Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My friend, Megan, sent me this article recently: Hair Pulling: My Hands Were My Enemies.
I've touched on Annabelle's hair-pulling propensity before, but I don't know if I've ever given the full background on it.
When she was still a baby, probably around 9 or 10 months old, she started pulling her eyelashes out. I would notice her doing it when I was nursing her. It freaked me out a little. However, after a while, it seemed like she had stopped doing it. Around that time, purely by chance, Michael and I came across a documentary on TV about a condition called Trichotillomania. I had never heard of it before and had no idea that there were people out there who had a compulsion to pull their hair out. I remember feeling scared, remembering Annabelle's recent eyelash-pulling phase, and relieved that she seemed to be past it. However, it was only a short time later that she began twirling her hair. It went hand-in-hand (and still does) with finger sucking: she sucks the two middle fingers of her left hand while twirling/pulling her hair with the index finger of her right hand. I know there was a period when she was a toddler when I did realize that she was not only twirling her hair, but also pulling it out. I brought it up to our pediatrician who assured me that it's a common habit among small children, and most of them eventually outgrow it. I frequently had to trim Annabelle's hair because she would twirl knots into it. This is why Annabelle's hair has always been so much shorter than Daisy's, or even Lilah's.
It's hard to say exactly when, but at some point during the last year, it became clear that Annabelle was pulling her hair out in earnest. I have heard the sickening sound of her ripping the hair out of her own scalp. I have seen the locks of pulled out hair in her bed and scattered on the floor. It's difficult to put into words the feelings this evokes in me, as her mother. Heartbreak. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. Helplessness. It's really a form of self-mutilation when you get right down to it. How is a parent supposed to feel knowing their child is engaging in such self-destructive behavior - and can't seem to help it?
I first tried that nasty-tasting stuff you buy to stop thumb sucking. I thought if I could break her of the finger-sucking, the hair-pulling would stop too. But she really didn't mind putting that stuff in her mouth. I began wrapping her fingers in tape quite a while ago in an attempt to break her of both the finger-sucking and the hair pulling. Kevin was a thumb sucker, and we were able to break him of that by keeping his thumb wrapped in a Band-aid for a few weeks. With Annabelle, though, it does only seem to be a "Band-aid" solution. The moment the tape comes off, the fingers go into her mouth and into her hair. If I stay on top of it and keep her fingers wrapped around the clock, her hair grows. And in fact, I didn't have to trim her hair for about 6 months just this year because I was keeping her fingers taped, she wasn't pulling, and her hair was growing out nicely.
With everything else going on lately, though, I've become lax about the tape. And one day recently when I was washing her hair, I discovered that she had gone on a hair-pulling frenzy and pulled half the hair out on one side of her head. I just wanted to cry - I think I did cry. How can my little girl be doing this to herself?? I don't have any answers.
I had to cut all of her hair very short just to even it all out:
She cried the entire time.
I know she still looks cute with her short, short hair, but that's really not the point. I am at a loss about this. I don't want her to grow up with this uncontrollable compulsion. I imagine that at some point we're going to have to get into some kind of behavioral therapy.
I just don't know if I can handle one more thing right now.