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. 

9 comments:

  1. Aw lady! I've never noticed it before on you, but I can't imagine how stressful it must be, making it a bit of a catch 22 - stress makes it worse but the situation makes you stressed! So angry on your behalf at that doctor too - when with the NHS start to take stress and the accompanying problems seriously, seeing as it contributes to so many other problems?

    Well done for being able to write about something that's still a taboo. I really hope this is the start of something more positive too, and that someone is able to come forward with something that CAN help. xxx

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  2. Hi sweetie,

    You're really brave to tackle this issue. I think I've felt some of the things you have felt. University time was a very stressful time for me for lots of reasons. One of the things which suffered was my hair. I think I must have lost 1/3 of it and I felt super self conscious about it. I would wash my hair just once a week, and it would be tied back all the time in a bun scraped back. When I would go home to wash my clothes, people in the house (and my mother's cleaning lady) would make comments all the time on how much hair I was losing and leaving all around me. God, I wish they left me alone. There wasn't a minute of the day without which I was not thinking about hair. Anything about hair would depress me, even shampoo adverts on tv. Washing my hair reduced me to tears seeing all the hair coming out at once. I hated it. I am super super super lucky I have recovered from it, but I remember these times like it was yesterday. When I see someone with bald patched or not very much hair at all in places, I really feel for them. After I recovered, there was another episode in my life which really affected my adult life after university. One summer I was in Paris and I caught lice in the tube. You can imagine the carnage on 19 inches hair. Even when everything was treated and dead, it tooks months and months for the dead corpses of stuff to leave my hair. I was treated like a person with the most catching disease. So I lived another year of hair tied back in a bun. Even to this day, sometimes when I feel a little something stuck to my hair, I panic because I think it's lice. Hair is a massive deal.
    I hope you find something that works, my little pineapple girl xx

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