Even athletics, which I’d enjoyed before, became emotionally painful. Once, before a basketball game organized by my youth group, I pulled my hair back and out of my face, revealing my bald spots. Girls asked if I had cancer while boys snickered and pointed. Because physical activities required me to wear my hair up, exposing my disorder, I stopped them altogether, asking my parents to get special permission for me to opt out of physical education classes in junior high and high school. Making it through each day felt taxing and I retreated even more on days I felt extra bullied, heading to my room to pull. People asked, “Why don’t you just stop?” I couldn’t. Pulling felt delicious, desirable, and easy. It was my relief from others’ cruelty.
Even after I escaped high school and its bullies, I couldn’t kick the habit that had followed me since age 14. Over the years, I tried every treatment for my OCD I could find. I visited a slew of therapists who all looked at me as if I were untreatable. I kept rubber gloves at my desk to wear as I typed. I wore hats whenever I wasn’t at work. Nothing worked.