Pulling my hair out. Literally. My condition of trichotillomania started when I was just ten years old. I was born in Sheffield. My dad worked in a steel foundry producing components for Britain’s nuclear submarines, but he was made redundant when his firm went into administration. Thankfully, mum got a job at a hotel in Lincolnshire, so we moved to Barrowby, the village on the hill.
My parents fought a lot. I remember walking into their room one night, to find mum on the bed, on her back, dad choking her, so I ran downstairs and dialled nine-nine-nine. The police came, but both my parents denied my report of domestic violence.
The annual village gala came around and I was allowed to go on my own. I bumped into a girl from my class there. We joked around. She gave me my first kiss. Crazy, right? When I got home, I found mum on the bathroom floor, her arm broken, said she’d slipped in the shower. Waiting in A and E, I pulled out my first hair. That was the start. Over the coming months, I targeted my scalp, then moved on to my eyebrows, then my eyelashes. I got dumped, obviously, as no girl wanted to be seen dead with a hairless freak. When I hit puberty, my focus shifted to my pubic hairs.
When mum asked about my hair loss, I told her dad had poisoned me with thallium. She didn’t find that funny. She was suffering from hair loss herself, which she blamed on alopecia. Yeah, right, and I had an iron deficiency. She wasn’t kidding anybody. When my dad was in a rage, he would tear it out of her head.
I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to remove a hair from your body. Try it. Any tension I might’ve been feeling would ease for a short time and I would fall into a trance-like state. It became an unconscious action, sometimes lasting for hours on end. The hairs I removed often had blunt ends, while others had a more tapered style, and a few would break mid-shaft, too weak to stand the force I exerted upon extraction.
If a hat wasn’t appropriate, I wore a hairpiece or a wig. I pencilled on my eyebrows and fiddled around with fake eyelashes. Looking stupid was a bearable by-product of my obsessive compulsion. I read books on habit reversal training and watched hypnosis videos, but soon found I wasn’t open to suggestion. Neither was mum when I suggested we leave, just the two of us, to escape my physically abusive father from Hell.
During final exams, I started eating my hair, which is known as trichophagia. When dad saw my results — which were above average — he stubbed out a cigarette on my arm, then kicked me in the stomach so hard I coughed up a hairball. My dad lacked the grey matter. He didn’t care about a perifollicular haemorrhage or a traumatised follicle.
Then I got a bowel obstruction. Rapunzel Syndrome. The intestinal condition was caused by ingesting my own hair. Things were looking grim. When dad found out I couldn’t start college, he pinned me against the wall and balled up his fist, but I had this hair-brained idea to punch him first. When he fell, his head bounced off the kitchen floor and cracked wide open. Mum mopped up his brain fluid before she called an ambulance, and the paramedics pronounced my dead-beat dad dead at the scene.