when a name becomes a salve

yesterday was the fortieth anniversary of my birth, which, of course, is a fancy way of saying I’m 40 now. and you know what? I’m totally psyched about it! granted, at this point, I’ve only been 40 for one full day, but I was 39 for an entire year, and I can say with confidence that I took that age much harder than I’m taking this one. it’s the implication, see. ask any nine-year-old: they are almost ten. ask me at age twelve: almost a teenager. in the very same vein, thirty-nine implies forty. it did for me, anyway. in fact, I think I got most of my turning-forty angst and mourning over with last year. and to that entire experience, you’ll please forgive me for saying BYE, Felicia.

when I was growing up, I consistently felt more depressed on Sundays than on Mondays. and that Sunday funk was about Monday. the implication that Monday was coming for me could not be denied on Sunday. and this was in spite of being a person who pretty much always performed well scholastically. now I know that that sick feeling I had sitting on the couch, watching MTV before school, had a name: ANXIETY. but back then, it was just this sense of imminent doom that hung over me like my own personal Nothing from The Neverending Story. I didn’t know what was coming, but I was sure it was bad. sometimes I look back on that experience and wonder if it would’ve helped me to know that that ‘sick feeling’ had a name.

further down the road in life, I did find relief in the knowledge that all of my private struggles had public names. in current parlance we might say, “it’s an actual thing.” enter OCD and more specifically, trichotillomania. hair-pulling. one of the maladaptive tools in my kit. don’t ask me how it came to be that I could start plucking my hair, feel the pain, not be too bothered by it, and then not be able to stop. I don’t get it either. it satisfied something, but only very temporarily. once the behavior began, I couldn’t be sure when it would end, even when I didn’t want to be doing it anymore. it was like I was hostage to it. I struggled, too, with picking at my face. same deal. same initial draw, same strange lure of potential satisfaction. same hostage crisis in the bathroom. I’ve even described it as feeling possessed: I’m still in there somewhere, and I want to surface, to take control, but something that is not me is in charge right now.

so there I was, struggling with my own private weirdness, thinking I was uniquely fucked up in a way that no one could ever know about and still love me. and then one day I hear this word–a word that legitimately sounds like some kind of creepy-ass demonic ancient hell-spider: Trichotillomania. um, ewthis is the thing that takes possession of me. (an apt name, really.) but here is the point I’ve been leading up to, and the process by which such an ugly name, for me, became a salve: so if this thing has a name, that means I’m not the only one. other people have struggled with the same demon hell-spider. I am not alone. maybe there’s hope.

I rarely share this part of my story; in fact, I can only remember discussing it with my therapist and my best friend. even my family didn’t know. but maybe this admission will help someone. there were a number of other experiences in my life whose names I learned after the struggle was well underway: depression. anorexia nervosa. substance use disorder. codependency. love addiction. in almost every case, I tried to manage on my own under the presumption (assumption?) that this was something unique to me. in every case, I was wrong. and fortunately, in every case I found out that help is available.

whatever your private struggle is today, I hope you soon find out that it has a name. and when you do, keep moving forward. find help. you’re not alone. there’s hope.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley Marie says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your story. You write very honestly, and I hope that it can empower others, whatever their struggle may be.


  2. Jessica Raymond says:

    Thank you sharing this, Faith.


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