Conquering with Keen: Allie's story

Allie is 17 years old and lives in Illinois. This is how she’s Conquering with Keen Awareness in her own words.

Finding the Good in Trichotillomania

My Body Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) is Trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling disorder. I’ve had it for six years. It had a huge effect on my mental health. The bigger my bald spots got, the more I wanted to stay inside my house and hide. I began avoiding things and it was hard for me to leave the house every day.  

I see my Trichotillomania as a blessing
 

But, my BFRB did lead me to create my YouTube channel, My Trich Journey. On this public forum, I’m able to talk with hundreds of amazing people who also struggle with Trichotillomania.  Because of that, I see my Trichotillomania as a blessing because it has made me a stronger, more empathetic person, and has given me the chance to help thousands of people.

Leaving the Darkness of Trichotillomania Behind

My hair pulling had returned for the third time in my life and I decided I couldn’t go back to the same, dark place I had been in before. My therapist recommended Keen by HabitAware to me. When I heard about it, I knew I needed to get it. I trained it to sense and alert me when my hand is on the top of my head. I wear it to school and when I’m stressed because that’s when I find myself hair pulling the most.

I am the happiest I have ever been

I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have ever been in my life right now. Coming out of that dark place gave me perspective and made me appreciate everything so much more. My hair is almost completely grown in and my confidence is back. I went from not wanting to leave the house or see anyone to being excited to go out and be social.

 
 

Changing the Game with a Trichotillomania Device

I would absolutely recommend the Keen habit tracking bracelet to anyone struggling with Trichotillomania. In fact, here is a video I shared with my YT family about how Keen is helping me stop hair pulling:

If you’re new to Keen, make sure you follow the directions correctly when training it and turn the motion sensitivity down so that it doesn’t vibrate unless you’re hair pulling. I would also recommend wearing it consistently and making it a part of your daily routine. Keen is such a great tool to stop hair pulling. It’s a game changer for people who pull their hair or have other BFRBs like skin picking (dermatillomania) and nail biting!
 

Thank you Allie for sharing your journey with us on our blog, AND with countless others on your YT channel.  We love how you’ve turned your hair pulling adversity into a blessing.

Wishing you so much love, strength & awareness,

 

About Keen by HabitAware

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HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


Finding the Good in Trichotillomania, Dermatillomania & Other BFRBs

Do you wish you never pulled that very first hair or picked that very first blemish? No one wants to be afflicted with a BFRB that buries us in shame and makes us want to run away and hide. But wishing something away isn’t going to send it away. It’s your choice to actively pursue change.

One way to do that is to take our hair pulling, skin picking or nail biting difficulty and flip it on it’s head to find the good in it. 
 
This good may be meeting your best friend at the annual TLC BFRB Conference, or deciding to become a psychologist, or starting a venture, like HabitAware, that can help others.

For me, I realized that If I didn’t have a BFRB, I would never have found Keen, or the work that I love. And I would never have met YOU. Sure, I wish that I didn’t grow up with my hair pulling secret. But, if I didn’t have a BFRB, then I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I really like who I am.

For Allie, in our Keen family, she found the good by becoming a voice for the BFRB community.

What good can you find? 

Are YOU ready to take on this challenge? 

Here’s how you do it:

Instead of asking “Why did I get this BFRB?” in a “why me?” woeful sort of way,

ask yourself, “Why did I get this BFRB?” in a “what good can come from this?” contemplative sort of way.  

Do you see the subtle difference in emphasis? Give it a try!

You might think your trichotillomania or dermatillomania is a curse.

But, can you find just ONE good thing from this difficult journey?

Give it some thought & leave a comment below to share what you’ve reflected on.  I’d love to know what is good in your life. 

Energetically,

Ellen & the HabitAware team

 

About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware-Android-AppIcon-72-hdpi.png

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


Community Spotlight: Lauren McKeaney is “PICKINGME”

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Lauren McKeaney has been picking her skin for 27 years. As a writer, film-maker and comedian, Lauren's life has always been about storytelling. But, there was one story she’d never dare share...until recently.

A 27-year Journey with Dermatillomania

Lauren picks her skin daily. In her early years there was a great deal of hiding with no rhyme or reason given for the condition of her picking. She quit competitive figure skating because her tights would tear her scabs off. Names such as “Leper” and “Polka-dots” were normal coming from school bullies. Sleepovers were rare, unless she found friends who would not make fun of her black sheets (incase her scabs bled). High school nurses, college counselors, and health-club managers made Lauren’s situation harder. She had been accused of self harm and taking meth. She had been asked to leave a locker room because she was making other people feel uncomfortable. Lauren’s skin picking was a barrier to intimacy. Excuses like bug bites, chiggers, rashes, and chicken pox were used multiple times.

After multiple professional visits, Lauren felt like this mystery within herself was unstoppable. After two decades of skin picking, Lauren’s skin was not the only thing that was marred by her condition. Her identity was too.

Finally, in 2013 the medical world seemed to be understanding Lauren and her skin picking. The DSM-V included her Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior. Lauren was diagnosed with Dermatillomania! YAY! She had a name after all these years. It felt tangible to her.

 
I wanted a button and a t-shirt and a certificate all printed with this finally tangible illness on it

Unfortunately, Dermatillomania was so under-reported, misunderstood and under-diagnosed that Lauren could not research it enough to be satisfied. With the newly found name came a newly found stigma. Dermatillomania is a mental health disorder and is often rendered as a “bad habit” and no attention was given towards it.

When 2014 came around, Lauren picked an area into extreme inflammation for the sixth time. It was so severe that she contracted the life-taking bacteria MRSA and almost lost her right leg. Instead she had eight inches of her inner thigh removed. For months she needed a walker and physical therapy to recuperate.

One day a stranger asked Lauren the once dreaded question, “What happened to you?” She could not hold it in any longer and she told her skin picking story. Lauren McKeaney found a new compulsion: sharing the truth.

< See how our Keen family is treating Dermatillomania & Trichotillomania: Our Awareness Bracelet Reviews >

From Skin Picking Compulsion to Advocacy Passion

Her old skin picking compulsion became her new passion. The mental health community was underserved; Lauren was now an advocate for it and founded her nonprofit, the Picking Me Foundation NFP.

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This foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma, just like HabitAware. Picking Me wants to inspire acceptance, be a supporter, and educate communities. Lauren and the organization she is growing wants to change the negative connotations around “picking” and let everyone know that these behaviors are not anyone’s fault.

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Picking Me is the only nonprofit in the world that solely focuses on Dermatillomania. However, there are many partnerships, other mental health nonprofits, and the University of Chicago that team up with their mission. Picking Me provides Derma art therapy programs, support groups, habit reversal trainings through the Fiddle Pack Project, and self-acceptance practice with the Picking Me Pledge. These programs help build awareness around the world. It takes one person, or foundation, to start a ripple of change.

A little girl came up to me after I shared my story...She hugged my hips and started crying about the bullies at school who call her “Gross” and shared with me how she just didn’t want to be here anymore. Until she met me. She told me because I am like a princess. What she saw in me was the self-esteem that it takes to accept and live with a mental illness, that we can turn our anguish into answers, and how helping others choose themselves over the disorder that chose them is the ultimate freedom. She saw that I truly am #PickingMe over my Skin Picking, and the hope it gave her gives me the courage to help heal our future.
— Lauren McKeaney

We are so proud of Lauren for choosing herself over her disorder and serving others through her storytelling. In the same way, the HabitAware team wants to help others not feel afraid anymore.

If you need someone to reach out to, HabitAware and Picking Me Foundation are always a quick click away.

Love❤️, Strength 💪& Awareness👀, 

Aneela & the HabitAware Team

 
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About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


Conquering with Keen: Stephanie’s story

Stephanie is 24 years old and lives in Virginia.  She’s had Trichotillomania for 3 years but recently realized she likely had a BFRB for much longer.  In her own words, Stephanie shares how she is Conquering with Keen Awareness.

From Skin Picking to Hair Pulling

I have Trichotillomania, but I recently realized that my journey with Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) started with Dermatillomania.  I used to pick my skin. Every time I had even the smallest blackhead, I would spend hours in front of the mirror picking at my skin. But after I found treatment for my skin, I was no longer a skin picker.  Instead, I became a hair puller.

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At first I would only pull my hair at home so I was not too concerned.  Then, it became worse. I was pulling my hair in public and while I was in class, and I could not just stop.  It was not that simple. It got to the point where I would have to shave underneath my hair because I had bald spots.  When I went to the hairdresser to get a trim, it was embarrassing to explain why my hair underneath was either gone or a million different lengths from pulling it out.

I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to ‘just stop’

I started nursing school and we were told that we had to keep our hair up.  I was embarrassed because I knew people would then see the bald spots and the habit I had been trying to hide.  I wanted to wear my hair up in cute styles even outside of school and clinicals, but it was embarrassing. I felt isolated from my peers because I thought everyone could see it and was talking about me.  I did not want to go out in public and I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to “just stop” pulling my hair out. My mother was concerned and kept telling me to just stop and I told her numerous times that it was not that simple, but I knew she did not understand.

My life practically revolved around my hair pulling.  If I was sitting in my car at a stoplight and pulling, I would wait until I had the hair in my hand before I allowed the vehicle to move through the green light with people behind me, beeping their horns.  I did not tell many people. I was alone.

< Ready for positive change? Order Keen, The Awareness Bracelet today> 

Searching for a Trichotillomania Solution

I decided to look for a Trichotillomania solution after discussing options with my psychologist.  She told me to put a rubber band on my wrist and snap it when I felt like pulling. When that did not work she told me to hold a piece of ice in my hand so it would somehow turn off the urge in my brain to pull because my hand would become wet, cold, and even a little numb.  I was also told to keep telling myself “hair belongs on my head,” but nothing worked.

I wanted to be a normal young woman who could put my hair up and enjoy different hairstyles, but I couldn’t.  I had bald spots underneath my hair. When these options did not work, I turned to my psychiatrist who I was already seeing for anxiety, ADHD, and OCD disorders.  She put me on different medications that are used for OCD, but none of them worked.

I wanted to be a normal young woman who could put my hair up and enjoy different hairstyles
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The final straw came when she handed me a prescription for Naloxone, which is the generic name for Narcan - the opioid antidote drug.  I could not believe it. I did not have a drug problem nor had I ever had a drug problem. So that evening instead of filling the prescription, I started to search online.  I typed in “Trichotillomania” and went from there. Suddenly, HabitAware appeared after I searched for “Help with hair pulling.”

Overcoming Trichotillomania with a Habit Tracking Bracelet

I went to the HabitAware website on my laptop and it has since changed my life.  It was a non-pharmacological measure, and if it did not work, they offered a 90-day money back guarantee.  I had nothing to lose. I asked for my HabitAware Keen bracelet for Christmas and it was the best gift I received.  I downloaded the app on my phone and I set up Keen. It was super simple and easy to do!

I wear my bracelet every day and no one questions it because it looks like a fitness bracelet.  I love the way the bracelet looks and the fact that I am the only one who feels the vibration to know when it is alerting me.  They say it takes 21 days to correct a bad habit. I have been wearing it longer than that and my hair is finally starting to grow.  I may even be ready to wear my hair up this summer!

 
Keen has completely changed my life
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Keen has completely changed my life physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I no longer pull out my hair. I may always have the tendencies to pick and pull my hair out, but Keen reminds me to put my hand down.  I am no longer looking over my shoulder thinking someone is talking badly about me. I live in peace now. I am no longer embarrassed or self-conscious about putting my hair into a ponytail, or trying to hide my bad habit.  My life is crazier than ever with graduation in just a few months, but with Keen I am calmer and less anxious.

I have already recommended Keen to others.  My psychiatry office is learning more about Keen. I have recommended it to coworkers, friends, and other family members. When they see how much my hair has grown underneath, they are in complete shock to see how much a bracelet has impacted my life.  I am truly thankful for Keen!

And we’re thankful for you, too, Stephanie!  Thank you for sharing your story and giving strength to our community!

 
 
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About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:


TLC Annual Conference: Keynote Speech: Be Your Own BFRB Hero

On Saturday April 21st, 2018, our co-founder & chief trichster, Aneela Idnani, had the honor of delivering the Keynote speech at the 2018 TLC Conference Annual Family dinner. With tears and joy, Aneela proudly shared her story of overcoming trichotillomania, the trichotillomania treatments that worked for her and the making of the Keen smart awareness bracelet.

This is her speech.

Be Your Own BFRB Hero

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Hi my BFRB family!

My name is Aneela. I am a member of the TLC BFRB community, and I have pulled out my hair for more than twenty years.

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I’m truly humbled to speak with you tonight, because a few years ago I wouldn’t dare disclose that I pull out my hair. For most of my life I’ve hidden my BFRB out of fear of being caught and fear of being shamed for what other people see as “doing this to myself.”

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But the last few years have been life changing. I found TLC, and faced my BFRB to become my own hero. Like a time-traveling superhero, I wish I could go back in time 26 years or so to save my younger self. I know what I would tell myself. With TLC as my companion, I’ve made peace with my hair pulling disorder. And this peace was also made possible because I changed my inner dialogue, I built a force field of self confidence, and I refocused my energy from hiding to healing.

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I wish I had this playbook years ago and hope that by sharing the steps I took in the last few years, it will ease your journey and inspire you to face your BFRB and be YOUR OWN HERO.

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Before I could face my BFRB, I first had to stop caring what other people thought about me & my hair. This was really hard because, like hair pulling, the negative thoughts were so automatic and started when I was pretty young, letting my elementary school classmates tell me who I was: a nerd, ugly, poor, weird.

When you hear something enough, you start to believe it. Even well into my twenties, the labels stuck, masking who I truly was. I had become my own worst critic, focusing on all my mistakes, big and small, and ignoring all of my successes. Doing good wasn’t enough. I was pulling uncontrollably to cope with this personal pressure and work stress.

Recognizing I needed to change or I would stay unhappy forever, I read about self-improvement. I armed myself with an arsenal of daily affirmations. Even when waves of insecurity rush toward me, I say them anyway: "I am happy, health, kind, love, loving, creative, talented and GOOD ENOUGH!"

And the more I affirmed it, the more I believed. I found that my words have power. Like a superhero I defined who I was and what my strengths were. And I grew closer to being able to face my BFRB. If negative self speak, stemming from your BFRB or other insecurities, applies to you, please know you can turn it around with practice. You can change your inner dialogue.  

Listen to how you - and others - are talking about you. If you don’t like what you are hearing, change the dialogue. Write down what you do want to be hearing and say it out loud each day.  In time you will wash off the mask others have mucked onto you.

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Changing how I viewed myself meant I began to care less how others viewed me. Like a superhero, I had built a force field of confidence, able to deflect others’ people’s judgement. But, a part of me still cared & was still scared - Which meant I was still hiding my hair pulling because of the stigma associated with BFRBs. I just didn’t want other people to think lesser of me because of my so-called “choice” to pull.

But the fear of rejection had less power over me because of the force field of self confidence I had built up by changing my inner dialogue. One fateful morning in 2013, Sameer, my husband of three years at the time, caught me before I had a chance to hide my late night pull session with makeup. I was confronted and questioned. And in that moment I didn’t want to lie anymore. So I told Sameer the truth: I pull out my hair and it’s called trichotillomania.

Most heroes have someone who knows their true identity, because even superheroes can’t keep their biggest secrets to themselves. Superman has Lois Lane. Batman has Alfred. I had Sameer. It was his curiosity and questions that helped me let go of the baggage I’d been carrying for nearly twenty years. Sharing my BFRB secret brought us closer in ways I could have never imagined. It gave us both an outlet to share what was going on in our lives, our pains, our hopes, and what we wanted for our future family.

He also encouraged me to see a psychologist -- not just any, but one from TLC’s listing, someone well versed in how to treat BFRBs. Talking with her was like having coffee with a best friend - I unraveled my childhood, found peace with my father’s illness and passing and was able to shine a light on my BFRB.

It was really scary to let my secret out & let Sameer & my psychologist in, but it wound up being the best thing that could have ever happened. It was a weight lifted and I realized keeping my BFRB secret was my Kryptonite, destroying me from within. Hiding my BFRB was keeping me from being my best self. I don’t want it to keep you from being your best too.

Release the heavy burdens you are carrying. Be open to conversations and remind yourself that your loved one’s curiosity, while it may sound accusatory, is really coming from a place of love and understanding.

When Sameer realized that his tone affected my response, he changed it up. Instead of asking “did you pull today?” He would ask, “did anything happen today that created urges?” When we can meet each other in this way, vulnerably, lovingly, we can replace judgment with compassion.

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With my force field of self confidence and my secret out in the open, I no longer had to hide - and could begin to heal. The time and energy spent sweeping my hair pulling under a rug, figuratively & literally, was refocused on talking with Sameer and accepting his support.

Sameer helped me become aware and helped me find healthy ways to manage my BFRB.

When we were together, he would gently reach for my hand when he noticed I was pulling. Those sweet, simple (& sometimes annoying) gestures of his love gave us an idea of how I could develop awareness of my pulling. That idea evolved into us creating a solution, a discreet, programmable bracelet that alerts its wearer when they are engaging in body-focused repetitive behaviors, which we call Keen.

As we developed the first prototype for our Keen awareness bracelet, Sameer and I were united in the cause. He & I would scientifically and objectively discuss my pulling. For the first time in 20 plus years, I could identify my triggers and achieve the awareness to take control and choose healthier behaviors. I replaced pulling with deep breathing, drinking water and walks around the office. Like a superhero honing her new found powers, I refocused my energy spent pulling and hiding on to healing instead. For the first time in 20+ years I found meaning and purpose in my  trichotillomania. It was to overcome it and create a healing tool for myself & others.

< See how our Keen family is making their Dermatillomania & Trichotillomania stop: Our Awareness Bracelet Reviews >

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While both TLC’s supportive community and the awareness honed with the Keen bracelet have been extremely significant to my recovery, I’ve also found peace by owning who I am.

To do this, I changed my inner dialogue, created a force field of self confidence and refocused my energy. I truly believe you can take these same steps to find peace too.

You can change your inner dialogue. Take all that time and energy spent telling yourself you are worthless because of this disorder and shout out loud “I am worthy!”

No seriously, Let’s hear it!

You can create a force field of self confidence. Take all that time and energy spent hiding in fear, and share your BFRB baggage with someone you love to lighten your load and your mind.

You can refocus your energy. Take all that time locked in a bathroom pulling, picking or fighting with wigs or makeup and channel it to healing from within.

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You are meant for bigger and brighter things than hiding and battling this disorder. You are meant to find things that give your life meaning and fulfill you. You are meant for a life where your BFRB doesn’t consume you. I know this to be true because I’ve lived through it.

Honor the hero within you by becoming your own hero!

Christina, Jen, Leslie, Corinne, Kaprece, SAB, TLC! - Without your organization I would never have known this was a mental health condition. Thank you for welcoming me into your family after nearly two decades of not knowing where I belonged. I am honored and truly humbled to have this opportunity tonight to share my BFRB journey.

To my BFRB family, thank you for your time and attention. I hope I planted a small seed of hope and courage when you are ready, in your own time.

I can’t wait to see the heroes you become and the good you create in this world.

I wish you all love, strength & awareness on your heroic journey.

About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates: