Newsletter 1

When the Universe Gives You the Book You Need

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Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

Once upon a time, I scoured the internet and many a library catalog for books about a condition known as trichotillomania. I rounded up the few books I’d found on the subject, and lamented the lack of more books about it.

Sure, there are tons of scientific books out there, and I read a weird amount of books learning how psychiatrists deal with patients who compulsively pull out their hair, but I wanted books with real human stories. Not psychiatrists rehashing the notes they take during sessions. Patient is talking about puppies and she twirls her hair. I look at her and she exits the trance. No. I don’t want that.

I needed books with people like me talking about this thing we all hide in shame.

And then a friend who works at a publishing house told me they were publishing a book about trich, and she would get me a copy as soon as they got back from the printer.

The universe heard me.

Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want by Ann Swindell (Tyndale House, April 4) is exactly the book I’ve longed for about trich. She compares her suffering with the suffering of the Bleeding Woman in the Bible, enduring fatigue and isolation for twelve years as she silently deals with what her body is doing to her. And waiting for God to cure her. Spending all her money and energy and prayers for a cure. Waiting.

I’m not normally the religious type — I nod at the universe and do yoga and cross my fingers and send good vibes and pray when things are extra scary — but this book has a special power. So much of it felt lifted from my own life. Swindell talks about how she loves to read, but the pages of her books would be peppered with eyelashes she pulled out while she read. She talks about the lengthy makeup routine she put herself through every morning, hoping no one would ever notice what was hidden beneath the false eyelashes. She talks about how she revealed her bald eyelids to her fiance, how traumatic the moment was for her, even though he already knew.

The universe had been listening all along.

These are all things I needed to hear. I’m not in the shame part of this condition anymore, but hearing stories boosts me further past shame. I rip out my eyebrows and normally it’s while I’m reading, but I’m never going to stop reading. If I had to choose books or eyebrows, I would pick books every time.

The universe gave me what I needed.

We all have stories to tell, and we need to tell them. Gimme all your memoirs about everything you feel safe talking about. I want to read it. We all want to read it. Teach us. Share with us. You could provide someone with the comfort they’ve craved their whole life, give them the courage to combat a hard spot in their life, empower them to move beyond whatever ails them.

Oh, and universe, if you’re still listening, I’d really like a Beyoncé memoir.