Sprig's Pages

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Falling out

Some things are really, really hard to talk about, and for me there's one topic, two little words, that I just can't get out of my throat. But after so long of trying to deal with it without talking about it, I just can't keep it inside any longer and need to say it before I SCREAM. 

Hair loss. I am losing my hair.

I have been, since the end of 2010. I know exactly when I started noticing it. I was having an awful year for anxiety - panic attacks regularly on the way to and from work, and at home in bed; discovery that I had something called PSVT (I don't even know if it's something you 'have' as such or just what you call the episode you experience - basically, sometimes my heart beats so fast it feels like someone is shaking it and trying to make it explode, and I feel like I can't breathe. It stops within 15 mins, or else I have to go to hospital); a weird relationship that made me feel even shittier than my bad break up a couple of years before; and a job so stressful at times it was all I could do not to cry. 

Then I had jury service, on top of that, which funnily turned out to be more of a break than anything else. After almost 2 years of working myself into the ground I had this thing that allowed me to get up at 9 and be home by 4 for two whole weeks, right before the Christmas break too. I'd do it again in a shot, but the problem was this sudden stop from anxious, crazy, mentally exhausting days meant my body went a bit mad. And it decided to chuck out my hair. 

It sounds so vain, so silly, so petty. But you have no idea what it's like to suffer from hair loss if you haven't experienced it. My confidence was hardly high as it was (shitty relationship did not help either), so knowing big hair was 'in' (fuck you Cheryl Cole) and my hair was definitely out, was not something that's easy to deal with. 

At first I didn't take it seriously, it was just another thing I moaned about to a couple of friends (not many, it's hard to say it without sounding like a bit of a freak). Then it got worse. And my head really hurt. My scalp felt tight and sore. It became so thin on top I struggled to cover it. It was so thin all over that I could no longer wear my hair down, even if I curled it like I usually do, because it just seemed so glaringly obvious.

I told my doctor, she said it was stress. I told my doctor again and cried my eyes out, she referred me to a dermatologist. Three months later I had an appointment and I was so hopeful, so excited that they might help me, I couldn't wait. I got in there, and the woman started asking about my eczema. I didn't understand. I talked about my hair, and she didn't understand. 

Turned out, my doctor had referred me to talk about my incredibly sensitive skin and its recent reaction to something, not my hair. I cried again. She did some blood tests which she said would be relevant to hair issues, trying to keep me calm and reassuring me that even though she couldn't help she'd do what's needed so I could get the help I so desperately wanted.

I went back to my doctor and got upset again. She referred me again. Another 4 months later I had an appointment. It was with a lovely, lovely man, who didn't work in that hospital but was helping them for the day. He listened. He looked at my scalp and said he couldn't see much but would do a biopsy to make sure everything was ok. Then under the big lights and magnifiers, he said that he was wrong - it looked very inflamed and very sore and very not right. I thought, shit, but thank god, I'm getting answers. He did the biopsy there and then (terrifying, that word is horrid for a start) and told me I'd have to wait 3 months for the results. I couldn't bear the thought of the wait but I was so pleased he'd listened that I accepted it. 

I went back for the results and had the coldest woman I have ever met tell me that the results showed nothing and that it was probably just general hair loss. Just like that, as if it's perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. In fact she said it was pretty much down to a form of dandruff or dermatitis, which actually I've rarely experienced. I started to have a bit of a panic attack because I was so upset that she was getting up from her seat and telling me to go away, with nothing to help, no answers, nothing at all. 

She was so cold towards me and so nonchalant about the fact I was going to keep losing my hair and 'fingers crossed it will stop at some point' that I started to let it all out. I told her I can't go to hairdressers anymore. I told her I don't like going out anymore because it makes me so paranoid. I said I don't like anyone near my head because it feels so sore all the time and I'm worried they'll notice. I went through a phase of not sitting down on the tube because I didn't want the people who were standing to see the top of my head. 

She sighed, bored because it was lunchtime and they were trying to close, and packed me off with some steroids. They didn't do an awful lot, but the loss seemed to slow down. Then I went back to my doctor and she said I'd have to be on expensive tablets for the rest of my life, or just drop it and accept it's stress. I gave up. 

Sometimes, just brushing my hair makes me cry. Every time I put my hair up (every day as I can't wear it down anymore) I have to check it repeatedly to make sure there are no patches showing. I have nightmares about giant clumps of it coming out. And recently, I've been so stressed out, run down, worn out, that lots of it is coming out. It seems worse than ever and I can do nothing about it. 

Even the fact it's winter makes it worse because a strong wind or even a splash of rain can highlight it to everyone, despite my efforts to conceal it. When I get ready to go out and friends are around me, I'm certain they think of me as really vain as I take so long to get ready and check everything looks ok - but it's not about being obsessed with looks, it's about feeling reassured enough that I can walk out the door without everyone staring at me.

I have tried supplements and shampoos and lotions and diet changes; Viviscal, iron, LA Science, more oily fish, magnesium, zinc, daily vitamins, head massage, some weird herbal stuff my mum got me. Nothing works. Even when my anxiety lowered and I had my life back for a bit, I was still losing it and more to the point, it wasn't growing back. 

I know I'm more of a glass half empty kind of girl, a trait that drives other people mad. It drives me mad too, I don't enjoy being negative. But I have no idea if it will ever improve. I have no idea whether I will have any hair left by the time I am 30. I pray that I do, because honestly I have no idea how I'd cope. Coping isn't my strong point. All I've ever wanted, for as long as I can remember, is to be normal, and I don't feel like I ever will be. I've never felt attractive in my life, and yet here I am knowing that it's all downhill from here as I'm a) getting older and b) I'll probably not have normal hair ever again - it's not a nice thought.

I've written this post before, at least three times. Every time, I have deleted it, because I hate the thought of someone reading it, then meeting me, and examining me, trying to decide just how bad it is and feeling so glad that they don't have these problems. But after yet another sob when looking in the mirror today, amid a rather emotional past couple of months, I just felt like I needed to say it. 

So if you're reading, please do me a favour. If you ever see a woman (or a man for that matter) with thin hair, bald patches, or even just plain and simple rubbish hair: don't stare at it. Don't comment on it. It may only be hair, but to some people it's their confidence. It's their self esteem. It's their femininity. It's the thing they need to feel ok about in order to feel ok about everything else. 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Money must be funny in a rich man's world

I'm very open about money. I never really thought about it but over recent years, through conversations both at work and in my personal life, I've realised that most people don't like to talk about it. Or, they'll talk about it, or around it, but no figures will be mentioned. 

I'm the kind of girl that will walk away from a cash point saying 'Fuck! I have maxed out my £800 overdraft'. My friends know what I earn. They know what I charge for my freelance work. It's on my website for god's sake. Anyone can see. I have post-its all over my walls at home, one of which has my outgoings listed for the month. Others have lists of how I would pay for a Macbook should I choose to finally get one (god, I need one). The list involves store credit, credit cards and overdrafts, in case you're wondering. 

So with money worries top of my worry list this month, I started to think (not that I ever stop) about my openness around money, and realised that it's probably because I am so used to talking about it. That, and the fact that I have a lack of it. My family have had more than their fair share, more than the UK's fair share, of money issues thanks to a screwed up endowment policy. Ever since that happened, and I can't even remember how many years or decades it's been, money has been the hot topic of our household. Everywhere I go, even when I left for uni, it was the issue. So now I'm used to talking about it, I'm used to people knowing we struggle, and I'm not proud or picky about who knows it. 

I think like a poor person. I use the word 'poor' loosely, there are people far worse off than me and I certainly don't go without food, clothes etc. But I don't expect big presents for birthdays or Christmas (I really hate the post-xmas 'what did you get' conversation - are we five?), I only replace coats and boots (expensive, you see) when they're knackered and I tend to only shop on ASOS when there's a big sale.  I don't understand why my flatmate suggested throwing away our old and tacky furniture when we move house - my question was, what would we sit on?

I have a theory that people who are better off are less likely to talk figures. Sure there are the show offs (I know way too  many) who flash their cash and say things like 'hey, it's on me, I can afford it' and start buying bubbles and posh food when all you want is a Pinot Grigio and some chips. But even then, they just want people to know they're loaded. Not *how* loaded. Then there are others I know who have been working for years, building up their career, own their own houses, have a car that isn't an old banger (this concept is foreign to me) yet stay tight lipped about how much they earn or whether they occasionally struggle to pay the water bill. No one knows, no one dares ask. 

I'm not sure which is the better way to be. Being open about wages is always risky particularly within a workplace, as someone will always feel slight resentment about something, and being open about it with friends isn't always the best idea. Sometimes they assume that you're better off than you are (because no matter how much you earn, they rarely ask your outgoings) and some feel awkward about being better off themselves. All I know is I feel more than comfortable talking about money and budgeting - it's just a shame I'm not very good at it.



Thursday, 2 February 2012

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

Memories are weird things. Brilliant things, things that help us to feel, love, and laugh; those of us that have lots of them are rich in that sense. But they're also irritatingly real at times, and can pop up at moments when really, you would be perfectly happy just staying in the present, or daydreaming about your make-believe future.

Like this morning on the way to work, when out of nowhere, my mind wandered to a really upsetting time of my life and played out the scenes like a trailer for a tearjerker movie. I could see the whole thing again as if I was back there, and felt the exact same way I did back then, right there on the Bakerloo line. I ended up getting off the tube with blurry eyes and an overall feeling of complete sadness because it suddenly felt like what happened around three years ago had only happened yesterday. It made me feel blue for the entire day and I still don't even know what led me to think of it. So thanks, brain.

I've never been good at forgetting the bad stuff (I'm not that good at forgiving, either) but this made me think of the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I remember the movie made me cry when the characters decided to give their failed relationship another go, even though they knew it would end in tears, because the good memories made it worth it. That's the thing with relationships - there's always a high chance it will end, but if we didn't love the falling in love part so much then no one would ever take the risk of getting together in the first place.

While I'd love to forget those memories, or at least make them less vivid, I think they all shape you into who you are - sadly, not always for the best, but shape you they do. I'm hoping that as I get older and make new ones, those upsetting ones will fade and become harder to play back; or maybe memories are stronger in our minds if they're associated with such deep feeling, and I'll never be rid of them. I just wish I could remember the good memories as well as I do the bad...

Friday, 6 January 2012

26

Today I turned 26. I will really miss being 25 - I wasn't quite done with it yet, but we'll see what 26 holds as I think it could be a pretty good extension of the previous year. Watch this space :)

This song, one of my favourite songs from Beyonce's album, came on my MP3 player as I was walking home tonight and as I feel a little older already and a tiny bit more pressure to get done those things that have been on my to-do list ever since I could write, the lyrics felt more poignant than ever. 

This is pretty much how I feel about life - I want to leave something behind, even if it's only one feature or (hopefully) one novel that even just one person reads and enjoys (other than my mum). I want to love again, be loved again, see as much of the world as I possibly can, and not waste so much time worrying about the past, present and future. So here's Beyonce, saying it much better than I ever could!

I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time
Know there was something that
Meant something that I left behind
When I leave this world,
I'll leave no regrets
Leave something to remember,
So they won't forget

I was here...
I lived, I loved
I was here...
I did, I've done, everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know
I was here...

I want to say I lived each day,
Until I die
And know that I meant something in somebody's life
The hearts I have touched,
Will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference
And this world will see

I was here...
I lived, I loved
I was here...
I did, I've done, everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know

I was here...
I lived, I loved
I was here...
I did, I've done, everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know
I was here...

I just want them to know
That I gave my all,
Did my best
Brought someone some happiness
Left this world a little better just because...
I was here...

I was here...
I lived, I loved
I was here...
I did, I've done, everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I wanna leave my mark so everyone will know
I was here... 

Lyrics taken from lyricsmode.com