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I Struggled With Trichotillomania — & It Made Me Envious Of My Twin

Photo: Courtesy of Salma Haidrani.
The following is an interview with Salma Haidrani, a writer who has suffered from trichotillomania for almost a decade. (Read more about her struggle and coping mechanisms, here). In this story, she opens up to Jessica Chou about the emotional toll the disorder had on her family relationships, as well.

When I was 16 and struggling with exam stress, I started to pick out a few lashes here and there. Later, it was my brows. Then, my hair. I was secretly battling trichotillomania. It wasn't long before bald spots the size of coins started appearing.
When I could no longer hide it, I was judged and scrutinised. Having a twin sister made it even worse. One running joke went something like this: “How can you tell Salma and her twin sister apart? Salma’s the one without eyelashes."
I've since overcome my disorder, but my hair is still so much thinner than my sister's. Often, I've thought to myself, Oh my god, I'm uglier, I don't have hair or eyelashes, and people would point that out. When I go in to see my hairdresser, she'll say, "Oh, you've got really thin hair compared to Layla." It makes me feel really self-conscious when I'm out with my sister.
I really do admire my sister for so much more than her looks (even though I'm still jealous of her hair). Whenever we go out, I always think to myself, I wish I had her outfit, I wish I had her sense of style. She's more adventurous — she'll wear purple or brown lipstick. She's free-spirited and is always open to trying new things. I'm definitely more serious, but looking at her, I sometimes feel pressure to mix things up.
That's part of being a twin, I guess. It's hard being judged, but when there's someone who looks almost the same as you — only just a little different — it's easy to think, Oh no, I'm the lesser person, the lesser sister. But I think people need to realise that we're not the same person. When you first meet someone new and they notice you're twins, they'll spend five-to-10 seconds measuring both of you up and try to give you an identity. Oh, you're the cute one, you're the sexy one.

Once they've labeled us, I feel pressured to stay in that role. But why can't I just be me? As my sister wrote, "Why are people so obsessed with figuring out who is the 'prettier' twin?" I never regret having a twin sister, but it shouldn't be something that defines me.