‘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

Essentials - - Amazing Women -

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

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