“You look so chic!” “The pixie looks amazing on you”, “I love that haircut. So short and smart.” Reading these comments on my profile picture I was reminded of the day I decided to cut my hair as short as possible. I was in the trial room of one of Bangalore’s popular clothes stores, when a tear silently rolled down my cheeks. Instead of critiquing the fit of the kurta or admiring its cut, the bright lights and the four-sided mirror made the two bald patches on my scalp very apparent. It had been 8 years since I had last seen them, and way back in 2002, they were tiny. Today, in the trial room, I struggled to hide them with the rest of my long hair, fitting a pin wherever possible. I knew my OCD was back, and my breakup and his cheating had triggered it. When six years of a relationship and a promise of a lifetime end in betrayal, they leave scars. Mine left plenty too.
Trichotillomania, or hair pulling disorder is an obsessive compulsive disorder caused by stress, among other reasons. It started for me when I lost my mother but I overcame it gradually. It started again after my breakup. The nail biting, always a habit, now saw blood oozing out, toenails were picked till I extracted the entire nail with my bare fingers, and it didn’t hurt.
From, “I will never ever leave, I don’t believe in notions of letting go and moving on. You’re the nucleus of my existence and it’s my dream to grow old with you” to “It’s best we move on in a dignified manner. I’m very happy and she and I are together now.” Reading old emails and chats made it worse.
How do I go to the parlour and get a haircut? How will I answer those questions about the hair loss and bald patches? “Chewing gum caused it”, “Jaundice. I had a terrible post jaundice hair fall attack,” I told my hairdresser as he cut my tresses. My breakup had cost me my self-esteem. A doctor online told me it was part of the depression I was going through. I’d never in my wildest dreams imagined that he wouldn’t choose ‘us’, and so when the breach of trust happened, something in me broke. I spent eight months after completing a degree abroad sitting at home and staring at the ceiling. My daily routine would be, waking up at 11 a.m., unwillingly, having breakfast, feeding my ailing grandmom, sitting in a corner and brooding. This was followed by lunch at 2, then siesta from 2:30 to 6. Tea at 6, a little chitchat with my aunt, lying down on my bed till 8 and being lost in thoughts of why and how. Dinner would follow at 10. I would go to bed at 11 p.m., sleep only at 5 in the morning. I lost ten kilos in 3 months because the sight of food made me want to vomit.
I didn’t have a job, and where a very impressive CV took me to the interview stage, I never went beyond. I had lost my self-confidence.
Anxiety attacks, being lost in thought, hysterically crying in the middle of meals and conversations and not being able to share my depression with my already worried family led me to decide to go for a break to Malaysia, to my old job, as a volunteer for a month. Initially I was a burden on them instead of being of any help. “Dua, if you do not eat this yogurt and rice I will take you to the hospital” read a note from my ex-boss cum foster father outside the door of my room in the office. I hadn’t left my room in two days, nor eaten a morsel.
He kept telling me he was confused. Had no answers to why he cheated, why he kept profusely expressing his undying love for me every single day for 6 years only to not even want to give us an honest second chance when I caught him cheating. Yes, I was ready to give us a second chance.
I came back to India with an empty bank balance, having spent the last possible penny of my savings on a trip we took as a couple. That is when I was introduced to Bonobology. One day I called Raksha, whom I’d known since I contributed to the Chicken Soup series, because I felt I could speak to her. I poured my heart out to her and she listened to me patiently for over an hour. She listened and asked me to write. That’s when I penned down my first article in a very long time.
I started reading articles on this website on breakups and depression and how people change in relationships and on infidelity and polyamory and realised that I wasn’t alone. Yes, we all to seem to believe that what has happened to us is the worst ever, but after reading these I realised that I could have faced much worse had I discovered what he did after we got married. Yes, he broke the dreams of a future I had been seeing with him and his family and mine since I was 22, working on a career to suit our paths but I also realised that I wasn’t to blame. The articles reinforced my belief in myself, because I read how so many men and women believe that there was something lacking in them because of which their partners left them.
When I started looking at things from a third person’s perspective and asked myself if what they were feeling was correct, the answer would always be a ‘NO’.
It’s been a year and a half now and I won’t say that I have completely recovered. I’m doing well professionally but cry myself to sleep very often. But I’m getting better. The hair pulling is minimal and I have beautiful nails now. When I wake up to a lot of strands of hair on my pillow, I promise myself to use self-restraint. And it helps. I’m eating healthy. There is a lot of pain and loneliness, but with time I believe I’ll overcome that as well. Beautiful memories are the most difficult to forget, bitter truths are easier to swallow. Depression is a process and it takes time to heal. It won’t magically disappear, I know. It’s very important to be aware and acknowledge it, as the first step towards healing.
Sometimes, it makes a difference if a well-known person says out loud what you yourself already know but don’t want to admit. Watch Deepika Padukone talking about her fight with depression.
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