There is only one time the entire month I need to see my bald eyelids…and that is at the mikveh. At all other times, I have an enormous amount of eyeliner on, and my eyes are covered by my glasses, hoping no one notices my lack of eye lashes.  

This tricky habit, called trichotillomania (trich for short) started when I was 10. (Trichotillomania is compulsive hair pulling, an impulse control behavior that is categorized under Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and frequently occurs with other conditions such as anxiety, depression or ADHD). I’ve had it on and off (mostly on) all these years; and I’m now 36. I’ve tried every therapy out there, including conventional psychotherapy, EMDR, 3D, hypnotherapy, One Brain, and I’ve tried the medication route as well, but nothing has helped.  

It’s the secret I wake up with and the secret I go to bed with. It’s the secret I try to keep from my husband (yes, he knows) and the secret I try to keep from myself.  But once a month, my secret is out there. And I’m forced to look at myself with bald eyelids. Even though I know it’s silly, I’m embarrassed in front of the mikveh lady, for she is the only one that sees me without eyeliner.  It’s the only time of the month that I scrub off all remnants of my eye liner, my black mask, and I see myself.  

I’m usually filled with shame, anger and embarrassment but I try to be loving to myself and not pass judgment for those 3 minutes my eyes are naked. 

All other times, and I mean always, I apply thick eyeliner numerous times a day, in the hope no one notices, but I know I’m fooling myself. I can’t swim around other people, I desecrate Shabbat every week because Shabbat approved eyeliner doesn’t stick the way I need it to.   And I’m constantly thinking about how people are probably wondering why I don’t have eyelashes.  

It’s considered (officially) OCD, but it manifests itself as a bad habit or addiction.  I tell myself I won’t do it this minute, this hour, this day, this week…. But the need overwhelms me and I can’t resist the need to pull, the need for the release, and the ease that washes over me when I do. I don’t expect people to understand, just as I don’t understand cutters or alcoholics. But to tell me to just stop, is like telling a pot head to just stop smoking.  

I await the day that I will rid myself of this plague that has shadowed me most of my life. In the meantime, I will keep covering it and hope the mikveh lady doesn’t notice.  And I’ll try to be kind to myself. 

Trichotillomania, also known as trich, is when someone cannot resist the urge to pull out their hair. It may be the hair on their head, or from other places, such as eyebrows or eyelashes.