Natalie pulls her own hair out – like 110 million other Trichotillomania sufferers
Irish Examiner, Saturday, October 03, 2015
For most people the idea of pulling your own hair out is very difficult to comprehend, but Trichotillomania (TTM) is a compulsive condition that affects 110 million people worldwide.
We met Natalie Blythe, 32, who started pulling her own hair out at the age of 14. The pressure of GSCEs and general anxiety at school led to her pulling her hair as a coping mechanism, a sense of relief from her daily battles.
“I used to be really ashamed of what I did and was too scared to tell anyone. My mum used to find large clumps of hair all over the floor and I had to pretend that it was from my brush,” Natalie says. “One day I did build up the courage to tell her what I was doing, but she just shrugged it off and told me I’m being silly.
“I knew what I was doing was wrong but it made me feel so relaxed that I couldn’t stop when I felt these sad feeling. It got to a point I was pulling my hair out so much that I even made my head bleed.”
Natalie would tell people she had alopecia because she thought it would be more accepted.
“I would cry myself to sleep every night. I lost all my confidence and I stopped going out. I felt like I had no life,” she says. “I used to think to myself why am I doing this, I must be some kind of freak. I thought to myself why should I be upset? I did this to myself. Nobody else was to blame.”
In 2004 Natalie found Lucinda Ellery’s studio online, where she had a consultation and admitted to pulling her own hair out. For the last 10 years she has had a mesh system, called Intralace, fitted that allows real human hair extensions to be attached, to give Natalie back a full head of hair.
“I cried at the end of the appointment because I couldn’t believe that I had all of this hair and that I was able to live a normal life once again,” she says. “I felt like I had been given my life back.”