“I’m losing my hair.”
“I’m losing my hair!” I cry.
I woke up that morning and it was just gone. A small patch of hair right at the front of my scalp just disappeared.
So I did what every person shouldn’t do.
I googled it.
The word “Alopecia” popped up on the screen.
“Please see a dermatologist,” was the recommendation.
I did. This morning.
“Alopecia.” They repeated. “It’s temporary. Have you been stressed?”
I smiled and felt like crying.
Living and feel like dying.
Have I been stressed?
Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.
They don’t talk about losing your hair after Hurricanes. They talk about insurance and the triple rent. They talk about property values and community togetherness.
But not about your hair. Your glorious hair that has always been a great joy in your life.
Ash brown and lovely, it cascades down your back. It’s starting to be speckled with grey, two kids and your late 20s will do it to you.
But still, it’s your crown. Just with some silver.
And it fell off.
My hair. My beautiful hair.
One more thing the hurricane wants to take from me.
It wasn’t enough to drive me from my house? It wasn’t enough to take my roof? You have to take what grows at the top of my head, too?
They give me a shot right in the middle of the perfectly hairless circle. They remove three moles, too. Might as well while I’m there.
“Just finished a conference where they said Allegra has been successfully used to treat this. Take one every day. It’s not serious. You’ll get your hair back in no time.”
It’s not serious.
My scalp burns and goes numb, I replace my headband.
Just temporary, like recovery after a storm.
“This doesn’t define me.” I repeat to myself over and over and over on my drive home. “You’re alive. You’re okay. It’s just hair. It grows back.”
“It’s just stuff,” comes the familiar echo. “You can get more stuff.”
Will my hair fall out more if I cry about this? I can hold my whole life together after disaster, but I can’t stress about it?
Your body will betray you no matter how well you handle it.
“You’re so strong.”
Am I though? My hair is falling out.
Another friend moving away, another is looking for a new job elsewhere. I hear a story about another person who cracked because businesses don’t pay PTO for trying to piece your life back together.
A loved one is being put on more medication, because it’s probably better to be over medicated and a zombie than dead because you can’t.take.it.anymore.
“Stop being dramatic.”
It can be covered with a hair band and some bobby-pins, part it like this and you can’t even tell.
Put on a smile and look people in the eye, if you quirk your lips like this you can’t even tell.
That you’re dying. That you’re struggling under the weight of trying to make the summer days fun and exciting for your kids who are more resilient than their mother.
That you’re crying. Silent sobs that rack your chest and scream out the words you can’t form with your lips.
“It’s just stuff. You can get more stuff.”
“It’s just hair. It will grow back.”
“It’s just temporary. In two years it will be different.”
But between the loss and the new, what do you do?
What’s the advice for the in-between? That space between point A and point B?
Time. It’s a slow taskmaster.
Have you ever tried to count the breaths you take in a minute?
You stop breathing.
Have you ever tried to count the hairs on your head?
You stop caring.
9 months post disaster and you’ve given birth to something you’ve never wanted. It comes out screaming and needing and wanting and demanding.
All the repercussions of carrying something that’s too heavy for anybody.
How do you set down an invisible weight?
Reading self-help books didn’t keep my hair in.
Therapy didn’t keep my hair in.
All the inner strength built up over years didn’t keep my body from attacking the wrong cells.
You start to wonder where you went wrong in life to end up here. You think about what you could have done differently, what exactly you did to deserve this.
Still holding on to the measure of control that was never there. Trying to self-improve yourself out of the chances of random terrible life events.
But no. You can’t continue down this path. Stress will just make more hair fall out.
“It’s just hair. It will grow back.”
Your chest heaves and the sobs come. This can’t be good for your hair line. This can’t be good for your blood pressure.
Stress makes you gain weight, too. Is that why you’ve been sporting an extra 20lbs?
You pull in your driveway. “Oh look. Another neighbor’s sold their house.”
You take a breath. Set your shoulders.
Another day, and it really is just hair.
You really will wear headbands, they’ll become your staple. And you’ll stitch the gap with bobby pins.
Because that’s what you do. You take a coverup and make it a fashion trend.
You take pain and make it something beautiful.
You create meaning out of the terrible.
That’s who you are. You’re an artist and you paint with pain and turn it into something like hope.
You really will be happy again. You may even laugh today, in the next ten minutes when your son shows you a new building he’s made in Minecraft.
But for now, you let yourself feel sorry for yourself.
You let out all those emotions no one likes to talk about.
You know you have to feel, every hurt and disappointment.
You must feel it so your joy can run as deep as the pain that carved out a chasm.
After all, this is just a chapter in your story, babe.
And you’re fixing to turn the page.