I Am Not My Hair

Short haired buddies.

Is a haircut a momentous occasion for everyone? Not always, not for everyone. But for me, it is. Do I have a big story about this? Yup, I do. But I hope you’ll stay with me, because it’s an important one.

I have spoken previously about my issues and struggles with anxiety. But what I haven’t been as open about is how it’s affected me. I remember my first panic attack- I was 14, and preparing to pass a note to a cute boy my friends and I had seen at a fire drill the day before. As I stood up to walk to his lunch table, my heart started racing and my arms went numb. Cursing fate for giving me what I thought was a full blown heart attack as i was preparing to encounter “the love of my life”, I passed the task along to a friend and tried to calm down.

Over the years, incidents of varying severity occurred periodically, all symptomatic of an anxiety disorder I wasn’t yet aware of or ready to understand. But the biggest one came in 2007. Overwhelmed by the prospect of graduating early, an uncertain and confusing job market, and a series of stressful and complicated personal relationships, my hair started falling out. Even as I started to put my life together with a new job that I was good at and removal from toxic and damaging relationships, the hair loss wouldn’t stop. When it finally did, I was left with near bald patches on the left side of my head, while the right was largely unaffected. For someone so constantly concerned with order, being unable to control what my hair would do was difficult. In fact, one of my hairdressers told me the worrying made it worse.

Since then, I have still struggled to get my hair game back on track. Prior haircuts, trims and treatments haven’t been able to rectify the damage that was done nearly 6 years ago now. Even as my hair grows in healthy, remnants of the damaged and scraggly hair remained. And yet, the thought about going short with my hair terrified me. Short hair, in my mind, required a level of confidence I didn’t have. What if my head is a weird shape and I don’t find out until the hair is gone? What if it’s hard to take care of? How long will it take to grow out? I let the questions and worries beat me for a long time.

But now, as I near 2 full years of making a conscious effort to conquer anxiety with strategies like intentional breaks; writing; yoga; running; and yes, even a gluten-free diet; this was a way for me to shed the out-of-control, scared, and insecure version of myself. So armed with pictures of haircuts that I could see working with my face, I went for it. It’s gone now. And while I’m still getting used to it, I’m really enjoying it. It looks clean, it looks fresh, it looks…put together. While I don’t have it all together  (and openly embrace that “having it all together” is a myth!), I’m one step closer today than I was two years ago, and miles away from where I was six years ago. Finally, finally, my hair reflects that inner transformation

2 thoughts on “I Am Not My Hair

  1. Love this piece – I especially love that you ended by reflecting on how your outer self is now mirroring your inner self. That takes an awesome level of self-confidence and self-knowing. Thanks for the honesty, and your hair looks great!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. Making steps toward overcoming one’s mental/emotional struggles is incredibly hard, and I’m amazed at the (seeming) ease with which you talk about it. And your hair looks great!

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