When Natasha Jonas gets stressed, she pulls her beard out. She enjoys the pain.
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Jonas became the aboriginal changeable British boxer to attempt in the Olympics in her home Games in London in 2012 and won her aboriginal able action in 2017 in aloof 92 seconds.
But it was alone this year, age-old 34, that the Liverpudlian recognised her hair-pulling addiction is authentic as a ataxia by the NHS – trichotillomania.
Here, Jonas tells BBC Sport how she is now alive with a analyst and why she is bound to assertive hairstyles.
When I was a baby, I had a absolute that I admired to rub. Alike as I got older, I acclimated to rub the sheet. I still do that to this day with labels and things, I’ve never chock-full that concrete blazon of thing.
It aloof developed to my hair, I don’t alike apperceive how, I aloof did it.
You accept the little $.25 of tufts at the basal which don’t fit into a bun or complect and it’s those $.25 I started with – and the little tufts at the front, the babyish hair.
Once I’d pulled that row out, you had to move higher, I confused and I kept accomplishing that until I’d got bisected way up my head. I had ‘Ms’ at the advanced and ancillary of my hair.
It started aback I was accomplishing my GCSEs and I bare to do able-bodied to go on to A-levels and be able to get into a scholarship position in an American university, because I capital to comedy football – or soccer, as they alarm it.
I knew I bare to do well. I wasn’t consistently abundant academically, so it was a afraid thing. Afresh it went to a abundance thing, any time I was stressed.
Trichotillomania, additionally accepted as trich, is aback addition can’t abide the appetite to cull out their hair.
Physically, it is like a pleasure-pain thing.
When my mum did my hair, there was alone assertive hairstyles she could do because my aerial at the aback was so far up and the beard at my ancillary wouldn’t fit in.
Mentally, I didn’t see it as a bad affair because it was active and allowance me to abate stress. If it wasn’t the beard affairs how abroad would I accept handled the stress?
I’m alive with Phil Steele (psychologist and hypnotherapist, The Mind PT) to recognise aback it comes, what triggers it and what starts it. Now it’s starting to accept a brainy impact, in that I apperceive why I do it and aback the time’s advancing that I’m activity to alpha accomplishing it.
Because I was never affliction anyone else, I never saw it as an issue. Sometimes my mum or my nan would say ‘what are you accomplishing that for?’ and I would say ‘is it affliction you?’ and because it didn’t aching them – if I was accident beard it doesn’t bother anyone abroad – I never anticipation it was a problem.
I wasn’t accepting angry and shouting at added people, I was aloof sitting there agilely affairs my beard out.
My two nieces absolutely do it. One does her eyebrows, she has concluded up with no eyebrows. The added one has pulled her beard so abundant that one ancillary is a acceptable three or four inches beneath than the other, and I get abhorrent for that.
My three-year-old babe did archetype aback she was younger, but she has chock-full on her own.
I never anticipation it was a botheration – it was alone through watching article on TV a brace of years ago that I realised it’s absolutely a thing.
By this time I was earlier and I anticipation it was aloof a abundance affair and it chock-full me from stressing.
But my mum phoned me up bedlam and asked me if I’d apparent the programme. I watched it and I anticipation ‘that’s what I do’, afresh I knew it was absolutely alleged something.
From afresh on I knew I could chronicle to somebody abroad about what I was doing. It wasn’t until now, aural the aftermost bristles months, that I’ve alike attempted to stop accomplishing it, get advice for it or see if there’s means I can action it.
I didn’t accept to acquaint anybody I was accomplishing it because it was absolutely visible.
I anticipate it was my GB team-mate Lisa Whiteside who commented ‘why are you consistently messing with the aback of your hair?’. Bodies saw me accomplishing it and never absolutely realised what I was doing.
It was alone Lisa who, because we were roommates, anytime asked. I said ‘Oh, I’m aloof affairs my hair’, and that would be about times of antagonism aback the stresses would accomplish me do it. I can go months after accomplishing it, but aback the accent comes on I can feel myself starting again.
Lisa’s acknowledgment was ‘doesn’t that hurt?’ – the accepted questions. Bodies aloof don’t get it, why you would appetite to aching yourself and you’re accident hair? I haven’t got abundant beard as it is, the one affair I don’t appetite to do is lose it, but it’s such a bad addiction that I can’t stop it alike admitting I am alive on it now.
Now, some genitalia of my beard does abound aback but it will never ability the lengths of added parts.
I’m bound to assertive styles if I appetite it to be accustomed or appetite it to be a assertive way, so that’s the abiding effect. But now it’s about compassionate there are added options for abating accent than affairs my beard out.
A lot of bodies don’t realise it is alike anything. Once you apperceive you do it, analysis it, accept a attending and see if there’s anyone who can advice you abate accent in added ways.
The big affair is to realise you’re accomplishing it and you’re not the alone one. It’s aloof like any added issues – there are added means to accord with the accent you’re activity through.
Natasha Jonas was speaking to Jessie Aru-Phillips for BBC 5 live’s Sista Collective podcast
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