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For her.


For her.

Halie Johnson

I have been mustering up the confidence to share this for a while now. A long time ago (after trying to live up to everyone else's standards), I realized that most people only share the good times on facebook, instagram, and every other form of social media. Since then, I've made a concerted effort to be real and honest online so that I am not unintentionally making someone else feel like my life is perfect and that theirs should be as well.

When we only post the good parts, we are setting unrealistic expectations for people and setting them up to feel disappointed with their own lives. As bad as it sounds, I feel relieved when someone on my friends list posts something honest and...even sad. It makes me feel like I'm not alone. No one's life is happy go lucky all the time. I'm sure we are all tired and exhausted of seeing our friends on social media only share the "picture perfect" moments of their lives. Naturally, this leaves everyone feeling like everyone else's lives are better than theirs and that no one else has struggles or difficult moments. However, we don't see what is behind the curtains.

We don't see what those people are insecure about, because they only post the photos that highlight what they are proud of.
We don't see the daily struggle in real relationships, because we all choose to only share the cute dates we go on, and the sweet things he/she does for us.
We don't see reflections of real people and real lives. 
We only see what they want us to see. 

This is why I am finally sharing my story - in hopes that someone can relate to my struggles rather than be intimidated by my happiness. In hopes that others can share their struggles and insecurities too. I know it's pushing it, but I am mainly hoping to find others that share the same daily struggle as myself so we can talk openly about it and no longer feel ashamed or alone. 

I'm tired of the taboo of sharing your true self on the internet. 

"Trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh) is a disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop. Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves patchy bald spots, which causes significant distress and can interfere with social or work functioning. People with trichotillomania may go to great lengths to disguise the loss of hair."

When I was 14 or so, I constantly felt an overwhelming amount of sadness and anxiety, for no particular reason. I would constantly blame it on my small town, Perry, for "limiting my creativity". I felt that no one that occupied the same small town had anything in common with me. In a sea of faces, in every crowded room, at every party, at every concert and gathering, I felt alone

I felt trapped and wanted to explore, but it was something much deeper than that. Honestly it's still something that is unsolved. I've come to accept the fact that my anxiety will always be there, no matter the circumstances, so the best thing to do is to learn to cope and minimize the symptoms of it. I remember my mother crying, thinking it was her fault that I was so sad. That she must have done something to make me feel this way. That since she couldn't make it go away, that it was her fault.

She was so wrong.

She is the best mother in the entire world and did a damn good job at raising me.

In 9th grade, I went to her and told her that I couldn't stop pulling my hair out and that I didn't understand why. That I had this unnatural compulsion to pick and pull incessantly at my hair. That, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't keep from doing it.  I remember seeing piles of hair on my desk at the end of class in high school and I would just look around to make sure no one was looking and sweep it off, feeling so embarrassed. 

Until last year (unless they found out accidentally), no one except for my parents and my best girl friend knew about my trich. I felt like my main goal in life was to hide the fact that I pulled out my hair. I remember the day I told my fiance', Alec, very vividly. I was stuttering and shaking, stumbling over the lump caught in my throat to tell him what surely would be the reason he left. 

Relief washed over me when he held me tight and said "shhhh, I already know."

Apparently, he put things together and had already done his research on the condition. He wanted to wait until I opened up to him, but he had known all along, carefully following the advice he read in articles on "what and what not to do or say when dating someone with trichotillomania". It was the very first time that I had told someone and they (whether it was on purpose on not) didn't make me feel like I was insane. He inspired me to open up to my family and friends more about my condition. I am never surprised when I receive an unwanted or inappropriate reaction because I know that if I had never heard of it or experienced it myself, I would think trich sufferers were crazy too.

That is the most difficult part, not being able to understand it. I hear all the time "why don't you just quit?"...."if it makes you unhappy, stop". "IT'S JUST NOT LIKE THAT!" I want to scream. "IT'S THE THING I HATE MOST ABOUT MYSELF! CAN'T YOU SEE?"

I would give up all of the money in my bank account to end it. I would do anything to be able to quit. I have exhausted almost every avenue. 

I have tried:

  • Counseling
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Psychedelic Therapy
  • Meditation/Yoga
  • Band-Aids on my Fingers
  • Wearing a Beanie while I am home and some sort of hat the majority of time when I am out
  • Wearing Gloves
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Self-medication

Now that you all know my backstory, I would like to try to describe how Trich makes me feel. Even if you do not suffer from this disease, I hope that you can see that we have similar effects from the things that we do not like and are self conscious about. 

I can't even begin to describe it accurately, but I will try my best. When I am anxious, sad, mad, bored, and lots of other negative feelings, I have the strongest urge to pull out my hair. I feel incredibly anxious and out of my control until I pull my hair. It's almost like when you have a hangnail, and you are obsessed over removing it and your thoughts cannot move elsewhere until you do. When I pull, I feel about 2-3 seconds of immense relaxation; immediately followed by guilt, shame, sadness, and a vicious cocktail of other negative and self-depricating emotions.

You'd think since I realized that the ultimate feeling is a negative one, that I would stop. I simply cannot.

I hate washing my hair because of all the showers I've spent touching my scalp while crying at how ugly I feel.
I hate going places because it requires me to look in the mirror to fix my hair, therefore, seeing the damage I have done to myself.
I hate that this leads to days and days where I don't leave the house.
I hate that I spend so much time obsessing over this. 

Trich has stemmed into so many other problems; the worst of which being social anxiety. I used to be so very outgoing and today, I would never use that word to describe myself. When I am in a conversation, it's difficult for me to pay close attention to the other person because I can't stop thinking "can they see my bald spots?" I find myself envying other girls' hair when I am out in public.

I'd say that 85% of my daily thoughts are trich related. 

I don't want this to come off as a pity party. I do not want your attention. I only want to start a discussion on the things we feel as though we cannot discuss. If people shared more about a wide variety of issues, such as bulimia, anorexia, domestic abuse, rape, depression, gender issues, etc., then we would have a much more effective dialogue and a much deeper understanding of how those people feel and how much we can all relate and help each other. 

Before I let you move on to the visual portion of this post, I want to get one point across to you:

Things wouldn't be this way if social media, and moreover SOCIETY AS A WHOLE didn't portray such an unrealistic, utopian and unachievable image of how life is and how women should look. 

It was so difficult for me to refrain from editing my flaws in these photos - my scars, my blemishes, the hairs that had fallen on my face from shaving my head, and mostly the damage I had done to my hair follicles from years and years of pulling. All because society has made us feel as if we need a clear complexion, a skinny waist, and a head full of beautiful hair. 

This is, ultimately, our fault. I don't know how exactly to fix my issue, but I do know that I don't want my daughter growing up in a world where someone else determines her beauty and worth. I want to do my part. 

I urge you all, please think about the repercussions of your actions and words. How, if we all just tried a little harder to discuss the things we have been taught are taboo, we could make this world better for the next generation. If we could strive to be more inclusive we could help so much more. If we could strive to love others even if we cannot relate to the things that alienate them from the rest of us. If we could simply be more accepting of the abnormal and stop trying to fit everyone into the preconceived notions that we have of what people should be or look like. We should strive to celebrate what makes us different. Find beauty in the uncommon. At times I feel as if I should just give up, that I should just let this disease take over and become a hermit and never leave my house. 

But I cannot. I must try. I must do everything in my power to help. 


For you. 
For me. 
For her. 


Photos are a combination of self portraits and portraits by Alec Stanley - a collaboration if you will. Jewelry by Rhys May.