Lost My Hair & Found Myself
“Look at all of that long, pretty hair!”
“Your hair is so pretty and thick!”
“Girl! All that hair!”
Recently, two famous women have spoken publicly and discussed their journey with hair loss: Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and actress Ricki Lake. Their stories are similar in tone addressing the shame, pain, embarrassment, and forced acceptance of being a woman who loses her hair. I empathize with them because I’m also a woman who has lost her hair and must accept life without it.
When I was a girl, I suffered from very low self-esteem due to childhood trauma (a story for another blog). No matter where I was, I always identified the location of the proverbial spotlight and consciously ran as far away from it as fast as I could. I never wanted eyes on me, but somehow I always seemed to garner some type of attention. If it wasn’t my eyes that drew people, it was my hair … my long, thick mane. At one point in middle school, my hair was almost at my butt! My mother worked her magic with my hair and always did her best to keep it styled, but it always poofed its way into its own creation and became a point of admiration from others.
Growing up, my hair might’ve been a source of pride if I felt positive about myself, but I didn’t feel that way. My hair was a nuisance to me. I couldn’t manage it. It was too much. It was too thick. It was too long. It was this. It was that, but ... it was there ... until it wasn’t. And when it was no longer there, I missed it, all of it, every last strand of it.
I remember the beginning of the end of my mane. I was in a dysfunctional, abusive marriage. I had one school-aged child, one toddler, and one newborn. I was crying daily. My appetite was almost non-existent. My work performance was at its worst, and my mothering was reduced to the remnants of long, emotionally-exhausting days. Needless to say, my stress levels were through the roof, and coupled with my poor diet, my body began to show outward signs of the strain.
As I got ready for work one morning, I went to the half bathroom on the first level of my rented townhome. I began to comb my hair and strands fell into the sink. I was shocked! I combed some more and more came out. I started to cry. I ran my fingers through my hair, and more hair fell into the sink. I clutched the edges of the sink and cried into the pile of strands. I couldn’t believe it. I let life take me there, and I had no idea how I would recover. To make matters worse, my then husband began to add remarks about my thinning hair into his barrage of verbal abuse.
Over the next decade, I would try a plethora of things to try to get my hair to grow back. I tried electrotherapy, vitamins, massage, oils, prayer, etc. Nothing worked well enough to bring my hair back anywhere close to what it was. In fact, new areas of balding began to appear. I struggled to accept my new reality. I was losing my hair.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hair loss can be attributed to one or many factors: heredity, hormonal changes and medical conditions, side effects of medication, excessive stress, and/or certain hairstyles and treatments. For me, one cause of my hair loss was heredity, but the severity and duration of stress that I endured from my late-20s to early-30s accelerated and exacerbated my hair loss. The short list of stressors during that time follow: bad marriage, parenting singly while married, poor work performance, financial loss, divorce, and more court dates than I could count. Life was exceptionally hard for me during that period, and my hair loss was extremely difficult for me to accept. I struggled to style my hair and to explain the exposed areas of my scalp to my young children. I felt uncomfortable going out in public and spending time with family and friends. The stress continued to mount … until it didn’t.
Some time around age 36, I began to change from the inside out. As I changed, everything around me did also. I consider that moment in time the beginning of my unveiling. I began to stand firm in my principles, refused to allow others to send me on anymore guilt trips, began to recognize, appreciate, and walk in my own strength and resilience, learned to appreciate balance in my life, and most importantly, I fully embraced my past, remained aware in my present, and looked forward to my future. My change in perspective and dramatic shift towards an abundance of positive energy resulted in unbelievable manifestations in my life. One key manifestation was seeing my inner beauty reflected outwardly, and that reflection continues to be so radiant!
It took almost four decades of living, but today, I’m able to look at my reflection and smile with a full heart. I see me, all of me, beyond the hair. I’m no longer counting healthy hair follicles to determine my wholeness as a woman. My individuality, my femininity, my marriage, my motherhood … none of that is hinged on if my hair is there. It took some time to accept those facts, but I finally have. I’m standing strong, bold, beautiful, and BALD!