BFRB Awareness Week is here!
BFRB stands for body focused repetitive behaviors, and includes compulsive hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking, nail biting, and other excessive self-grooming behaviors. I have multiple BFRBs but primarily trichotillomania. I started pulling out my hair at age 11 and my eyebrows at 14.
I'm sure almost all my followers on social media know this information by now, either from me sharing about it, having a BFRB of their own, or having a loved one with a BFRB. But I will keep on sharing my story, always.
Here is why:
I am on the board of The Lyder Foundation for BFRBs and also serve as programs director. This past weekend we had our 1st anniversary celebration. We had about a dozen people come in person to Manhattan, and had about 20 people join us virtually on Zoom, from all over the globe, including the UK, Spain, and Mexico. It was a great success!
After the virtual portion concluded, I got to connect with some of the people who were attending in person. Bianca (founder and president of TLF) introduced me to two of her friends who work in the media. She said "this is Gessie, she is one of our board members and she is living with trichotillomania." She clarified that when speaking about me directly she uses the phrase "lives with trich," but specified that when speaking about BFRBs publicly, she would say "suffers from a BFRB." There's an important distinction because when speaking to the public, she wants people to understand the seriousness of BFRBs, that they are a real medical condition that many people are suffering from. That really resonated with me.
Personally I don't consider myself to be "suffering" anymore. Though I have no eyebrows and still pull from my head occasionally, I consider myself to be in recovery. I am full of self love and acceptance. I don't beat myself up for pulling. I'm not defined by my eyebrows or hair loss nor am I defined by how much I engage in pulling. I have many people who love and support me, and I don't let trich hold me back in life like I once used to. I am quite honestly THRIVING!
But everyone is in a different place on their journey, and many individuals with BFRBs ARE in fact still suffering, often alone, living in shame and secrecy. These behaviors are widely regarded as taboo and people who engage in them usually keep it hidden.
The more we talk about something, the less power shame has on us. Sharing my story saved my life. I am out and proud. When I was younger and in the woes of keeping my trich a secret, I used to wonder what my life would look like in the future. Would I be able to get a job? Would I ever find love? Would I be happy? Well, now at nearly 25 years old, I have a long term fulfilling job that I love, I have the most supportive fiance, and I am really truly happy. All that, even though I still have trich. Teenage Gessie would be in both awe and shock at the life I have now. 🥲 I want to be the person I needed when I was younger. And I'd say I'm doing exactly that.
I have dubbed my personal branding Triumphant Trichster. That is also the name of the memoir I wrote and published last year. I identify as a "Trichster," not as a sufferer. I once felt like trich stole my identity. But then I formed a different identity. Trich helped shape that new identity by me taking the negative and turning it into a positive. So I identify as a Trichster as a way of taking back the power it once robbed me of. And yes, I am indeed triumphant!
While I am personally no longer suffering, I share my story for the people who ARE still suffering. Because you never know who may need to hear your story at any given time. We need the public to recognize the gravity of the suffering many individuals with BFRBs are still dealing with. BFRBs may not be curable, but shame and stigma is. You are not alone. There is hope. Together we are stronger. 💚💙💜