Hair- begins to represent less and less of you and more and more of your “invisible illness.”
That was literally my first thought as I did my hair for the first time since I hacked off 6 inches… I mean, I’ve had long hair all my life- down to the middle of my back right before I cut it. Simply put, my hair sort of defined me. It’s blond (albeit died now lol) and big and long… sort of what you expect of the stereotypical California girl. But it’s been part of my signature; just ask anyone from high school even. It hasn’t changed much at all. I’ve always been a fan of “the wave” and it’s looked almost exactly the same over the last 20 years. Lol Some may say that’s sad, yet it was easy and I could just curl it or pile it on the top of my head in a knot and get away with never knowing how to do my hair “like a grown-up.” (The key word being “pile.”)
When I was first diagnosed as Epileptic my Freshman year of college, my hair looked like a horse’s main in a ponytail. I was even envious of myself, it was so thick. I think I took for granted those previous 18 years of luxuriously blond, strong long locks. They were so much a part of who I was/am as a person and my first impression. But then my third med came along and chunks of those locks fell out. I would run my fingers through my hair and a web of strands appeared interwoven amongst them. I’d roll it into a ball and stare at how big it was in my palm. A part of me slowly diminished. Sounds stupid now, even petty, particularly in a man’s eyes probably, but it struck me as losing a part of my identity then, just as it does now. My seizures still weren’t completely controlled and I was going bald (at least in my mind). Why would I continue these meds?
So I switched to new meds (turns out with far worse repercussions) and I prayed my hair would grow back. I didn’t want to complain, fearing I’d seem superficial, but I hesitated to brush my hair too much remembering the long strands stuck at the precipice of the drain. I think I experienced an exceptionally small taste of the fear and insecurities a woman losing all of her hair may face.
Long story short, it never grew back to the way it was- not even during pregnancy- and then even more fell out post preggo. C’est la vie, I told myself. Yet it was when I added Keppra to my Lamictal that I started to notice a difference again and the strands began to wad up in that ever familiar ball near the drain. The shower clogged and I’d have to empty chunks of hair. I thought maybe I should get a wig. 😉 Why not have some fun and take on another persona? Unfortunately, this horse’s dose of meds helps and I’m sort of at the end of my rope with swapping meds, adding another one, weaning off another one, etc.
I pretty much just wear my hair in the “mom bun” these days unless we have a night out or an event or I just feel like looking decent… (lol) But one morning, after a particularly difficult night, I stood in my bathroom and just looked at my reflection in the mirror and let my hair down. I brushed it with a paddle brush and proceeded to pull all the broken strands from the tiny spokes and hold them in my hand. It was a lot. I turned around and looked over my shoulder, seeing how long it looked, yet how thin it had become… especially at the back. It was when I pulled it to the side and braided my hair, I saw just how stringy and sparse it looked towards the end. And the hair tie seemed to wind around and around, over and over before it was tight.
I was crushed.
I wanted a fresh start.
I texted a mommy friend whom happened to be a hairdresser and said I needed an appointment for a highlight and cut. I needed a change. She said no problem. And I was in! She’s seen my blog and she knows my story, so when she asked what I wanted to do and I responded- I’ve always wanted to chop it off for a change, she advised me to go slow but let’s do it. I was so nervous. She suggested the “lob” which I had to google since I know nothing about hair except to wash it. lol I loved it.
While I waited for my color to set, I sent my husband some pics and he said do whatever I wanted; he “thought it would all look hot.” (Men, smh.) So later, as she brushed my wet hair down my back, I almost changed my mind. BUT, then she said this- “These inches of growth represent the last years of your life.” She put her fingers where she planned to first cut and said, “this is about 3-4 years of growth just right here,” and I thought- how appropriate? I am so grateful and blessed to have had so much of those years but I would gladly erase the struggle marring those last 1,460 days… As she cut, I almost cried; not in sadness, but with relief. I watched it all fall away.
I looked at the floor before I walked out that day and saw the long, discarded strands, what had been me for so long, and felt hopeful. Lighter.
I’m sure she doesn’t know her impact, and its significance may sound ridiculous to some, but I know those of you that feel you’ve carried the weight of the world will understand, she was my savior that day.
I opened the door to the street- head up, confident, strong, and in some way…