Shedding More than My Lovely Locks, Part Two

This is Part Two of a three-part blog series taken from Chapter 6 of my book, "Despite Lupus". This chapter, titled "Loosening Your Grip", focuses on re-evaluating your expectations and goals. In doing so, you may discover that your self-image is dangerously entangled in your career, accomplishments, or appearance, all of which may be forced to change due to your disease.

The results of the hair count revealed what I had suspected: I had lost an inordinate amount of hair in a very short period of time. The doctor confirmed the diagnosis, but he also had some good news to share. He had discovered the slightest amount of new hair growth on various parts of my head. He had to look through a super-powered magnifying eye contraption to see it, but he firmly believed that my hair loss was nearing its end. New hair growth would be revealing itself to the naked eye within a few weeks. I was thrilled, relieved, and quite emotional over the fact that I would once again, have a full head of hair.

However, because the new growth indicated that I didn’t need a cortisone shot or other mediation to stimulate the hair follicles, I was at a standstill. All I could do was sit back and wait for my hair to begin to grow. But what was I to do with the dozens of stringy strands I was carting around on my head now? Once the little stubble hairs started growing, I was going to look really ridiculous.

Up until now, I had been grasping at those long, wispy strands as if they represented the stranglehold I had on life. My balding head was one of the only obvious, external casualties I'd suffered from Lupus, so I thought holding on to those last few hairs would save me from admitting that my life had changed because of the disease. I wanted to live the stubborn, determined, pushy way I always had: never giving in and not ever giving up. But staring at the wreckage left on my head, I began to realize that the life I’d known had already been left behind.

It became apparent that this was an opportunity to forge a new attitude – one that didn’t rely on my past assumptions or expectations. My approach had always been to stand fast against the onslaught of Lupus, preserving the precious identity I’d created for myself. But maybe it was time I changed strategies. Instead of protecting the existence I had, I could begin constructing a new way of life. It would require a more flexible, amenable, accepting approach than I had before, but I knew I was capable of adjusting. Just because I’d always had thick, long dark hair in the past didn’t mean it was an essential part of who I was moving forward. And as the reality of the situation sunk in, I knew it had to be that way. At present, those long, thick locks didn’t even exist. If I was to move on, I’d have to do it without them.

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."

My next move was one of the more bold decisions I’ve made in my life. I took out the phone book, turned to the section on hair salons, and randomly chose the name of a place I’d seen a few times in the mall. With my husband and sister once again gathered around for support, I placed a call to the salon and made an appointment to have my hair cut later that day. I was scheduled with one of their “short hair experts”, a gentleman named Ty who, I was told, would “totally know what to do.” Glancing in the mirror moments before my sister and I headed out the door for my appointment, I caught sight of my face and the wispy strands wrapped up around my head. Somehow, I already looked different. Maybe it was the relief from finally making the decision to be proactive rather than reactive, or maybe it was the courage and renewed sense of self that had come over me since I’d made the call. Whatever it was, I knew my life was about to change. Not just because I’d have a new hairdo, but because I was taking steps to rid my life of the hurt, anger, and resentment I’d carried around over the last four years with Lupus. This was my chance to start over, a shot at a new beginning. I’d still have my disease, but I’d have a whole new outlook. Instead of fighting life, I was going to start living it.

The details of my hair cut with Ty were somewhat uneventful, although I can say that he is one of the more colorful, uninhibited, albeit compassionate people I’ve met. I explained my situation to him: the disease, the hair loss, the recent hair growth that was barely there, and his comprehension and acceptance made it seem as if he worked with balding, stringy-haired clients every day. He was encouraging, respectful, and treated me with the dignity I would expect from a good friend. He wasn’t pitying me as he cut; he was creating his own little masterpiece. The details he shared of his personal life kept my sister and I conveniently entertained as he worked away, and before long, he spun me around so that I could see the results of his labors. He’d given me a fashionable, super short, pixy-like hairdo that fit me, my face, and my personality perfectly. I instantly felt refreshed and renewed, but more than that, I felt beautiful, inside and out.

Ty set me up with a few jars of product and step by step instructions so that I could make my hair just as "playful and sassy" at home. Before I left, he also asked if I wanted to “keep the tail”, the mere strands that he’d pulled back into a makeshift pony tail and then cut to begin my transformative hairdo. My sister and I took one look at the wet, ragged strands that now resembled a rat’s tail, (and probably did when they were on my head, too) and just burst out laughing. “I don’t think I’ll be needing that,” I said, and I knew I wouldn’t. At least not where I was going.

Find out the conclusion to "Shedding More than My Lovely Locks" in Part Three tomorrow!

[1] Philosopher and Psychologist William James, as quoted in Guidepost Magazine.


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