‘My sons used to ask: Mummy, why don't you have any hair?’
ANGELA HABESHIS, 51, LIVES IN HERTFORDSHIRE WITH HUSBAND DEMOS. THEY HAVE THREE GROWN-UP SONS
I STARTED PULLING OUT MY OWN HAIR AT THE AGE OF 11. THINKING BACK, I PUT IT DOWN TO CHANGING SCHOOLS, MY HORMONES AND BULLYING. I HAD CURLY HAIR AND AT FIRST IT WAS EASY TO DISGUISE THE DAMAGE. I USED TO WEAR MY HAIR UP AND MANAGED TO KEEP MY BALD PATCHES HIDDEN. THE THING WITH TRICHOTILLOMANIA (TTM) IS THAT YOU KEEP IT A SECRET. IT’S ALWAYS DONE IN PRIVATE AND YOU HIDE IT WELL FROM YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS. I NEVER SPOKE ABOUT IT AND IF ANYONE EVER MENTIONED HAIR IN CONVERSATION, I’D JUST CHANGE THE SUBJECT.
I was 21 when I met Demos. Arranged marriages aren’t as
usual in the Greek Cypriot community as they once were, but they do exist. My husband and I started to get to know each other properly after our wedding, but I managed to keep my hair problems from him – I think he thought my hair loss was down to pregnancy hormones. For a time, I helped Demos in his business, but I didn’t feel comfortable socialising with anyone who didn’t know me well because I was always worried about my hair. As your hair gets thinner, people make comments and it just perpetuates the TTM cycle. In my thirties, I became extremely depressed, put on weight and began to withdraw from family life. I was pulling my hair more and more – it was the stress of being a parent; the stress of having TTM and the effect it was having on my appearance and my self-esteem. The self-destructiveness and loneliness of it all just overwhelmed me. I often pulled my hair out late at night and I’d get up in the morning and quickly clear away all the hair on the floor, so Demos wouldn’t notice.
Not just me
Then one day I read an article in a magazine about TTM, I never realised other people also suffered from pulling out their own hair. It spurred me on to tell my husband for the first time and he and our sons were incredibly accepting. The only time my sons had ever commented was when they were little and started noticing that other mothers at the school gates had nice hair. They’d ask, ‘Why don’t you have hair, Mummy?’ But as they grew up, they never mentioned it. It’s hard to talk about TTM because you feel so guilty: you’re doing this unsightly thing to yourself.
As soon as I realised my hair problem was an actual medical condition, I turned straight to my computer and started Googling. That’s when I noticed an upcoming TTM conference in Texas and told my husband I just had to go. I was very scared and spent the duration of the flight shaking. I was still shaking in the hotel and, in lectures, listening to other people’s stories, I just cried and cried – it all poured out of me.
The help I needed
Being at the conference was so intense for me that it did trigger off panic attacks, but I’m glad I went, it was a release I needed. As soon as I got back home, I called Lucinda Ellery, a hair-loss consultant who offers something called the Intralace system – a pioneering hair replacement prosthesis constructed from a breathable mesh and integrated into your existing hair. When I got home from my appointment wearing it, everyone was shocked – they couldn’t believe it was me.
It took me at least a year to get used to wearing the Intralace and I struggled with the idea of knowing I’ll wear it for the rest of my life. But, I’ve done so much damage that sadly any of my own hair that grows back now is so sparse and white that I feel more myself with it on. I just bless the fateful day that I picked up that magazine and found out I wasn’t alone. From that point, I felt that there was hope for me to start living a normal life without hiding away.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT LUCINDA ELLERY, VISIT LUCINDAELLERY-HAIRLOSS.CO.UK
‘Listening to other people’s stories, I just cried and cried’
FACING UP TO HER PROBLEM MEANS ANGELA IS NOW CONFIDENT AND SMILING