Woman, 28, addicted to pulling her own hair out by the roots after child sexual abuse and schoolyard bullying… and how pole dancing helped her reclaim her life
- A young woman, 28, has spoken out about her addiction to pulling her hair
- The 15-year addiction left her with thin hair and large bald spots
- She says the addiction was triggered by ongoing bullying and child abuse
- She now wears special extensions to stop her from pulling her hair
- She sees a psychologist and runs a pole dancing studio and is a nurse
- She says pole dancing helped her reclaim her sexuality and move on
A young woman who was molested from the age of five and bullied horrifically through her early years of high school has revealed how she found solace in pulling out her own hair.
Kelly Inn, 28, has been suffering from trichotillomania, the intense urge to tear her hair out, since she was 13 after she became the favourite target for bullies at her Sydney high school.
The unusual form of self-harming was triggered by the intense feeling ‘nowhere was safe’.
‘I was molested as a child, from when I was five-years-old and had no outlet to deal with that,’ Kelly told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I was also really struggling to fit in at school because I was bullied so much.
‘It wasn’t the normal kind of teasing either; it was very physical violence as well a lot of b****y girl bullying.’
Kelly is now getting help from a psychologist and has a hairdresser who fuses crown extensions onto her scalp so she cannot fuel her addiction.
She has also become a pole dancer, and she says being able to develop these skills has helped increase her confidence enough to open up about her traumatic experiences and to ‘reclaim her life’.
Kelly clearly remembers the first time she pulled her hair out.
She remembers the release she felt and the sense of control it gave her at a time when she thought her sexual abuser and bullies owned her.
‘The first time it happened I was just sitting in my room watching a movie.
‘I was curling my hair around my fingers and felt a tingle on my scalp so I started pulling and felt instant relief.
‘Within a few days I had a bald patch and I knew something was off but I kept going because it made me feel good in that moment,’ she said.
Over the next year Kelly changed schools three times trying to escape the torment of bullies but wherever she went she was met with the same abuse.
‘I am very soft and not confrontational so I guess it is easy to pick on someone like that.’
Kelly found in times of stress she would pull more hair out more often, sometimes leaving bald spots the size of a 20 cent piece.
She admits turning 14 was extremely stressful because that is when she finally decided to stand up to the man who had sexually assaulted her for nine years of her life.
‘The last time I was abused was on my 14th birthday.
‘I thought “it is my birthday and you are still trying to molest me” so I came out to police.
‘I pulled (out her hair) so much at that time because I was so scared, I was just a child.
‘When police told my family what had been happening they decided to take my molester’s word over mine.
‘They said they knew him and he wasn’t that kind of person. They said I was just saying it for attention.’
Kelly was taken under the care of child protective services (DOCS) and sent to live with family in Melbourne.
They found her to be ‘too rebellious’ and by the time she was 15 she had been moved into a foster home.
‘It is so scary to feel alone at that age especially when there is no one standing up for you other than these strangers, these police, who you met five minutes ago,’ she said.
Kelly dropped out of school when she became pregnant with her first child at 16. She planned to go to TAFE and do social work but found when she got there she was still ‘too raw’ from her own abuse to pursue that career.
After having her second child at 19 Kelly decided to enroll in nursing.
The stress associated with exams, and her failing marriage caused her to continue to pull her hair out. She knew she needed help but she didn’t know how to get it.
‘Even just two years ago there was no information online about my condition, I felt lost,’ she said.
Kelly said she would do most of her pulling at night when her children had gone to bed because ‘no one would be able to see her do it’, so wouldn’t know about her ’embarrassing’ addiction.
At 23 Kelly moved back to Sydney to help support her elderly grand mother. She began pole dancing as a hobby and found it helped her to heal and rebuild her confidence after her traumatic beginning to life.
‘Pole dancing gave me back my sexuality,’ she said.
‘When I was molested it was taken from me and I didn’t want to do anything sexual.
‘Now I even enjoy the small things like running my fingers through my hair, I am glad I had the opportunity to find myself and my own sexuality through dance.’
When she first started pole dancing she would secure her hair with spray and pins so no-one would see her bald patches.
But two years ago she made the move to see a psychologist and got in contact with a hairdresser who could help her fix the bald patches she had made from 13 years of self-harming.
She got special crown extensions made which were fused directly on to her scalp. They stop her from being able to pull the hair from her scalp.
She says the combination of pole dancing, seeing a psychologist and the protection of the hair piece have all helped her to discover who she is as a woman.
‘My life has never been my own but I am claiming it back now. From my abuser who owned me for so long. From the school bullies who hurt me and from my ex-husband.
‘My need to do things to please everybody else affected who I was as a person so I am claiming it all back.’
Kelly doesn’t feel the need to pull the hair from anywhere but her crown, so only needs the scalp extensions there.
She believes the extensions give her confidence as well as blocking her from ripping out her own hair.
‘I think one day I will be able to take the extensions out.
‘I do still have the urge to pull sometimes especially when I have an itch or experience another trigger but it is not often.’
Kelly is telling her story to help other people who are suffering to seek help.
‘There is always support out there but you have to be patient and kind to yourself.
‘The fear of being judges is based on your own insecurities. So far I haven’t found any one who has reacted with negativity to my experience.’
The mother-of-two says strangers including the police she initially told about her abuse and her foster mother who took her in when she was 15 have been some of the most supportive people in her life.
Kelly has been living with her hair pulling addiction for 15 years now but believes end is in sight.
She says she is happy with her progress since she first approached a psychologist for help and says she isn’t going to let her past define her.
She wants to fight the ‘single mother’ stereotype and give her children the best possible beginning.
Original article published by the Daily Mail can be found here: