Trichotillomania: A woman speaks out about a mental disorder that saw her tearing her hair out for 18 years
A businesswoman who compulsively pulled her hair out for 18 years after her father died in prison aged nine has conquered her demons and launched a haircare brand.
Despite being close to her mother, retired accountant Pat Keirle, 62, and stepfather Kelvin Keirle, 68, a retired engineer, for years Rosie Myers, 30, has struggled against the trauma of losing her father, whom she stopped seeing at the age of five. -year.
Unable to process her emotions, Rosie began pulling her hair out – a condition known as trichotillomania – finding the physical pain of self-harm a welcome distraction from the intense emotional trauma she didn’t have. tools to manage.
After further loss triggered a mental breakdown she sought help for, finally Rosie, who lives in Portsmouth, Hampshire, with girlfriend Chloe Andrews, 28, was able to quit her alarming habit saying, “It took over my life.
“It was a vicious circle. I felt stressed and pulled my hair out, then felt ashamed and pulled more.
“It became so ingrained in my subconscious to deal with the emotional pain of pulling my hair out that I didn’t even know I was doing it.”
Ironically for Rosie, who doesn’t explain why her father was in prison and how he died out of respect for her family, it was one more loss that ultimately became her salvation.
When her pet, a dog called Prince, died in 2017, followed by the loss of her 67-year-old paternal grandmother Bernadette, her world fell apart.
She said: “I had a total nervous breakdown, I was crying all the time and I realized that I had never really processed everything that had happened.”
After a conversation with her concerned mother and her best friends, Rosie signed up for talk therapy in a bid to conquer her demons for good.
She said: “I had to go back and talk to little girl Rosie and tell her not to hurt anymore.
“It was a really painful and really difficult process but, very slowly, I started to get there.”
She added: “It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I started to look at these feelings I had as those in the past – like they were in the rearview mirror, and moved on. thing.”
Now sporting shiny hair, Rosie’s journey to recovery has been slow and difficult.
She said: “My dad was very troubled and hadn’t been in my life since I was five, but I always missed him and wondered when I would see him next.”
She added: “After finding out he died when I was nine, my whole world fell apart.”
Despite therapy at school, Rosie’s fractured childhood quickly took its toll.
She said: “I had always been top of the class, but I just started to feel so angry and I directed that anger at anyone and everyone. I was arguing and stopped caring about anything.
Overwhelmed by her feelings, when she turned nine, Rosie started pulling her hair out.
She said: “I had all this emotion and I didn’t know what to do with it.
“I remember I was lying in bed and running my hands through my hair and finding one that looked weird and pulling it out.”
Rosie added: “It hurt, but actually that pain felt like pain relief because for a minute I felt like I was in control. I was choosing to hurt myself, rather than feel the constant pain inside that I couldn’t stop. It was a comfort. »
Within three months, Rosie was tearing her hair out daily, leaving her with visible bald patches.
She said: “I used to try to hide it from my mum, but I would pull out locks for hours and then I would look in the mirror and think, ‘Oh my God, I have a balding on the left side of my head. ”
Rosie added: “It got so bad that if I arrived at breakfast time and hadn’t pulled my hair out then it was a good day.
“That’s when I started wearing a baseball cap all the time, to try to hide my bald spots, or I was trying to comb my hair to cover the bald spots.
“I hated walking in front of people because they pointed to the bald patches on my head, so I always sneaked in the back to hide.”
She added: “I used to wear baggy clothes and was in no way proud of my appearance, so people wouldn’t consider me one of the pretty girls.
“I just had such low self-esteem that it was easier to pull myself out of that consideration and accept that I wouldn’t be.”
Even though her school supported her with therapy, Rosie couldn’t cope with her deep-seated sense of shame caused by her hair being pulled out.
She said: “I felt so ashamed.
“Pulling hair is such a horrible cycle. I looked like I was going bald and that shame made me feel even worse inside so I pulled out more hair. ”
At the age of 11, Rosie finally put a name to her condition, trichotillomania – which the NHS says is when someone can’t resist the urge to pull their hair out.
She said: “I remember going to Google and typing hair pull and all these search papers came up.
“There were no personal accounts or forums, but there was a lot of scientific research.
“I was so relieved to read it because I had carried that guilt for years and finally had a name for it.”
Several years later, she received a ray of hope when her stepfather used hypnotherapy to quit smoking.
She said: “My stepfather had been a heavy smoker for 20 years and wanted to quit.
“He went to hypnotherapy and after that he never had a cigarette again.”
Towards the end of high school, aged 16, Rosie decided to try hypnotherapy herself.
She said, “I walked out of the session and put my hand on my head and actively thought, ‘Why is my hand there?’ Then I moved it. »
For 18 months, Rosie stopped pulling her hair out and reveled in her newfound confidence.
She said: “I really came out of my shell and started to regain control.
“I had the confidence to go out and get a part-time job in a store and even started dating.
“And then I traveled to Australia, Vietnam and Thailand. It was amazing.”
Back home, Rosie started studying retail management at Bournemouth University but, unfortunately, the stress was hard for her to handle.
She said: ‘The problem is that even though the hypnotherapy is amazing, it meant I put a bandage on the wound.
“I started getting stressed, then I started pulling a hair out, then another and it came back together.”
After leaving college, Rosie’s health fluctuated depending on the stress of her jobs, especially in sales to companies in the food and beverage industry.
Then, in 2017, when she lost her pet and nanny, she snapped.
But her mental collapse was the cause of her, as she finally got the help she needed and slowly and carefully worked through her issues.
She said: “It was incredibly painful to get over them, but I feel like I can finally look at those feelings in the past.”
Taking time for her wounds to heal properly, it was on vacation in 2018 that Rosie had a fantastic idea.
She said: “I was in Cambodia, really relaxed and really happy.”
Rosie added: “I had noticed my hair had grown back and had a look at the hotel shampoos, but the ingredients were terrifying – full of plastics.
“I had finally started to love my hair and I wanted to take care of it and not use these kinds of products.”
But, despite the high and low hunt for an ethical hair care product, which actually made her hair healthy, she was left empty-handed.
So, determined to solve the problem herself, after a year of research, she created her own product – which led to the birth in 2019 of her mostly online ethical shampoo and conditioner business.
She said: “I was launched in August 2019 and it meant the world to me.
“I finally felt like I had a purpose to do something better for people and for the planet and to encourage people to love themselves and their hair too.
“After going through so much, if I can do anything to help people feel better, it will be worth it.
“I love that I was able to turn my pain into a passion for something I’m so proud of.”
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