How Olivia Munn Gave Me Strength In My Anxiety Disorder
“Your eyebrows look like they’re drawn on.”
My fifth-grade classmate made this observation without malice, probably because the idea was absurd. What 10-year-old would own eyeliner, apply it to their brows, or even know what it is?
Perhaps one who didn’t understand why, but who couldn’t stop herself from pulling out her eyebrows and eyelashes.
Every morning before school, my mother would lightly pencil in my eyebrows in an attempt to cover the fact that I had plucked out every last one. This was not as an overzealous grooming accident, but something that happened over time to fight anxiety.
My disorder, which faded after years of therapy and medication prescribed for depression and anxiety, didn’t come full circle until my senior year of high school, when I took an introductory level psychology course.
Don’t diagnose yourself or your friends and family, my teacher warned. Inaccurate self-diagnosis has become almost a hobby since the advent of WebMD, which will tell you a headache could be anything from an early flu symptom to a brain aneurism.
Trichotillomania, as I read in my textbook, is an impulse control disorder that causes one to pull out their hair. I hadn’t pulled for years, letting my eyebrows grow to a point where I could have them regularly waxed, but I could finally put a name to what I previously believed was a form of unique self-harm that only I practiced.
By my third year of college, I was an invested student: I took honors courses, had an active social life, and was an editor at our twice-weekly student newspaper. One day, I began to nod off during a particularly tedious lecture, and my hand rose to my eyebrow and I began to stroke the hairs. In a swift yank, I pulled out a long, course hair, enjoying the sting and the feel of the hair as it rubbed between my fingers.
I had a small pile of hair on the corner of my notebook by the time class was finished, which was when the shame of my act finally registered. I ran to the ladies room, trying to surreptitiously examine the damage to my brows. There was an obvious hole in one, surrounded by an area of red tenderness. Tears pooled in my eyes, and I ran back to my apartment and scoured my makeup bag for the same solution my mother provided almost a decade earlier.
The urge to pull was a constant struggle. I carried stress balls to squeeze when I wanted to pull. I tried sitting on my hands, which was a difficulty when I needed to take notes in class. I confided in no one but my mother and psychiatrist, an expert in his field who still needed to research the disorder in order to find the best way to help.
As time went on, I felt comfortable telling my best friend and boyfriend about my trichotillomania, and they were supportive. They would knock my hands from my face when they noticed I was pulling while watching TV or reading, and my boyfriend joked that he would get me a collar like they put around animals to keep them from biting at areas operated on.
As an aspiring journalist, my Twitter feed is often full of Tweets from various news outlets. Last week, a particular Tweet from the Huffington Post caught my eye: “Why does Olivia Munn rip her eyelashes out?”
For those unfamiliar with the young actress, she played a love interest of Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike,” was No. 2 on this year’s Maxim’s “Hot 100 Women,” and currently plays Sloan Sabbith on HBO’s “The Newsroom.”
Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith, “The Newsroom”
When interviewed by the New York Daily News, Munn said she suffers from anxiety, and deals with it partially through pulling out her eyelashes.
“It doesn’t hurt, but it’s really annoying. Every time I run out of the house, I have to stop and pick up a whole set of fake eyelashes,” Munn said in the Daily News story.
What the Huffington Post deemed an “odd habit” I see as nothing less than true bravery. When my lashes and brows are sparse, I feel uncomfortable being in public, looking people in the eye, and making any kind of close contact. Munn is a celebrity under constant scrutiny, often appearing on film and TV, and poses up close and personal for photo shoots, all through fake lashes.
Munn’s revelation can only lead to a world of good for the “trichster” community. Celebrities who have battled through eating disorders, self-harm, depression and more have come out on the other side and proven to girls and women that no one is flawless, nor do you have to be to survive the Hollywood shark tank (or real life).
Forget makeup and Maxim! Munn inspires me to see beauty in strength rather than appearance.
To learn more about Trichotillomania, you can do so here.
Written by Lauren Slavin