From the outside looking in, she's pretty perfect. Total babe, big pipes (former Australian Idol finalist), loads of friends, and personality to boot, but behind that gorgeous smile she's been living with a dark secret. One that she's about to tell the whole world (via Facebook of course)! A secret she's been sitting on for 18 years in hopes it will set others free. I am excited for you. I know her vulnerability and courage blew me away. Let me step aside and give Kim Cooper the mic.
"If we make a conscious decision to post images that show our vulnerabilities and foibles, we will begin to chip away at the perfection that infects so much of social media." - Lori Leibovich.
Looking back, I don’t feel anyone could have known the private pain and distress I was facing. But that is often the way, isn't it? Infact, I’m going to be bold and say it's almost always the way. I can’t really ever remember a time being on stage wasn’t apart of my world. Even if it wasn’t a stage I was given, it was a stage I created. Whether it was singing, acting, or dancing, it didn't matter. I was there, front and centre, leading the pack, smiling from ear to ear, doing what I loved and performing my little heart out. So why would such a happy and vivacious little girl be feeling such secret anguish? Well, ever since I was maybe eight or nine I have suffered from Trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania (or Tritch as it's also known) is an impulse disorder characterised by the compulsive urge to pull out one's hair, and is initially triggered mostly by depression or stress. Mine initially came as a way to deal with extreme bullying I was facing at school. To be honest though, a lot of my pulling now is not simply a twisted from of stress management. It’s now also habitual as much as it is a coping mechanism, a systemic and familiar routine engraved into who I am, one I gravely wish didn’t exist.
Now as a 27-year-old adult, most mornings I wake up to the photo you see below. Me. Having no eyebrows. Wearing my unconquered condition in the middle of my face.
It feels like I constantly have had this dark cloud, this vicious lion following me waiting to pounce. Trich is a condition that comes with so much shame. It makes me feel frustrated, disappointed, isolated and horribly in prisoned whenever it strikes, which unfortunately is more often than not.
It affects my every day life, and tarnishes most special events. From birthdays where I just wanted to have eyebrows to feel like a functional human being, to big photo shoots where I awkwardly have to explain to the make up artist why I, “only have 1/2 an eyebrow right now, sorry". I find myself not being able to go swimming incase my eyebrows "wash away". When holidaying or staying with friends, I have the monotonous routine of rising extra early to put on make up to avoid being exposed.
It even affects my life in the littlest of ways, like not being able to leave the house “fresh faced” for menial tasks. (Which for a girl who doesn’t even really like make up, is irritating to say the least!)
So why now, with no “cure” to my condition in sight, am I deciding to share a secret I've worked so hard for so long to conceal on a blog such as Virgin Diaries? Well, aside from being Sabrina’s biggest cheerleader and believing in the honest, real and groundbreaking stuff VD is doing, reading Lori's quote above made me realise that I am part of the social media “perfection problem”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don't believe in throwing your junk all over the internet; and I do strongly believe in the healthy sharing of your private struggles with the appropriate people. However, I so often wonder if women I look up to on the internet were also this vulnerable about whatever their secret “thing” is, I would not carry so much shame about my secret. Because God knows, we ALL have a “thing” - every one of us. The girls you stalk on Instagram, celebrities, the perfect girls at the private schools, all of us! I wonder if I would walk a little taller when I had a set back and was sporting only one eyebrow or go swimming more if I knew women I admired graciously dropped the illusion of their perfection in public sometimes too.
So therefore, in the hopes that this post helps you not harbour so much shame about your “thing”, here is my “thing” out on the internet, for all to see.
You need to know I have prayed, hoped, dreamed begged and tried SO hard to make this go away. I’ve feared I would never do anything great if I couldn’t get on top of this condition. But God, our beautiful gracious God luckily doesn’t wait until we have it “all together” to use us to do momentous things. In fact, you’ll notice when reading your Bible, God NEVER uses people who have it all together! (Hello! Noah, Paul, Moses.) He even says so in 1 Corinthians 1:27, haha! This scripture promises us that, “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”. How comforting is that. And I can vow that I am a living testimony... this is true. Promise, darling girl, that you will never forget, we all have our "thing", and it's ok, because life is beautiful and so are you! I promise, your “thing” (whatever it may be) does not stop you achieving great things for this world! God has a plan for you, “thing” included, whether He heals you from it or not. Am I still hoping every day God will heal me? HECK yes! Am I waiting around for it before I use my life to make a positive impact on my world? HECK NO! And neither should you.
So girlfriends, may seeing this post bring you comfort in your darkness, and strength in your days to enjoy life, perfections and imperfections included. Go get em’ tiger!
Strong Women - May we know them. May we raise them. May we be them.