Casey Clark, HelloGiggles
When an eyelash falls off, most people make a wish and blow it away. However, I rarely had eyelashes to wish upon. It’s not that my eyelashes were short or sparse—they simply weren't there. That has been my reality for the past decade as I've battled with trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania is a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from one’s scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other areas, despite trying to stop. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as simply being able to stop. Over the last 10 years, I’ve struggled not only with pulling out my eyelashes but also with the guilt, shame, and pain that comes along with it. It’s not pleasant, especially when society tells you that having long, luscious eyelashes is the pinnacle of beauty.
My trichotillomania started subconsciously when I was 9 years old. At school, my classmates would ask me where my eyelashes went and why I looked “weird.” I used to make up excuses, saying that they fell out or that my dog ate them, but, of course, nobody bought it.
Every time I spoke to someone, I could sense them staring at my bare eyelids, wondering where my lashes were.
After years of not having lashes, I started to see a therapist, who helped me identify my triggers and patterns and helped me develop coping skills and build self-acceptance. Before therapy, I thought it was valid for people to bully me because of my condition. Looking back on this now, I realize how bad of a headspace I was in—I used to think it was acceptable to be mistreated for something beyond my control. However, while it was difficult growing up with trichotillomania, I'm now grateful for the learning experience that came from it.
I’ll never forget what my therapist told me during one of our early sessions: “Your opinion is the only one that matters.” I realized that I didn't mind not having eyelashes, but I felt like I needed them because others made me feel that way. That vicious cycle led me to live for others instead of for myself, so from that point on, I began to feel free.
I developed a toolbox full of coping mechanisms for whenever the urge to pull was strong: Fidget cubes, mascara wands, Vaseline, and Band-Aids have all impacted my recovery.
While I’ve been in recovery on and off for the past few years, I wouldn’t trade my experience with trichotillomania for anything. I’ve grown physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally because of my experiences with this condition. As a writer, I am able to share my journey to help inform people and make those suffering from it feel less alone. I developed strength and resilience from this condition, and I couldn’t be more grateful to help others in their journey, too.