone in your life that might be offered some hope, or some solidarity, by reading my story, I’d love it if you would share it with them.  And if ever you should find yourself in need of a support system, a guide, or a defender….you call me.  ♥

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