A cat by any other name

What price beauty?



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Meow to me

I've had my fake nails now for a few months and I have to admit that, despite the fact that they do make my hands look prettier, and it's fun to wear polish and all that, I'm starting to get a bit tired of them. They're pretty, to be sure, but because they're thicker than regular nails, sometimes it's hard to pick up little things like coins or pieces of paper. When I type they make a tapping noise on the keys. Okay, maybe real nails would do that too, but when it's just my own nails, they never really get long enough to tap. But there's other little things. Opening the pop top on a soda can has become a much more difficult task than before. I've even resorted to wheedling my friends into doing it for me - either that or executing a skillful maneuver involving a pen top to pry the little metal tab up enough so I can slide one finger underneath without fear of snapping off one of these nails and causing myself much pain.

So why, you are now asking, do I not get them removed? The answer is very simple. I leave them on because, despite the minor annoyances, these are the closest thing to a cure I've found. It's not a complete cure, but it's as close as I can get. The mere fact that I can't grasp tiny things very easily means that for the first time in nearly twenty years, I have a full set of eyelashes.

Yes, I said eyelashes. The disorder is called Trichotillomania, and if you want to know more about it, I'd suggest drilling down on that link. But I'll summarize briefly here. It's not an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, although perhaps that's the easiest type of thing to compare it to. I have a mild form - luckily. Mine only manifests with pulling out the lashes and eyebrows. Other people can go so far as to pull out head hair, and even eat it.

It's a quiet disorder, for obvious reasons. It's not like you would go up to strangers on the street and introduce yourself with 'Hi, I'm, Bob and I have Trich.! How about you?" It's something that I've tried to hide for years, with limited success. Eyebrows can be drawn in, but nothing short of falsies will replace actual lashes. Eyeliner only does so much, and mascara doesn't work if there aren't lashes to apply it to. In college I finally decided to try to do something about it, so I went to see a psychiatrist. While he didn't offer me a cure, he was far more helpful than he may have realized. He helped me to understand that what I have is a very real medical condition, and he helped me come to terms with it. I have Trich. I have had it for nearly two decades, and chances are pretty strong that I will have it til I die. He mentioned that some limited success had been achieved from the use of certain drugs like Prozac, but considering that Prozac is insanely expensive, and that OCD's and similar disorders require the maximum dose, plus extra drugs to boost the effect...well, I passed. Besides, it's not life-threatening. This isn't like the people who wash their hands twenty times an hour, or something like that. It's just hair. Okay, so I look funny, but that's all.

A few months ago I was watching television and to my surprise there was a short clip on Trich on the local news. I saw the previews and I even though I usually avoid TV news due to the idiocy of the anchors (can we *please* get people who actually care about how to pronounce medical terms? Is that too much to ask?), I waded through whatever sensationalized stories they had to report and then watched as they discussed the disorder that I've had for so long. They flashed a URL on the screen, and I immediately went to look. I found a chat room. I logged in. I was surrounded by people just like me. Lots of them.

I can't explain what a relief that was. I've known that I wasn't the only one with this disorder - after all, the definition has been in the medical books far longer than I've been around and diagnosed. But still, it's a rather odd thing to have, and I didn't know anyone else who would even understand. My family has always been baffled by this. I know that they all think that if I just *tried*, I could stop it. How do you explain that with compulsive disorders and their ilk, you just *can't*. How could I explain that most of the time I'm not even aware that I'm even *doing* it?

I spent some time browsing the site, and talking with the others who were logged in that night. There were stories posted from others who have Trich, talking about how long they've had it, what they've tried to cure it - although there were very few success stories. And in the chat room, the feeling of relief was shared by more than me. A father logged on, having seen the same show I did. He thought perhaps his daughter might have Trich, and he was wondering what he could do to help her. We all offered suggestions, and then at one point he asked how long. How long had it been for each of us? That's when I did the math and realized that it had been twenty years. Two thirds of my lifespan. Strangely, that was sort of comforting. It's a part of me - this odd little disorder - and even though it would be nice if some day I were to wake up and never tug out another eyelash or eyebrow, I know it isn't going to happen. I have accepted it.

But that doesn't mean I'm not willing to try to work with it. Hence the nails. I have these darn nails and I will keep them for as long as I can stand them. My brows still suffer - the more stress I'm under, the worse it gets. But the lashes are alright. I have lashes. After all this time, I look *normal*. Finally.

And that alone is worth the inconvenience.