I was 15 years old when I first became aware of my hair pulling. It was around the time I first noticed split ends and my immediate reaction was to pull on the hair to get it off my head; at first it was a soothing release and something I wasn't even aware of half the time. Little did I know that that was only the beginning of a journey I'm still taking today.
Fast-forward to July 2010 and my world changed forever. I was involved in a serious car accident while driving down a Lincolnshire country road. It was the first day of rain that summer, meaning the road was very slippery, but I don't remember anything until waking up in hospital two days later in Intensive Care with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and limb damage, as my elbow was completely destroyed.
It was when I was on the road to recovery from this accident, that my hair pulling - or Trichotillomania (TTM) to give it its proper name - became far more enhanced. I basically had to restart my life again and this was a daunting process. Knowing how close I had been to losing my life was terrifying and hair pulling was a way of self-calming during my darkest days.
I can't overstate how big an impact Trichotillomania had on me. It controlled all aspects of my life including my social life - I would only go out if I could hide my bald patches - and I started to avoid basic everyday activities. More than anything, I was more and more sure my hair was my 'crowning glory' and I felt horrible. I felt so down on myself and like there was no end in sight; it was a vicious circle of feeling sorry for myself and then pulling to make myself feel better.
The less sociable I became, the more my friendships were altered as I became almost completely shut off from the outside world. I felt so embarrassed and that no one understood me. I would wear headscarves and clip in extensions at first, and then I bought a wig, which I wore for two years, before I found out about Lucinda Ellery and her team.
I came across a documentary online called 'Girls on the Pull' - a documentary on Trichotillomania featuring Lucinda - and again, I felt like my life had taken another turn, but this time for the better. The relief at knowing it wasn't just me hit me hard; I had honestly thought I was the only person in the world to experience hair pulling to such an extent! When I eventually got fed up of the wig, as it was so uncomfortable, I decided to go for my consultation with Lucinda herself.
I was so nervous during my first appointment but I remember my first Intralace system being put on with so much ease and understanding from the team. The Intralace is a lightweight, breathable mesh that doesn't pull on the hair and means I can't get to the roots to pull - it's the complete opposite of the wig which I found so heavy and restricting. My emotions were full of joy, excitement and true appreciation. I was overwhelmed and felt the confidence I had long lost come flooding back!
After many years trying to find the right help through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy along with the Lucinda Ellery appointments, I am focusing on being more aware when I go to pull and why I do.
I'm strongly assured I can and WILL stop pulling although it isn't straight forward and I will have slip ups, but, for the first time now, I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel.
International No Pulling Week takes place from 1 - 7 October. For more information on Lucinda Ellery and Trichotillomania, please visit www.lucindaellery-hairloss.co.uk