A few months before my daughter turned 2, she developed a habit of tugging at her hair. ‘No big deal’, I thought, ‘It’s a phase kids go through.’ Fast forward about 6 months and she is still doing it – only now she is tugging and pulling harder. I talked to her pediatrician about it and was told she had Trichotillomania, a condition in which you pull your hair out due to stress and anxiety. In short, my 2 year old was stressed and anxious and was about to pull herself bald on one side of her head. Fantastic.
I want you to know that parenting through this was hard. I want you to know that finding the line between consistent discipline for a toddler that wasn’t too stressful for her sweet, tender little heart was a challenge that I can’t even describe. I want you to know that with every tug she made, every hair I had to pick off her pillow in the morning made my heart crack open a little bit wider. I want you to know that I blamed myself. I want you to know that I got mad at God. I want you to know that I really had no idea why she did this to herself – because it physically hurt her to pull her hair out strand by strand by strand.
I want you to know that the children’s psyc ward at the local hospital is not exactly the place you want your child to be the star (she was just so cute and sweet, everyone loved her). I want you to know that we tried every trick we could come up with to help her stop and to try to figure out what the issue was. I want you to know that when she was almost 3 and wearing a hot pink dress, I could’ve slapped the lady that said she looked like a boy with her short hair. I want you to know that I will never regret chopping my hair off the very next day to show her that girls didn’t have to have long hair and that it wasn’t the hair length that made someone beautiful.
I want you to know that when we finally discovered her underlying issues, sensory processing deficiencies, that a huge weight was lifted off of our chest. The months of occupational therapy that followed were hard, but successful.
I want you to know that the first time I put her hair in pigtails – when she was 3 1/2 – that I closed the bathroom door and sobbed and thanked Jesus for helping her through this, even though the pigtails were only about an inch long. I want you to know that now, every night when I comb and dry her hair – I remind her that her beauty is in her heart and the love she shows others.
I want you to know that now she has long, thick, full, dark-chocolate hair that perfectly frames her sweet face. I want you to know that I’d love to share her picture with you – but this is her story to own and she’ll have to do that in her own time.
I want you to know that there’s not a lot of information for young children with this condition. She may always struggle with stress and anxiety and we may always have to help her cope with it in healthy ways, diverting her from a natural tendency to pull her hair out. I want you to know that we’re up for the challenge and she is, too.