First and foremost I just want to thank you all for the positive feedback we received on the previous post. It was the first collaborative submission piece (multiple contributors), and it was awesome being able to use this blog as a way to express both my own experiences, alongisde those of others.
Being able to coherently express my feelings, thoughts, and experiences to advise and help those in similar situations, is one of the most fulfilling aspects of writing. This is especially so when it comes to addressing topics such as mental health, and illness.
Now the subject matter of this post is a prime example of this, and it addresses something which I rarely speak about, especially online.
When I lost my hair…and why.
So on that note, let’s get started.
On the 19th of January 2015, I developed appendicitis, which was wrongly diagnosed as the norovirus. This wrong diagnosis resulted in my appendix perforating, subsequent hospitalisation, surgery, and peritonitis.
I know right…it’s a lot. However, I’m not here to talk about the surgery and the healing process, as it’s the root cause of my PTSD; and even though I’m doing well in trauma therapy, I don’t wish to go into detail.
But peritonitis is a serious infection, and at one point the surgeons didn’t think I would pull through. BUT I DID BITCHES, HEYYYYYYY! Although I did need intense antibiotics, which were delightfully described as the Domestos of antibiotics. That was such a comforting titbit to digest after nearly dying. WOW, bleach in my veins…love ittt. Nevertheless it would’ve killed me otherwise.
*Fast forward to April of the same year.*
Picture the scene…it was a morning, I was awaking from sleep, and I realised something was different. There was something on my pillow, and my face, and my pyjamas.
It was my hair. Chest length brunette hair. A sickening nausea overcame me, a wave of fear, and complete shock. For the next 3 days whenever I brushed my hair, ran my fingers through my hair, or awoke from a night’s sleep, I lost chunks of hair.
However, looking back it is quite funny how much my hair at the point resembled Peter Pettigrew’s in quantity, style, and texture. Although it took a while to reach this place where I’m able to look back and bring an aspect of humour to an otherwise upsetting situation.
After the first few days, I realised it was necessary to get rid of my hair. It was all coming out, it was all dead from the antibiotics months before and would only cause more upset. So, I decided to visit the hairdressers and have the remainder shaved off to even everything out.
Bitter-sweet relief ensued knowing that I didn’t have to deal with hair loss anymore, but on the other hand, I no longer had my once long hair.
As someone who has always been expressive with my style, and trying new hairstyles throughout my childhood, it was a lot to deal with. Although, I gained an insight into my inner strength, which I truly believe we all have. We just don’t believe it until we’re tested – which is a sad reality, but a silver lining.
At first I felt liberated and confident, I had made the decision to take the remainder of my hair when I chose, I didn’t want what happened to me to take this aspect of my identity. But after a month or so the novelty had worn off, because after all if I were asked if I wanted to shave my hair prior to it falling out, I would’ve shaken my head fiercely, even though it would’ve been awesome if I had felt differently…but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t.
So much so that my self-esteem dropped, I felt the need to wear makeup every time I left the house to feel feminine – I wasn’t exactly as empowered with my womanhood at this point of my life, I had a lot of learning to do, and experience to get to the point that I’m at now. I recall visiting a department store with mum in my wheelchair, and I had to wear a headscarf otherwise I wouldn’t accompany her out of self-consciousness.
However, as a young girl with disabilities, no hair and wearing a headscarf – I received many a sympathetic look; which isn’t a bad thing in a sense because people are clearly only doing so out of blind empathy. Yet it only magnified how obvious it was to others, which was the exact opposite of my wish; which was to be invisible and go undetected from the gaze of those of whom I was unbeknownst to.
In a sense, I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb, which bothered me greatly as a young teen, as I know it does for many young people, men and women. It was rooted within my social anxiety, I felt that what I had experienced was visible via something I wanted to be in complete control and dictation over…my appearance.
This poor self-image and self-esteem proved to be a major indicator of poor mental health, but I didn’t understand this at the time. I knew I had anxiety, but for a little while I didn’t totally comprehend that I was depressed. I mean yeah my body, hair, and educational circumstances had changed but…depression. I felt guilty for even considering this a contributor to potential depression. I wasn’t scared of being labelled with anything, funnily enough. But I didn’t want to express concern of depression about things like this; because the enormity and negative effects of the events hadn’t quite hit home.
I was experiencing guilt for feeling certain emotions related to body image and self-image. I felt I should be stronger and that the mere fact I was still alive should have been enough to prevent those feelings from taking hold.
I felt I wasn’t bad enough. I felt like I was overreacting for a time. I felt I should be handling this better. But I wasn’t and I didn’t understand why.
Furthermore, upon a referral to a mental health service, I expressed my feelings regarding the situation. But I was wearing makeup, my hair had started to grow, I was trying my best to be strong. My words and experiences weren’t enough, my appearance was the main focus. My depression and trauma were overlooked. I didn’t feel like I was bad enough for help, or to be taken seriously.
I felt deterred from accessing a second opinion or expressing my concerns with another professional, as I didn’t want people to think I was complaining, overreacting, or plain lying. These perceptions and views were more painful than being untreated; because I felt either way that I would have to deal with my emotions and feelings alone.
Fast forward to the present day, and I am a much more confident, self-assured young woman, I have received support for my mental health, and have found healthcare professionals who have taken me seriously on what I have said. During college, at the GP, with the adult community mental health team, and now at specialist trauma therapy.
I have reached a point where I am comfortable with expressing my emotions and experiences (parr a few). Although sadly I know that many young people AND adults are not in a similar position, and may not have the motivation or self-assurance to stand up for themselves, and fight to get the recognition they deserve.
And I want to take this opportunity to express how worthy you are of receiving justice and recognition in all areas of mental health.
If you feel like you’re overwhelmed, unable to cope with how you’re feeling, feeling down, anxious, perpetually stressed, self-conscious…you are ‘bad’ enough, and in a justified position to reach out for help.
You’re never a burden, there are charities and organisations who provide helplines for those who feel like they’re suffering. The details for said contacts are linked below.
Lastly, I want to express my empathy, support, and confidence in those who are going through difficult situations, and struggling with mental health issues. I only hope that you can all see your worthiness for support, your capability to make changes to better your situation, and to see how valuable you are as an individual.
You’ve got this my darlings. I’m sending all of my love, positive energy, and good wishes over the festive season. Be kind to yourself.