The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Monday, May 01, 2006



Look it up. "Trichsters" is the slang term sufferers of this disorder have coined to describe themselves.

It's a disorder similar in nature to anorexia/bullemia or cutting, that involves the pulling out of one's own hair, either from the scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes, usually. Generally, triggered by anxiety or depression, it affects more girls than boys and pertains to about 2% of the population.

Well, I've always said my kids are special. My middle daughter, [Kid 2], is going through the third bout of this in her lifetime. Initially, when she was two, she began sucking her thumb after having quit for six months or more. Not long after, she began pulling her hair. Not knowing what was triggering it, and fearing something with the babysitter, we opted for a daycare instead of a private sitter. After some intervention, I was finally able to get the hairpulling under control.

When she was 11, another flair up, also affecting her scalp, was averted by giving her a boy cut, which she loved (and looked so cute in). It rendered the hair short enough that the pleasure from plucking was eliminated.

Here we are in round three. Triggered this time by her father's insistence on fighting the kids' wishes on custody. It wasn't the only stress she was battling, but it was the proverbial last straw.

Being an extremely busty 15 year old tomboy, who is self-conscious about her female attributes, is bad enough. But, dealing with the normal angst of being a teenager and going to high school isn't pleasant either. As a freshman, in the advanced program, she has really struggled, this year, to keep her grades out of the tank. And I wish I could report that she'd been more successful at it. Overall, by the end of the year, she's gotten a better idea of what it takes to succeed and has brought up MOST of her grades, but she's taken a pretty hefty hit to her GPA this year. It will take some time to bring it up.

As if all of that wasn't enough, when relationship issues with her dad blew up several months ago, she and her older sister asked me to help them get the custody schedule changed. Their dad would not hear of it. I explained to him that they were pretty upset and that his insistence on dragging this through court, lengthening the process, was going to really hurt them and had the potential to cause irreparable damage to their relationship with him. He would not listen to me. He would not listen to them.

And, in the end, I had to get [Kid 2] (and later [Kid 1]) back in therapy to deal with all of these issues, including the issues with her dad, because, in addition to the depression and anxiety she was battling, she was now pulling hair from the top of her head. As it got thinner and thinner, I begged her dad to do whatever he could to minimize her stress level, but he refused to believe me or give me any credit for knowing my child, or seeing the stress he was adding to her. He also refused to listen to her therapist when he was told that [Kid 2] should be able to make her own decision about where she wants to live. It's been quite frustrating, believe me.

Trichotillomania, like the other disorders I mentioned above, has more to do with finding an outlet to gain control over your environment, more than anything else. It's as if you are free-falling and have no control over anything else around you. You feel you can stop the world by taking control of your own body. Unfortunately, it's by damaging your own body.

We have been working through various aversion therapies, a rubber band she snaps on her wrist when she has the urge to do it, and most recently wearing a hat (or scarf) on her head at all times. [Kid 2] always had the thickest hair of all my kids and it's heartbreaking to see how thin it has become on top of her head. I just want to take all the pain away and I don't know how to do it. And it's so aggravating to me that I have to fight her father on this. He should want her to be healthy and happy, instead of fighting me on it.

The hairpulling has been going on for about 5-6 weeks now. And while we have her wearing hats at home, school dress codes prohibit wearing hats at school. So, we know we're fighting a difficult battle here. Today, my ex called me and said that her school counselor called and said that a teacher reported to him that [Kid 2] appeared to be pulling her hair in class. My ex didn't get any more information than that, but when I called back and talked to the counselor, I found out that it was her French class teacher.

Disappointing, because French is a class where she's doing exceptionally well. She shouldn't be stressing in there. And so, if she's pulling her hair in that means that things are far more grave than even I had realized. I talked to the school counselor about the possibility of her wearing a hat, or scarf, to school, despite the dress code. We had been hoping that the last 3-4 weeks of school would pass quickly and that the summer might be a time when less damage would be done and some healing could happen. But, I had to find out if it was even an option. Highlander and I had actually discussed the option just the other day. And he suggested that they would just HAVE to let her do it.

The counselor said that a note from her therapist would be all we'd need. As she's seeing him tomorrow, that should be no problem. I've also noticed some information on the 'net about a medicine that helps interrupt neural receptors responsible for OCD type disorders that has been somewhat helpful with this. Not sure what Anafranil is or what else it might affect, but I'm gonna do some research on it. The counselor also noted that [Kid 2] may feel uncomfortable wearing something on her head, since it is so rare to see a student doing so, it may draw even more unwanted attention. So, it's something for me to discuss with her and with her therapist. Certainly, another setback right now is not what we need.

Her dad, when he called today, had the audacity to ask me what had caused this situation. I reminded him that she was dealing with a lot of normal teenaged angst, school pressures and the trauma of the erosion of her relationship with him.

He said, "You don't think your name is on that list?".

I told him that my discussions with [Kid 2] and her therapist led me to feel confident in saying that I did not.

He said, "Uh huh." And wasn't planning to elaborate.

I asked him if he'd talked to [Kid 2] or her therapist and had any information contrary to that. He said he hadn't. It was "just his opinion" that the problems were related to our difficulties getting along (which, ironically, he told me a week ago that we were getting along, but it's pretty much like him to change the story to what suits him best, not to mention being completely oblivious to emotional pain).

When my older girls got home from school today, I gave them a call. I talked to [Kid 2] about the possibility of wearing a hat to school and that her French teacher had been concerned about her. I also talked to her about the conversation I'd had with her dad and asked her if there was anything she felt I could do or shouldn't do, that might be contributing. She reminded me, yet again, that "You're not the problem, mom. You're the hero, remember." I told her that her dad felt that maybe us not getting along better was contributing. She completely dismissed that notion.

She's a smart girl. She knows where the problems are. She just feels incapable of fixing them. And I can't tell you how upset it makes me that her dad doesn't feel so much more motivated to relieve her pain. I know if it were me, I'd be doing everything and anything I could to make it better for her.

It's a helpless feeling when you have a child who is hurting and you can't make it better. And I know that sounds bad, considering some of the problems all of you have gone through with your kids. I mean, it's not like this will kill her.

I'm not having a pity party. Not my style when it comes to my kids. (I reserve that just for me...LOL) I'll get her through it. I'll do what has to be done. Isn't that what heroes do?


Blogger Carmichael said...

i'm sorry your child is having a hard time. my kids have suffered due to their father's insensitivities, ex thinks he is NEVER wrong and that i am the one who is driving a wedge between him and his kids, particularly the older ones...the younger two adore him and that's fine. i'm glad they don't remember all he has and hasn't done. i know he's trying to make ammends but i'm not going to sacrifice my kids' well-being to help him soothe his conscience. i understand he feels guilty and that's good, but that doesn't mean we have to rearrange our lives to make him feel better.....
oops, sorry, you really got me on one of my favorite rants. i'll calm down now. (smile)
thanks for the nice comments on my page. i DO feel better today and i AM going to get back to walking.
i will e-mail you later. thanks for the offer.

5/01/2006 5:31 PM  
Anonymous L.C. said...

Oh, I am really sorry that your daughter is having pain that leads her to do this. It's common, I know, for kids to find a way to release the pain, and they go through so much these days. But I think what's really great is that there are qualified therapists out there to help them, and that there's no stigma attached to seeking that kind of help anymore. One of my kids, and many of my kids' friends, have been to therapy at one time or another. Being the strong mom can be really hard though can't it?
But somehow we manage to make it through.

5/01/2006 6:16 PM  
Blogger FindingHeart said...

Sorry, but I had to laugh just now. I was going to call you a cute name for levity sake. Still had 'hero'' in my mind and with a boy in the super hero phase and your blog title, I started to type, "Hello SuperOral". Um, maybe not, huh. LOL. I'll just stick to SuperGirl. :)

Anyway, definitely get the note from a Dr. about the hat. It is entirely permissable to wear a hat if you have a professional note.

I've seen kids come through my classroom bringing all kinds of family issues with them. Responses range from destroying things, pulling hair, writing on self (to the extreme), sleeping, cussing at me, and flat refusal to act human. It helped that I had the kids all day and could monitor behavior. Make sure the teachers know to watch out for behaviors. It doesn't have to be a big meeting, but let them know. I had a kid who's parents went through bad divorce and nobody ever said anything. I missed a major opportunity to catch her before her eventual withdrawal.

You are doing great, sister. Keep up the communication with the kiddos.

5/01/2006 11:55 PM  
Blogger MJ Norton said...

When I read the opening to this piece, taken on top of yesterday's entry, I was wondering if this was the Jerry Springer Show week for your blog. Once I saw it the personal connection, though... I wish it was something I could be flip about.

Given all we've been told I despair that your ex will ever understand and accept what's happened and why. It's a cruel thing that the very thing that tethers him to you is the children; were this a contrived thing - a design for a trap - one might call it diabolical.

You're listening, offering support and trying to intervene without making things worse. The only question is whether or not a fiercer action - a more aggressive stance - would be worth the long-term benefits. Re-setting a bone after a complete fracture is painful but necessary. I don't envy the situation.

Trying to ride steady until the end of the school year is a sound decision, but having this come to a working resolution during the summer break is essential. Finding out whether or not it's possible... that's the big trick.

As ever, good luck.

5/02/2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Carmichael -

Wow! The similarities between our ex's are almost staggering. I'm very grateful to have found Highlander. He's about as nurturing, sensitive and romantic as they come. And that's about as far, emotionally, from my ex as it gets. Knowing what I don't want has been a huge help in finding what I do want.

LC -

Thanks for your well-wishes. This is [Kid 2]'s second attempt at therapy. She didn't click well with her first therapist, but is having a much more successful attempt this time. She's just an incredibly sensitive child. Always has been. And, yes, we'll get through it.

FH -

More discussions last night have made her feel more "special" for being able to wear a hat and less "stigmatized". So, I'm glad for that. I'll definitely get the note tonight and will talk to her therapist about all the new stuff. Being in high school is gonna make this a little different than the age-group you deal with (at least that's my assumption), but hearing positive input from a teacher helps.

As for SuperOral...well...there may be one or two more (besides you) around here chuckling...;) One of them won't be this fella...;)

Mike -

Don't you know that it's Jerry Springer week EVERY week here at the Oral Report? You probably already know that I deeply appreciate all your support over the past few years. Certainly, always as it pertains to my girls. You've been a good friend and have always been right there with the good advice. Thanks!

I couldn't agree more that the summer break MUST see some kind of resolution to this stuff. I don't think she's up for much more of this. I know I'm not.

5/02/2006 11:38 AM  
Blogger AaA said...

Given the alternatives, hair-pulling seems like a blessing. But still, glad to hear someone's taking it seriously enough to develop a treatment. Might want to make sure your girls have lots and lots of short-sleeved choices if The Stressor (gotta have a Comic-book villain name for him, this one fits) is going to continue his attacks on them.

5/04/2006 12:29 AM  

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