As a mother, one valuable lesson I learned was that the most compassionate and effective way of responding to seemingly unjustified toddler tantrums was to articulate for my son what he might have been feeling, and why he might have felt so - in other words, to recognize and validate his feelings regardless of whether I could truly identify with so much frustration or sadness over seemingly trivial stuff. Despite such an epiphany, I didn’t always succeed in putting that emotional wisdom to use, often because I was just too tired or distracted to listen to my inner wisdom. Well, I’m not a sleep-deprived mother anymore, but I find many analogies in my past and present experience with medical hair loss.
Here I am, having just sprouted new hair after 7 years of baldness, and already I am catching myself mindlessly committing the same emotional faux-pas many a well-meaning friend committed during my most emotionally turbulent times with Alopecia.In spite of not wanting to become attached to my newly grown hair because of the likely hood of its temporary status,I find myself obsessing about my hair style, the color, andmy good and bad hairs days. What’s worse is I even caught myself obsessing out loud to a long-time friend with alopecia. Only later did I remember how deeply it used to bother my recently bald self when friends would insensitively complain to me about their less than hoped for new hairstyle or vent to me about a bad hair day. I am stunned by how quickly I had seemingly lost my sensitivity to the emotions of other women living with medical hair loss and baldness. Not only did I feel so guilty for going on about my new hair with my beautiful bald friend, but I got to wondering what this would mean for me when I almost inevitably lose my hair again. After so years of depression and seclusion, I had finally made peace with my condition, but how quickly we forget. I worry that I will have to re-ride the same emotional roller-coaster when I again lose my hair. And even when we do remember, how often we fail to act and live accordingly. While I am disappointed in myself, I am grateful for the wake-up call.
I share this with all of you to both validate those feelings of added frustration we all experience when those closest to us pretend not to notice our thinning hair, our balding head, or seem entirely insensitive when whining about their own bad hair days to us. Equally important, I want to recognize that even we who have experienced medical hair loss and the associated emotions are not above forgetting all the emotional wisdom we’ve acquired through our condition.
As I am researching the source of emotions that surround hair loss, I have found some online and print resources that are helping me to gain deeper perspective on and understanding of such emotions. For example, if we look back through human history, we may find comfort knowing we’re not the first to obsess over our hair. Check out The Hair Foundation and the UK Hairdresser’s History of Hair . Another fabulous resource I found that both validated my own feelings about hair loss and is a great read for those wanting to support loved ones experiencing hair loss due to cancer treatments is Melanie Haiken’s article titled “Coping with the Psychological Issues of Hair Loss”. Lastly, I am reading Nancy Etcoff’s book, “Survival of the Prettiest,” as part of my research into why hair and other aspects of our appearance are so important to us. Etcoff’s book provides an important contextual understanding of who we are and why looks matter so much to us, that rather than a modern day disease there are biological and socio-evolutionary methods to the madness. And as a parting thought, I found this empowering quote at CrowningGlory.org . “It is time to remember that we are not our hair, we are not our breasts, we are not our children, we are not our parents, we are not our age, we are not our skin, we are not our wealth, we are not our partners, but WE ARE our inner wisdom, love, strength, integrity and compassion.”