Thursday, February 6, 2014

How do I feel about losing my hair?

So..............I'm sort of in the dumps this week.

It's not for reasons that are remotely serious, life or death,  or even that big of a deal. I have friends who are facing much more serious things like possible cancer, death, job issues, divorce, and bankruptcy. I do not have it that bad. In fact, all in all, I've got it pretty darn good right now. I'm healthier than I've been in well over a decade. My yummy husband is alive and well, and has a good job, my children are all healthy & happy, I have an incredible faith base and church family, and I have a nice little house that keeps us warm with a fluffy white dumb dog to enjoy. All in all, I am a very blessed woman.

I just felt the need to prelude this blog post with how aware I am that there are people in the world who have it much, much worse than I. And that my woes pale in comparison.

That being said...

I'm having a crisis.

As most of my loyal friends & readers know, I had weight loss surgery a few weeks ago. Almost four, to be exact. (Want to read more about my journey? Check it out HERE and HERE.) I've already lost over 50 pounds, and have another 58 to go, but I'm already noticing some nice improvements in my health and activity level. I'm very grateful that I did this...even if it means a lifetime of work to continue & maintain my progress.

In researching my weight loss surgery options (in a last minute change, I went for the gastric sleeve procedure,) I was informed that one of the side effects of this surgery could possibly be hair loss. At the time (last summer) I said I didn't care. I felt like making a permanent change to my health and improving my quality of life was grossly more important than having lovely locks.

I know, I know........this from the woman who takes her hair very seriously. *sigh* I couldn't help it. I wanted the surgery so bad.

Plus, I really did think I would be exempt from such a rotten side effect. After all, I change my hair color (drastically) at least 3 to 4 times a year. I go from blonde, to black, then to red, then back to blonde. It's an addiction. (Well, to be more specific: I couldn't seem to get control of my weight, so what could I control? My bodacious hair.)

So anyhooo...apparently I'm not exempt. I should have known. When I had my fourth child, I wound up losing some hair in the front of my head. When I had a surgery a few years ago, I started shedding like our big white fluffy dog in the summertime from the anesthesia. And I've truly been abusing my hair for a decade--coloring, bleaching, heat styling, chopping it off, growing it out, etc. If my hair wasn't ticked off enough already, add in major abdominal surgery with full anesthesia, hard core intravenous narcotics, and five solid weeks of only liquids in my system...and well, my hair just plain hates me now.

I was in denial for a while. When I would shower, there would be huge amounts of loose hair in the drain. When I blow dried my hair at night, it would look as if I threw a handful of confetti in the air, but it was actually my hair. One side of my head started to look shorter when I was styling my hair, because I was losing more on one side than the other. (Why? I don't know. Because karma is a biznatch.) I tried to cover it up with headbands, scarves, and huge...huge hair. Seriously last week at church, it was a planet unto itself. I was embarrassed because my kids kept saying (as we traveled down the road in my husband's truck) "I can't see where we're going! Mom, can you move your hair over?"

Yeah. I grew up in the 80's and came of age in the early 90's. I know how to do big hair really well. I could win awards. True story.

And then...on Sunday night, it happened. I was laying on my bed, nursing a sore tummy (note to self: never eat a slice of salame three weeks after bariatric surgery. You'll wish you'd died. This I promise you.) and when I sat looked like a shedding cat had laid on my pillow. A fat, red-headed cat with glorious highlights.

But it was actually me.

*sigh* It was time to face the facts. I knew it could happen. I have friends who had the surgery and wound up with very thin hair that I was able to see the scalp through, and I even have a lovely girlfriend who wound up wearing a wig for about a year until her hair thickened back up. I'd jokingly told my husband and friends that if I lost my hair, I was going to buy a long, little mermaid wig to wear all the time...just because that's how I roll. If I do something, I don't do it halfway. It's b*lls to the wall, baby.

Except that I am now against that wall........with very, very bad hair. It was shorter on the left side than the right. It was frizzed and broken on the ends from years of coloring/bleaching/heat styling. It was so thin in some areas that if I didn't backcomb it into utter and bewildered submission, you could see my pasty white scalp through it. And showers? *shudder* They were like those horror movies where the bloody and ailing character is huddled in the corner, with dirty water pouring over their bodies, and hair  clumping in the drain....

Ok. Maybe not that bad. But that's what it felt like. I'm just sayin'.

In pursuing weight loss surgery, which, in case you've never heard this, is hella expensive, I made a commitment to my husband. I promised I was going to temporarily break up with the OTHER love of my life, my talented hairdresser, Melanie, in an effort to save money, and get my surgery paid off as quickly as possible. (Amongst some other money-saving plans that involve putting out as many books as I can manage in 2014, as well as making my own baby wipes and dryer sheets. Ugh. Don't ask.)

So I found myself with thin, brittle, fried hair that was a shameful color of purplish red (thanks to a late night trip to the Revlon hair color aisle at Target, induced by a particularly mournful shower episode I refer to as "that one night.") and it seemed like every time I brushed my hair, moved my head, or shampoo'd my locks, more fell out. I don't have bald patches yet. But my scalp is now visible in spots, and it's so thin and staticky (I call it "Muppet Hair") that styling it falls short of my large-hair expectations. I've taken to wearing a red bandana over my head like some sort of pseudo hippie, except that I also wear glasses, so I look like a hipster/farmer. Not a good look for me.

I cried. And talked it over with my husband and a couple of friends (Thanks, Rachael and Amelia!) And then I cried some more. Then I looked at wigs online. Then I cried some more.

All in all, I've cried a lot lately. Which is sort of lame, because--let me be the first one to state the obvious--it's hair. Nobody is sick. Nobody is dying. Nobody is hurt or homeless. In the grand scheme of things, this is not the end of the world. If I have an eternal perspective, which I really try to have, this is a non-issue. A year from now, this will be something I will laugh about having been so obsessed over.

And my husband? Yeesh. He thinks I'm insane. Rightfully so. I mean, the guy himself is bald, so hair loss is sort of par for the course for my nerd. Watching me sob over hair just annoyed him. Because he is so used to fixing things when they're broken. And he can't fix this for me. If it were up to him, I'd walk around with my fried Muppet hair, and smile proudly. Cuz that's what he would do. However, I'm not him. I'm Brooke Moss, a talented author and follically challenged increasingly fragile woman.

It took him a while to "get it." And the more I explored how emotional I was feeling about looking like a deranged meth head from the neck up, the more I realized that half of my emotions weren't even about the stupid hair. They were about the way I was used to handling stress like this. Before losing all this weight, when I was sad, what did I do? I ate. When I was happy? I ate. When I was mad? I ate. When I was thinking or pondering? I ate.

All of my emotions are almost immediately followed up by a snack or meal of some sort. Most of my emotions are handled with some good old fashioned honesty, some hard work or prayer, and then quickly followed up by a PBJ sammie and some chips. Or some cheese and crackers. Then a sweet of some kind, because what meal isn't followed up with a dessert? I mean, come on. Are we animals or refined humans??

Whew. That escalated quickly. Back to normal now.

Now a days, when I have an emotion, I have to turn to something else. Writing, walking on the treadmill, housework, talking to a friend, or surfing Pinterest until my eyes cross. I can snack, but the amounts my new stomach will hold are so puny that I look down at the leftovers and feel like I've betrayed my entire family legacy by not finishing that whole container of baby food. (Yeah. Baby food. Do you see how low I've stooped??) So the emotions that come from losing the ONE thing about my looks I've ever felt in control of were just kicking around in my head...all alone. No cheese and bread for it to lay down on. No blanket of ranch dressing or dark chocolate. Just emotions. Tough ones, at that.

1st Corinthians, 11:15 states "...but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering."

The term "crowning glory" is used to describe a woman's hair all the time. I realize that all of my feminist friends probably want to punch me in the throat for perpetuating stereotypes, but it's true. A woman (well, most women) consider their hair kind of a big deal. Whether they're like me and they dye it and cut it and curl it and abuse it into beautiful submission...or whether they let it grow to their butts and they've never touched dye to it, and the mere idea of doing so is repugnant. Unless she has a shaved head (not for health reasons,) she cares. So much of a woman's identity is wrapped up in her hair, her style, her "look", that when she changes it drastically--or it is taken away because she did something totally self indulgent, like get fat surgery... it makes her feel like a piece of herself is lost. 

Yeah. That's where I'm at.

I know my husband loves me and is attracted to me no matter what. He loves my ever-changing body, and never ceases to support this journey I'm on. My kids are just the same. Totally on board. Totally supportive. I could just let the deranged Muppet look reign (yes, even with the hideous purplish red color from a box) and they would probably not bat an eye. They love me. And for that, I love them right back.

However, when I am around other people. Friends, acquaintances, neighbors, people at the store, people in my kid's schools...I feel horribly, cripplingly self conscious. I know, I know, I know. I shouldn't. But I do. So much so that I'm avoiding going places where I could run into someone I know. But not just for selfish reasons. I mean, I don't want people to think I've become a meth head, but I also don't want people to see that I've lost 50+ pounds, and now my hair is a horrible mess and thin and falling out, and HOLY CRAP, BROOKE'S GOT CANCER!!!!

No. No, no, no. Brooke does not (Thank God) have cancer. I had fat surgery. And my body hates being under anesthesia and hates being on the malnourishment diet. Therefore, it is teaching me a lesson through my hair follicles. 

My husband and I decided last night to buy a couple of wigs to get me over the hump. He still doesn't understand why I can't just buck up and deal, but he can see that I am struggling to get to know the "new me." The me who doesn't eat all the time, or identify everything with a food. The me who has to feel things instead of stuffing them all down beneath a padding of gravy and french bread. The me who just had major surgery and still feels weak even though I've got this new body that wants to get up and go so badly that I feel twitchy.

The me who simply doesn't know how to exist unless I'm hiding behind outlandish clothes, loud jokes, and wacky-but-utterly-awesome hair. 

I feel naked these days. I don't like naked.

We decided to order two wigs, both synthetic because we're on a massive budget, and in an effort to throw my hubby a bone (and see what he'd go for) I let him pick one of them. I picked a very sleek, dark brown bob, shorter in the back, longer in the front, with straight bangs. My husband picked a long, flowing red number that is very glamorous and vixen-like. (Just for the record, my husband has said for 8 years that he likes my short hair, and that any style I have is beautiful. Well, I call BS. Because the second he had the chance, he picked porn star hair out for me. Love you, honey, but I see through the facade now.)

The wigs should arrive soon. One may take longer than the other, as it's coming farther. But overall, I should have some new--albeit fake--locks very soon. I've got wig caps, a couple of wig stands, and shampoo for them, too. I'll probably wear them whenever I leave the house, which will be often, as I just applied for a job at my children's school as a substitute recess supervisor. (You see? Trying to make that extra money. It's all about the benjamin. Isn't that what the kids say?)

To say I'm nervous as heck would be a colossal understatement. I am worried sick for so many reasons. First, what if it comes off while I'm out somewhere, and I wind up mortifying myself? What if it goes crooked and I look like a drunk drag queen, and don't realize it??

Next, what if I wear it somewhere and someone I know (but haven't seen in a long time) sees me and assumes that I'm sick or something? I don't want to get sympathy cards in the mail, or anything. I'm good. Super good. My hair is sick. Big difference. 

Next, what if they think I'm sick, then find out that I'm not, then they think I'm a total attention whore, because I didn't just walk around with busted up Muppet hair? I swear to Oprah Winfrey, if I get accused of seeking sympathy and attention by one more person, I am getting a rifle and googling the nearest clock tower....

Next, what if someone I know laughs at me? I know a lot of incredible people. Most of which wouldn't dare make fun of me. However, I also know a lot of people like myself, who can't often resist an opportunity to make a good joke. Usually, I wouldn't dare ask them to reign in their humor for my sake. I mean, hey. A good joke is a good joke. But when it's at my expense over something that has caused this much melodrama in my life? *shudder* I really don't want to get made fun of for this. If I had my way, I wouldn't be going through this. 

(Fancy wigs, or not, I didn't expect it to suck this hard.) 

Next, what if I look like such a moron that even my husband and children hate it? That would kill me. I enjoy embarrassing my family on purpose, but not for crap I have no control over. *whimper*

I started the prep work today. I went to Great Clips (which, under normal circumstances, I would never get my hair cut there, I would go to my beloved Melanie, but these aren't normal circumstances. And I'm broke. Holla at the po girl. Woot, woot. Yeah. I'm that broke.) and I got what is left of my rats nest of a head of hair chopped off. Super short. Like, Oliver Twist short. Think... one step up from Rosemary's Baby short. Yeah. I did it. Now, normally, the former Brooke would have rocked that hair from here to next month, but with all the thinness happening, it's painfully flat, semi-translucent, and...and....Muppet-y. Yuck. I look like Animal. If he were a middle aged mother of four. *sigh*

This way, when I get the wigs, I can wear them over my natural hair more easily. And (hopefully) when my hair starts growing back in, it will all be the same length, or close enough that it will be like starting over again.

I'm ready to get my wigs in the mail and start wearing them. I decided that being public with my struggle might inspire other women. Being open and honest about my surgery (amongst a crap-ton of criticism that said I needed to learn how to "not" post everything on Facebook, and keep some things more private) inspired a couple of my friends to explore weight loss surgery for themselves, so maybe my honesty is less about attention-whoring (can you tell I've heard that a few times over the last few months?) and more about inspiring and encouraging people struggling with the same things as me.

Or, at the very least, maybe someone will just grab my hand and say, "You look fine. And I would handle this the same way that you are."

Wouldn't that be something? Validation is an incredible thing. I forget how good it feels sometimes. It's nice to know that I'm not a horrible, selfish, vain woman for freaking out over hair loss. There are women in the world who are bigger and stronger than I am. Who can face perpetual bad hair with a "who gives a poop" attitude. But I am not one of them.

This former fat girl is struggling enough finding her place in a world after 20 years of hiding behind her big, bold outer layer. Losing my hair is just the last chink in my armor before I crumpled.

I guess everyone has a cracking point. This is one of mine.

I promise to post pictures as soon as I get the wigs, and figure out how to use them properly. I'll probably want to shrink into the shadows until I feel comfortable in them. If ever. But that's okay. After a lifetime of being silly and making people laugh and notice me for my bold hair and out there personality, it might feel good to take a backseat for a while. It might give my ultra-shy husband a nice break, too. (But don't tell him I said so.)

Just promise me this: if you see me in a store somewhere, don't look at me funny or ask if I have cancer. I'll probably burst into tears and head for the gelato aisle. Then I'll throw up, because my new stomach doesn't like gelato. Then I'll get puke in my new hair. And criminy, I don't want to wash vomit out of my new wig!!!!

Enough rambling. I'm alive. I'm happy. I'm healthier than I have been in years. It could be so much worse right now...


  1. It's okay. I'm not going to write this on FB for privacy reasons, but this happened to me a few years ago when I lost 100+ pounds. It utterly crushed me in a way I was completely unprepared for- I felt guilty and awful- it was just hair, right? Only I had always had lovely, thick, curly, beautiful hair, I had underestimated how much my vanity was tied to that prettiness. It came out just like you describe- the shower was a horror, and I would cry. It really hurt, and I was embarrassed and I felt like I'd really lost something.

    Of course there are worse things- but that in no way mitigates personal pain.

    For me, I chose to make it through the period of regrowth by having braidless extensions sewn in. The woman who did it lives not far from you, and she perfectly matched the color and texture of my hair, and they lasted for months between visits. It was a balm for my bruised ego. After about a year, I was able to have them removed, and my own natural hair was grown back enough that I got a cute, sassy short cut and never looked back.

    It gets better. I know you know that- I just wanted you to know you're not alone, and I understand your feelings.

  2. It's funny how as women we find something external to latch onto as a point of control right? Ten years ago in a very difficult transitional phase for our family I hit rock bottom emotionally, mentally. I was a wreck and very isolated at the time so I had no outlet for my stress. So I turned to self-harm. But my vanity was that I didn't want scars so I didn't start cutting. Nope. I starved myself. For 18 months I lived on toast, tea, and the occasional binge of Little Debbie snack cakes. It was the only thing I could control in my life at the time (or so I realized later when I finally realized I was anorexic). It wasn't until I visited my family and they asked why I was so skinny that I stepped on a scale and realized I was only 111lbs (at my 5' almost 10" height that's very underweight). The worst was the way everyone acted when I finally started healing. My own father made comments about me being too fat for a dress he bought for me. My mom said I couldn't be anorexic because I didn't think I was fat. All that to say I very much understand how hard it must be to have lost control of something you have always felt you had the reigns on... and it's hard when you know people will comment about it.

    I wish I could just give you a HUGE hug. Or my hair. lol I'd let you have mine if I could, I hate mine. It never does what I want it to do, maybe you could make it behave. ;)

    Wigs though. OMG I'm excited for you! I wish I had the ovaries to get wiggy. Mostly because I'm scared to attempt going blonde or red at home and too broke to get a pro to do it. I say heck with any potential haters, have fun! :) But then... I'd be content if Halloween were a weekly holiday so I could dress-up outlandishly and not seem like a nutter for wanting to do so.

    I'd also like to track down the ******s who think you're whoring for attention. I've got a bit of sign language to share. So not cool to hate on someone for being open and honest and SHARING a life changing experience. I appreciate what you do and how what you share makes me feel less alone, even when I can't personally relate. Sometimes it's just plain nice to have someone admit they don't have their stuff figured out any more than I do... and that we can both still get up and keep trying.

    ♥♥♥ ya Brooke!

    Oh and just for giggles... how do you like my wig from Halloween? Is your red one going to be as vavavoom as that one was? My friends thought it was my real hair until it fell off. LOL

  3. I'm sorry to hear that. Fret not, though; remedies are just around the corner. There are artificial methods like hair restorations and whatnot, so that this wouldn't be so much of a worry anymore.

    Dr. Salas

  4. That's tough! The least that other people can do is show some bit of empathy towards your plight. It may not be something a lot of people share, but it is definitely a possibility for everyone. Hair loss, after all, is not necessarily a disease, but a symptom or a biological reaction. In any case, there are ways to remedy that, one of which is simply growing it back through expert medical intervention and putting new strands in its place. Wishing you all the best!

    Glenn Lowe @ Knight and Sanders