Where Hair Pullers Like Me Are Not Alone
There is no cure or proven treatment for trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling. After years of suffering in silence, a support system of “trichsters” helped me hold my head high.
Photos by Kayana Szymczak
My first thought was that I’d come late to the party. Groups had already formed in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in Chicago, circles of giggling teenage girls and the shy, downcast younger ones who remained at their mothers’ sides. I spotted a young woman about my age and sat beside her. She was a 22-year-old college student with light brown hair and fringe bangs.
“Lashes and brows,” she said, as if this were the natural progression from discussing journalism lectures. “I’ve pulled out my hair since I was five.”
“Scalp,” I said, my voice shaking. “Puller since I was eight.”
She nodded. I heard the “pat-pat” of a microphone and looked up to see Jennifer Raikes, the Executive Director of the Trichotillomania Learning Center, standing at the podium, poised to speak.
“Before I begin, I’d like to thank you for your courage,” she said. “Everyone who comes here is a warrior in his or her own way.”
I scanned the room: headscarves, wigs, bandanas, beanies, baseball cap…