“the harmful effect that occurs when the general population endorses prejudice and subsequently discriminates against people with mental illness (Corrigan, Roe & Tsang, 2011, pp. xiii). More importantly I feel for my illness is the internalised stigma that develops, by directing negative attitudes inwards leaving a feeling of unworthiness and just ‘less’ of a being. It is an incredibly frustrating disease, while being described in psychiatric records as far back as the 19th century, research on epidemiology, psychopathology and treatment is sparse. It has only been in the last decade that trich has received increased attention, with the first book on the disease published in 1999.
Prior to wearing a wig I feel that I dealt with social stigma on a more regular basis. This was mainly because my hair was obviously short, thinning and patchy. More often than not I had members of the public sharing their pity with me about my ‘chemotherapy’ treatment. This was particularly evident one day when I was working in Scotland. An older gentleman came in to purchase his bus tickets from me and proceeded to share his story of surviving testicular cancer. Although honoured that this man had shared his very personal experience with me, I had to tell him that my hair was not the result of a terminal illness but I was pleased he was doing so well. This was a statement I had to use regularly, “no, I don’t have cancer and my illness is not that serious” I would say. Sometimes I even said I had alopecia, because it was just easier to explain than “I pull my hair out” which can lead to either silence or further questioning.
(Sometime during the 1990’s, one of the few times I went to the hairdressers in an attempt to disguise my pulling)
For those of us that pull, there are often a range of feelings that develop after a good pulling ‘session’. Most involve guilt, sadness, frustration and an increase in anger, but all add to the internal feeling of helplessness that can lead to a decrease in self-esteem and self-efficacy. This can then have a direct effect on an individual’s pursuit and accomplishment of life goals, such as getting a job, living independently, and developing meaningful relationships.
1/ no longer the need to worry about their secret getting out
2/ others may express their approval
3/ others may have had similar experiences
4/ the person may find someone who can help them in the future
5/ the person is promoting their sense of personal power
6/ the person is living testimony against stigma
1/ others may disapprove of their mental illness or stigma
2/others may gossip about them
3/ others may exclude them from social gatherings
4/ the person may worry more about what people are thinking of them
5/ the person may worry that others will pity them
6/ family members and others may be angry they disclosed.
Personally I expect a mix of both through my experience writing this blog. I am more hopeful that it will be a therapeutic experience for myself and a learning and/or sharing experience for others.
Corrigan, P., Roe, D., & Tsang, H. (2011). Challenging the stigma of mental illness: lessons for therapists and advocates. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Son