So about two weeks ago I posted this image to Instagram with the tag "I'll explain later"
This is kind of a touchy topic for me, but if anyone else can relate then I'd like to throw it out there, even if it's just to show you that you aren't alone when it comes to your body reacting to your environment in weird ways. First, let's talk stress. Stress sucks. Literally. It drains you, takes a mental and physical toll, and you can feel powerless in its nasty grip. Beyond the basic deep breathing and meditation, I have nothing to offer in the way of combating stress. That isn't what I'm here for.*
The above is pretty gross I will admit (I mean, who takes pictures of shed hair? Me. I do.) It is also a perfect example of why I need two of me so I can supervise myself. In my now defunct Self Love series I talked about how stress physically affects my body. One of the telltale, and unfortunate, signs that I am under far too much stress to handle is that my hair will dry out. I'm not talking "I need a hair treatment" dry, I'm talking "Bleached your hair six times in one night" dry, and no the latter is not speaking from experience haha
Not only will every ounce of moisture disappear from my hair, it will then start falling out. In handfuls. Which turns into a vicious cycle of upsetting me more, causing it to fall out more, etc. This also happens when depression rears its ugly head, but I'll save that can of worms for another day.
The first image above is of the hair that came loose when I ran my fingers through my hair as gently as possible to finger comb it before my shower that day. I swear to you that I did not cut any of that off. It wasn't as bad as the shedding during the previous finger-combing session, but coupled with that one, I had a lot of missing hair. By this point using a brush is useless as it just takes huge chunks from my hair, so finger-combing is the only way to go. I had tried everything I could think of to give my hair a boost, including oil treatments for days, but nothing helped. This time around my hair seemed to only be coming out in one patch at the back right of my head, and it was so big it was noticeable.
My first instinct was to shave my head. I'm not kidding. I was so upset over something that I told myself was a pretty silly thing to get upset over. It's not. It is a perfectly reasonable thing to be upset over. Personally, I had finally made the conscious decision to start growing my hair out last November, and it was going just fine and dandy until this latest stressful period in my life came along.
|The middle two were from the Paramore/FOB concert night. I was actually losing hair like mad and had to take it out of my ponytail because the weight was pulling more out.|
So I was upset over losing my hair in and of itself, but I was also upset at myself for allowing the stress to control my life and affect me in such ways, even though I know I can't blame myself for the hair loss. Then I was upset at the situation I'm in, and finally I was upset at myself for the way I was handling things. And all of that just contributed to more hair loss. Needless to say, I managed to avoid the urge to shave it all off, but the fact that I was so desperate for a quick fix was telling to me. I needed a change. I still need a change. I need to work on things in my life, and tackle them, and feel like I'm accomplishing something instead of being passive and emotionally drained every day.
In the midst of all this junk, there was an epiphany of sorts, during which I decided to be happy. I know that sounds pretty strange, but after I resolved to quit wallowing, quit making excuses, quit waiting to be happy and just be happy, I felt a tiny weight lift off of me. It was something I could work towards when everything else felt out of my control. I let my short patch grow out for a few weeks, still clinging to the hope my hair could be salvaged, while trying to make a healthier happier space in my home and in my head, pushing away the inevitable "you look horrid"s as far as I could.
Fun fact: Optimism isn't easy. I've been a pretty cynical person for much of my life, and I'm not proud of it. Cynicism is easy, wallowing is easy. Making the effort to stay uplifted is hard. But I was full of resolve to make the best of things, and "things" included myself. I was determined. I still am.
About two weeks ago I ran my fingers through my hair and thought about how much I was really enjoying having it long-ish again after six years of being short. I finger-combed it, my hand falling when I forgot there were sections that were much shorter than the rest, while more hair came out. I showered, wiped the steam off the mirror and looked long and hard at my reflection. Thoughts flitted through my mind, ranging from vanity, to self worth and how much importance we attach to our carefully crafted image, and our hair, especially women. I imagined how lovely my hair would be by Christmas, actually having length enough that my natural curls show.
Then I grabbed a handful of hair and chopped through it with the scissors pulled from the medicine cabinet in the second between dreaming of lush hair and shattering the illusion by opening the mirror. I am forever the queen of rash decisions. And though I probably should, I can't bring myself to regret this.
Maybe there are traces of my seventeen year old self left after all, and maybe I should listen to her more often. Sometimes I miss pieces of her, the zest for life especially. The ridiculous decisions. The cutting her own hair and being damn proud of it, even if it was horribly uneven. Maybe she can even convince me to go wild with my hair colours again, employment be damned. Maybe.
Maybe she's the one who actually made that first cut, taking off a good four+ inches. If she was, I was the one who just kept measuring and chopping all the way around my head based on that first section cut. When I closed the mirror and looked at myself again, the last traces of black dye-turned-orange through many lightening sessions over the past two years was gone. I felt my hair swish against my neck, tickling it in a way I hadn't felt in a year and a half. And I smiled.
The last picture was taken yesterday, after two weeks of growth. It's even more uneven than when I first cut it because it has already grown a bit, much faster than it had with all the fried orange bits on the ends. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy about that. There are no quick fixes, but sometimes drastic change is good. Sometimes making a no-going-back decision after being stuck in a rut is the best thing for you, even if it's a fairly trivial one in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes all it takes to get you back on your feet is a little reflection, in both senses of the word, and a load of determination.
And that's good enough for me.
*That is, however, what your doctor is there for so please please please do not hesitate to bring this up with a professional. Or even open up to a friend or family member you trust. Sometimes discussing a crap situation can help. Just don't suffer in silence and try to take it on alone, please.