Words Can Hurt Revisited – Debbie’s Hair Loss Story

by admin on March 31, 2008

Words Can Hurt Revisted - Debbie's Hair Loss StoryI am 51 years old and dealing with hair loss since I was 19. I am an identical twin, and we both experienced hair loss at the same time in our lives, which seems to support the hereditary link. There were and are no other relatives that we know about who experienced this. After 31 years of dealing with this issue, there have been many cruel and insensitive comments. I remember every one. I think every boyfriend I ever had has asked at one time about my hair loss and some asked in a cruel manner. I was recently married and the day after my wedding an old friend visited for a post wedding celebration. I hadn’t seen her for a long time (mind you she is a grown woman). She sat in my kitchen, in a roomful of people and described running into an old, longtime forgotten mutual friend. She told this woman that she was going to be traveling to my wedding and “of course you remember Debbie, you know, the woman with the really thin hair”. Then she said, “I told her how could you forget Debbie, I mean, she has the thinnest hair I have ever seen!” This she said in my kitchen, in front of my new husband, other guests and the day after my wedding!!!! I was appalled, sad, ashamed, etc. Thankfully others were not listening intently, engaged in their own conversations, but nevertheless, the words hung there for eternity for me.

There is a woman in my neighborhood that I avoid, because she gazes absently above my forehead when I am speaking to her (my loss is due to male pattern baldness). She doesn’t look in my eyes when I speak. I don’t know if she does this absently or on purpose.

Going to the hair stylist is always stressful, especially if the chair I am sitting is not private enough. Usually the stylists are empathetic and they tell me that they see hair loss often. It’s the other customers who absently gaze at my head while they themselves are being serviced. I have left good stylists just because their salons do not offer privacy.

My aging mother who has never had this problem, is now losing her hair to the aging process. She still has more hair that my sister and I. Her comment? “I am devastated. My hair is beginning to look like you girls (meaning my sister and I).

There have been so many other words that hurt. I have a beautiful 18 year old daughter who has not experienced this kind of hair loss yet and I am worried about her. I don’t want her to suffer as I have and my sister. She is on the pill for lack of a period (Nortrel, which I have never seen mentioned here). So far, no hair loss thankfully.

I am just recently mentioning my hair loss to people who seem uncomfortable with it. I tell people who are unduly curious that “I have a condition called male pattern baldness, it is hereditary, the luck of the draw”. This seems to quiet their non-verbal discomfort so we can move on to other things. It also makes them feel a little guilty for being nosy or
distracted by my hair loss. It’s amazing how well this works. I should have done this years ago. It just says “yeah, I know I have hair loss, you don’t have to tell me” as if they have an uncontrollable urge to let me know I have spinach in my teeth.

I thought for sure I would lose my hair after my pregnancies. My hair thickened wonderfully while pregnant, and just went back to normal afterwards. I hope this gives some hope to those who are afraid of what pregnancy might do to their hair). Since then, my hair loss has stabilized, but menopause is round the corner. My sister and I style our hair in the
bangs and french bob style and this seems to conceal the scalp the best. Some days I am not bothered by my hair loss, until some idiot points it out to me verbally or non-verbally. I wish I had thick glorious hair, but I have learned to live graciously without that dream fulfilled. I try to remind myself that hair loss is on the lower end of the “awful things that can happen” scale.

I wish I could offer more positive comments, but hair loss has been a very difficult hurdle for 32 years. I’m still not “over it” and possibly never will be. It would be easier if people weren’t so ignorant. Most people aren’t, but the ones that are I can never forget.

Thank you for letting me vent this morning.

Debbie

**************************

Dear Debbie,

Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Reading your words I’m reminded of the insensitivity of society and often wonder how many other people where raised in barns. Never in my life, even if I had never suffered with hair loss, would I have ever displayed the cruelty, rudeness and insensitivity that I read about about and encounter in my own life. Ultimately the words that hurt the most our ones said by our family and close friends. My dad previously made remark about my hair loss that has forever made me feel self conscious whenever I am around him. I feel he is judging me or I am less than now, or perhaps I should be doing something to help myself, though I am already doing everything I can. He did tell me once that if he could he would give me all his hair, which was sweet, and if I could I would take it! :) I’ve also given up on talking to my mom about my hair loss since she started losing her hair after menopause it seems she doesn’t really feel for me and always, however unintentional, turns the topic back to herself and how much it bothers her, all the while overlooking my tears and suffering. My sister and law has stated that “wow she can’t imagine what it would be like to lose her hair, that would be like the worst thing ever.” Indeed I suppose it is for many women.

I’m so sorry for all your suffering. You sound like such an incredible, strong woman and I really appreciate you sharing your story. I wish the world were different, I wish we would be accepted for who we are, I wish people would practice simple common consideration of others. I wish… I wish… I wish… I now wish for myself to be stronger, to face world and all of it’s harshness, I wish to be thankful for and appreciate this life, the one I’ve been given. I no longer pray for miracles for my hair, but rather for the strength to deal with it.

I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet such wonder women such as yourself from all over the world.

Thanks Again,

~Y

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniella April 1, 2008 at 8:06 am

Debbie,

I’m new to this forum and your story was the first I read–Thank you for communicating your personal experience with hereditary hair loss. I can totally understand your apprehension about going to salons– these days, I avoid them since having someone focus on my hair is just too emotional.

I’m 25 and I have extensive hair thinning and diffuse hair loss. My best friend’s wedding is around the corner and I’ll probably have to wear a hair piece to her wedding. Some days I just want to shave everything off and be done with it. I’m curious, did you ever wear any type of hair piece/wig? Did you find that people reacted differently when (if) you did wear one?

Thanks,
Daniella

Angela April 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm

I, too, lost my hair when I was 19. I’m a newbie here and I’m just so glad to have other women to talk to about this. I wear a wig because my own mother said that she got tired of having people ask if I had cancer. I hate my wig. I’m a very natural person. When I wear the wig, I feel that I am somehow betraying myself. Does anyone else feel this way? I recently found out that I have hypothyroidism. After being told this, I researched it and now am wondering if I’ve had this longer and they just never caught it.

I’m a single mom – my daughter’s father (whom I dated for five years) split when he heard the word pregnant. I can’t help but think that if I had hair or was more attractive that he would be here for his daughter.

My family gets angry when I say things like this. I can’t help feeling this way – why should I hide how I feel?

I have no doubt now that I will never get married. I’m too tired of meeting someone nice and then comes the eventual “reveal” when they learn my secret. Most don’t just cut ties then, but it is soon after. I can’t go through it again. I figure, I have my daughter and that is enough.

Why is it though, that bald men are sexy? I mean, there are men out there shaving their heads to achieve the “bald look”. People don’t understand the stigma that accompanies being a woman and losing your hair – that “crowning glory”. How can you feel beautiful when even the bible defines a woman’s beauty through her hair?

I’m sorry to sound so negative on my first time here – but I’ve held this in for so long…because my friends and family just think that I am feeling sorry for myself…that I hope the women here will understand me.

Thanks for listening..

Angi

Shanlaree April 3, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Hi Debbi,

I am a twin as well. She is just starting to experience more hair loss.I have felt a thinning for some time and was told in Dec that I have Androgenic Alopecia.

My family still thinks it is in my head or that I can mentally cure myself. I choose to move forward and research for better answers. It really is a life changing ordeal. I believe that we can decide to grow from this experience – one day at a time really.

Thank you for sharing your story!

Shanlaree

Shi April 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Hi Debbi!
I just wanted to let you know that I also experiencing thinning hair. I am still young (21) and whenever someone gives me a complement I feel like in a way I am tricking them. Like if someone tells me I am pretty or that they like my new hair cut…I think to myself “if they only knew how thin my hair actually is.” Or that they cannot possibly think this about me because my hair is so thin. I also wanted to tell you that when I see women with thin hair I can’t help but stare, but not in disgust god forbid…in admiration. I admire you for being so strong, natural and brave. I wish I could be more like you and think positively. so the next time someone stares it might not be in a bad way :)

Ellie April 5, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Dear Debbie,

Congratulations on your wedding! I am amazed at how rude some people can be wether it is intentional or not. I am sorry you had to endure that on such a special day.

I am new to this site. I have been experiencing hair loss for four years now. My thyroid medications destroyed the hair I had. I started taking thyroid medication is 2004 and by 2007 I had huge patches of hair missing. I had no idea it was a result of the medication. I have for the past eight months tried one derm to the next for them to just tell me there was nothing I could do, it might grow back it just takes a while. All the while my hair keeps getting thinner and thinner. I have to wear my hair pulled back to hide my scalp. My scalp is now showing. I have tried to disappear from life as much as I possibly can. I hate being in public or anywhere the lights are bright. I have a boyfreind and sometimes I just wish i didn’t becuause I am so afraid he will notice and take off. i hate being around his friends for fear they will notice. I do not feel beautiful any longer. My hair was my nicest feature.

I stared birth control pills which leave me nausous all day, spotting, and bloated.

I went to see Dr. Redmond in New York. He put me on Spiro, yasmin, and procia. I feel like I am pregnant becuause I just an dry heaving all the time.

I am in such a tough spot. I do not want to have to be on medication the rest of my life to have hair. I do not want to be bald. The man I am with would never stay with me if he knew I was on birth control pills.

I have logged onto this site for eight months now. I have always been too shy to post, but here i am. I finally got the courage to write something. I am thankful this site is here.
Ellie

Ellie April 5, 2008 at 6:24 pm

It is amazing how much you can learn to live with. I never thought for a million years I would ever have to deal with something like this. When I think it can’t get any worse it does. I have cried enough tears to fill an ocean. Washing and combing my hair is so stressful now, something I use to love to do. I had so much hair, I couldn’t deal with it some days. Now my head feels weightless.

Somedays I just want to shave it off and get a wig, thinking it would be less stressful then trying to hide my bald spots. I am tired of hiding from the world, crying, and this consuming me day and night. I hate the fact that my boyfriend has more hair than me.

I am sorry for all the bla, bla, bla, but going through this can make the toughest, strongest, woman lose her nerve.
Ellie

Angela April 6, 2008 at 3:12 am

Ellie,

Don’t worry about the blah, blah, blahs….my ex had the most gorgeous long wavy hair. I think sometimes that was the attraction for me…you know how you admire someone with characteristics that you do not have? Fortunately, my daughter has his glorious locks. I pray every day that she can keep them. My sister was recently diagnosed with lymphoma (we don’t know what kind yet)…but she said, “If I have to have chemo, I want you to lose the wig and shave your head and, at least, have a comfortable summer.” I thought, God bless her. She told me that she was fretting one night about losing her hair, then she thought about me and how I’ve dealt with it since I was 19 and how then she felt petty for worrying about her hair. I feel petty worrying about my hair too when she has cancer…weird, huh?

Oh, and this is a general notation…I was diagnosed with “male pattern baldness” by a very insensitive dermatologist. Even though there was a rash all over my scalp and even though I’m losing my eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic hair and even my leg hair in places. He completely ignored this, slapped me with a “male pattern baldness” diagnosis and went on about his business.

The next dermatologist said I had a yeast infection on my scalp – again, why would I have lost hair elsewhere? – and gave me a script for a solution and Rogaine. He said when the rash cleared up to use the Rogaine. I’m still waiting to use the Rogaine. I’ve also been on Diflucan three times in the last 6 years and it never, not once, improved my scalp rash. It just comes and goes…and it seems the more I wash my hair, the worse it gets, but when I used dry scalp shampoo, it broke out too.

If hadn’t already lost so much, I’d be pulling the rest out!

Hang in there Ellie, I don’t feel it, but I know I am beautiful in some way and maybe one day I can make peace with it.

Shi April 8, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Hello again,
I just wanted to get something off my chest that has been bothering me. I just bought this cute headband that my roommate saw and loved…when I left my apartment she decided she wanted to borrow it so she went up to our third roommate and asked her if she thinks that she would lose her hair too if she borrowed my headband. I was having a great day and this made me very sad. My roommate made it seem like I am diseased. It just really hurt my feeling and made me think that she must notice my thin hair if she thinks she is going to “catch” whatever I “have.” :(
of course the first thing i did was run to the mirror and stare at my hair and it got me depressed all over again.
Thanks for listening.

EJ April 28, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Hello,
I just found this place. I am Now losing my hair and I don’t know what to do. I am only 27 years old!! It is mostly at the temples, sides, and very front. My dermo. tole me it’s hereditary and there isn’t anything to be done. He said I could try Rogaine but that he doubt it would work. I am going to give it a go anyways!!
What is worse is that my husband doesn’t believe me, or he’s in denial. Why would I make something like this up? I clog the bathtub drain everytime I shower. (I leave it clogged sometimes as evidence for him). My hairbrush fills up every week and I have to sweep my bathroom floor every morning. At least once aday a co-worker pulls a lost hair off my clothes and I want to cry everytime!! I have never felt pretty in my life and this is going to put me over the edge!! What can I do? Have any of yuo had success with treatment like hair plugs or medication? Please tell me, I beg you. Thank You and Love, EJ

Mira June 2, 2008 at 2:19 am

Hi,

Have not been part of this forum for a while but felt sorely in need after my first wig buying experience on Friday. I too have AA by the way, and have very little hair on the top of my head. The fact that I’m trying for a baby means that spiro, rogaine etc are not an option for me.

Trying on the wig ( beautiful as it was, 500 GBP worth of real hair) made me feel awful. It looked so unnatural and my own hair in a horrible net underneath, made me feel incredibly unattractive. I immediately went out of the shop and indulged in a bout of emotional eating that has lasted for three days. Great, now am bald and fat :)

Really must get a grip and deal with this situation. Sorry that this is just a rant, but just need to get it off my chest.

Take care ladies and stay strong.

Adliana June 9, 2008 at 9:59 pm

Hi all,
I am so glad that I found this website. My eyes are wet when I read all of the posts. I just turned 23 last week but the top of my head is like I’m 80 or something. I’ve experience hair thinning since I was in high school. It doesn’t show in any of my relative but why me?

It hurts whenever people talk to me, their eyes are looking at ‘it’. It really hurts even more when no one my age knows what the hell am I going through and coming from a country where no one really knows what I’m going through and people would just mock you all the time about it. I’m constantly being harrassed either by words or by looks. Collecting hats is my hobby because I wear them all the time. I am young, wild, I go to concerts, clubs, and have fun all time but I can’t go all out headbanging or dance crazy because mostly I will be shoving my ‘shiny crowning glory’ into everyone’s face.

It’s even worst that now I’m in college and studying fashion. All I can do is parade with different hats rather than crazy hair. I used to have nice glorious hair that I style it frequently. Now, I’m just stuck with the same haircut since 5 years ago. I feel so low of myself. It effects my in all aspect. I remember when I use to be vividly outgoing and extremely confident doing anything. I used to be a really active sports person. I swim, play soccer, field hockey, run, but now I can’t because I just want to wear hats all the time.

I was on Spiro (50mg) few years ago. I only lasted on it for 5 months because I couldn’t take all the side effects (breast tenderness, nausea, headaches, feeling of tiredness). I had to decrease my intake because it effected my school performance. I was extremely tired and couldn’t do much or move around a lot. I hate it so much! Now, I just let my friends who had high blood pressure take it.

But now school is almost over and I think I should overtake this problem ASAP. I need to boost my self esteem in order to be ahead in life.

I’m telling my story here because if you or your friends have daughters that may go through what I’m going through, please do something about it for their sake. I’m still young and have so much things to do in life. I can’t let this matter stop me from what I want to do. I’m scared to go back on the pills. I don’t know if I can do it.

Peg June 16, 2008 at 3:00 pm

I think that you are all pretty remarkable.

My 23 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with AA and I found this site while scouring the internet for information. I don’t know where her AA journey is going to take her but she has already discovered that even friends can say stupid, stupid things. Reading the stories and comments online written by people like you will hopefully give me enough insight to let me be a person she can trust rather than a person who pushes her away by saying something insensitive.

A woman can be beautiful without the hair. I believe that. I hope that the people in my daughter’s world let her believe it and don’t mess around with her because of their own insecurities or preconceived notions. I guess that it is inevitable that some people will hurt her. I am going to work incredibly hard to be one of the people who look at her and really see her…..an amazing girl. I want her to know that even though I cannot understand what she is going through, I am there to listen.

Lynnie June 21, 2008 at 10:52 pm

The secret of Happiness is Freedom, the secret of Freedom, Courage ~ Thucydides

I am keeping everyone in my thoughts and prayers.
I read affirmations and Bible verses to lift my spirit. I even pray for the people saying things about me. For me, I have to take action or else I will spiral into what was said, what I should have done and countless other worries. But when I think of the greater picture, it is what God says that matters most. I read positive words especially when I feel down–because even though I lost my hair, I am far from losing my spirit or my beauty for that matter.

Love, Joy & Smiles
Lynnie

Dori June 25, 2008 at 4:54 am

Today I discovered this place and am in tears filled with empathy and understanding. It has helped me to not feel so alone when it comes to this issue of hair loss. I wear wigs and have found that people accept missing arms, missing legs, full body tatoos, body piercings, purple hair, etc., more readily then they do hair loss. But Lynnie you hit it on the head. (no pun intended!) It is He who know our hearts, and we know what matters most is not what is or isn’t on our heads.

Carly July 24, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Shanlaree – I can so relate to what you said about your family thinking this is in your head. My mom had no idea how to be supportive, she only knew how to criticize me, while I was experiencing my hairloss. I would cry and say how depressed this made me. And all she would say is “it’s probably all that hairspray you use. Look at your brushes”. Yes…my brushes WERE filled with hairspray, but were ALSO filled with lot’s of hair. And what she could NEVER understand, is that it’s imperative to use alot of hairspray, and that my hair needed to be sprayed IN PLACE, so it would not move. Because, when it did move, it would only show huge white areas of scalp. She made me cry more, due to her lack of understanding or compassion for my situation. She has a huge thick full head of hair, so she has NO idea what I feel. But even people that have all their hair can still try to be supportive. I just needed my mom to be there for me, and listen to my crys, and even say, I’m so sorry you have so much pain, I wish I could take it away, or just say, I’m here to listen whenever you need me. She did once say, but only in anger and frustration, not knowing how to deal with me “If I could give you my hair, believe me I would”. If it wasn’t said in arrogance, because she didn’t know what else to say, out of frustration, it could possibly have been supportive words. But all they did, was make me feel worse, and more that she did not have a clue what I was feeling.

Adliana – I know what you mean about having the exact same hair style for so many years. That’s what has happened to me. I’ve had to same style for more years than I can even remember. I was recently so jealous of a brand new hair style my sister had gotten. She looks so great. The style is so beautiful on her. And I did tell her so. She thanked me and said, you should get it done too, if you really like it. What she does not understand, is that I’m stuck exactly where I am, and can NEVER get another style. I need to stick with the one I have, that covers whatever it can. I am sometimes devastated when I think of how I will NEVER have the options my sister has, and get any hairstyle I want. I even think about all those make-overs done on TV, like when Oprah does them. And there is always so much emphasis on how their hair and make-up was done, and how those changes made such a difference in how they look. Of course the clothes they put them in helps, but the looks are never complete with just the clothes. Hair style is always a big part. I would never be a candidate for a make-over for that reason.

As I read through everyones story, I can really relate, and understand their feelings, as I have had so many of these feeling too. I’m so glad for this forum, so we can all be there for each other.

Carly

mimi August 13, 2008 at 6:59 am

Hey ladies, iam 35 yrs and my hair is also thinning, i may sound vain but i even have nightmare of being bald.
specially now a days where looks is everything to society.(sucks)
i think all you women are beautiful and strong i wish i had at least a bit of your courage. i would like to share
with you what I’ve been doing,
I’ve been using pure coconut oil hair treatments. i also
massage my head twice a day and i see new hair growing and the hair that i still have a bit thicker. good luck
to you all. God Bless

emma August 20, 2008 at 11:11 am

Today, being depressed with my progressing hair loss, I decided to surf the Internet in order to look for some info. I am so happy I came through this website.

Does anybody know if going to the swimming-pool can make the process of hair loss and thinning worse? I just love swimming and it is my only stress-relief. Can chlorine or drying harm my hair a lot?

I’ve been reading all the posts on this website for half a day today. I can feel so much pain and emotions in all those posts. And any woman who has to deal with hair loss problem is really strong.

My Mom decided that she has to control my hair treatment, because I dont want to do anything…. If only she knew how many differnet shampoos I tried for the last two years I lvied away from her, how much money Ipaid for the vitamins or for other medications. I just dont know what to do any more. Also, my sculp is itching all the time…

Thanks,
Emma

admin August 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Mimi & Emma –

Mimi: Have nightmare of being bald too!! I also have dreams where I just stare at the thickness of people’s hair (men and women) I do that in real life anyways but yes my hair loss obsession even penetrates my dreams. Isn’t that the time where we are suppose be dreaming of bunnies or rainbows or something? The coconut oil hair treatment sounds pretty awesome. Hooray for new hairs growing in a everything else being a bit thicker!

Emma: I am not a doctor so I cannot speak definitively on this, but it is my opinion that the swimming pool Chlorine is NOT going to make your hair loss any worse. It may dry out the hair a little, but I don’t think its going to exacerbate any hair loss. I’d have no qualms about jumping in a pool everyday if that was my thing. So swim, enjoy, the relaxation and stress relief you get from it can only help.

When you say your mom wants to control your hair treatment what do you mean? I think that her wanting to be involved and supportive is wonderful, but you have to be comfortable with any decisions being made about YOUR hair.

Enjoy your swims, I’m more of a sinker than a swimmer. I tried to swim at a health club pool awhile back and I sware it took me FOREVER to get from one side to the other. I’m such a slow swimmer, definitely not my thing, I’m more of a runner. I remember there being like a 80 year old man in the next lane and he was just flying through the pool like a fish :) There is something really undeniably refreshing about swimming though, so I can definitely see the appeal.

All The Best,
~Y

Jenna November 13, 2008 at 5:38 am

I know how each of you feel, and I cry with you. I wish that noone would have to go through this. You feel like you lose who you are. Your personality. Everything. I do the same things you do- look at other women’s hair all the time, and wish I had a normal head of hair. I make an appointment to get my hair done last, so noone will comment on my thinning hair and bald spots. I have terrible dreams sometimes where I wake up feeling my scalp because I dreamed I lost all my hair. I don’t want to wear an unnatural feeling wig. I don’t swim anymore. I try to avoid all outdoor activities because the sunlight shows how bad my thinning is.

I feel like I’ve lost everything and cannot cope. I’m 33, and it started in my 20’s. In another year or two it will really be noticeable to everyone, though I feel it already is. I don’t know why doctor’s haven’t found a cure yet. When mine started they expected a cure to be found in approximately 10 yrs. or so. It’s been 9 yrs. of this for me and I have heard of nothing new- does anyone even care? Hairloss for a woman is the most devastating thing in the world to have to go through. I have no life. I am sad all the time.

Hope is all we have left. Maybe one day soon they will find a cure. I love you all and I pray everyday for everyone going through this terrible condition.

Toni Guerrero October 16, 2009 at 5:42 am

Hello, this is my first time to post a comment. I just joined. This site is helpful, it let’s me know I am not alone. Loosing your hair is very devastating. I am 59 years young. I stay in shape, have been told I look younger than my age. I have always had really fine hair and not a lot of it. In the past few years since going thru menopause it has become thinner. I am taking prometrium and seroquel and wondering if these have anything to do with my hair becoming so thin ( my scalp shows thru especially in the crown, having a big cow lick on the back of my head does not help either). My hair has become so dry, brittle and lifeless. I don’t know if it is because of my age or maybe the medicine or not the right vitamins? I just don’t know. My mother has really fine thin hair, so I know i got her hair genes. Someone was talking about Oprah doing a show on womens hair loss, how wonderful would that be? I am considering a wig, but am embarrased for my friends to see me. I stay home more now because of my hair, I was always bubbly and cute and confident and now i have lost all of that due to my hair loss. It didn’t really help when I went for a hair cut, the hairdresser cut so many layers in my really short hair that made my scalp show thru even more. Does anyone has an opinion about what hairstyles (lengths) work best on someone with such fine thinning hair? I seem to always hate my hair cuts, the shortest layer is above eye level and my hair just lays limp, no body. Help!

Toni Guerrero October 16, 2009 at 5:43 am

Just a correction, i am 56 not 59. It was a typo. sorry.

Lilac October 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Dear Debbie,

Your story went to my heart. It is a story I know well. I have suffered hair loss since I started menstruating at age 13. I am now 55, and have gone through hair loss bouts for more than 40 years. I started with thick, wavy, very long hair; I’m half Lebanese and women from the Middle East are known for the kind of hair I once had. I guesstimate that I have lost 7/8 of the total. Despite therapy and every imaginable “cure”—including the laser comb and, recently, bioidentical hormone therapy, which has been a scary, irrational, frustrating process—my hair will not cooperate. It is “lemming” hair—it simply wants to walk the plank and jump off. I go through periods of mourning even now; I will not look at old photographs of myself. There are times when I will not leave the house. I never look at myself in public restrooms, including those at work. I have missed so many gatherings, occasions and opportunities because of this affliction. Despite therapy, I don’t seem to be able to join the human race in the normal way. It’s because of my hair, and as long as the loss continues, I will continue to avoid people, strong lighting and the simple pleasure of feeling the wind in my hair.

I don’t like short hair; my head is oddly shaped and it makes me look like an alien, so I desperately hang onto my shoulder-length strings and cut a fringe that I wear straight up to cover the shiny scalp and crate the illusion of fullness. It is humiliating and, I find, impossible to deal with in the humid conditions of my home state. But it’s much worse to suffer the disdainful comments and looks of those who will never have to deal with this curse.

I will tell you a secret. When I was 14 years old, suffering through the first year of the hair curse, a “friend” walked into the girls’ lavatory at school and announced to me and everyone else that she had noticed how thin my hair had become. “It’s thinned considerably,” she said. I remember her exact words. She was a popular, pretty girl (who’d later become the local homecoming queen in high school) with thick, slick, straight long hair that was the envy of the school.

A few years ago I heard from a friend that this person now has a bald spot in the middle of her crown and has to wear a wig to conceal it. I confess I was delighted to hear the news at first. Delighted! I’m ashamed of that. But this person’s cruelty destroyed my confidence for so many years as she pecked at me with her insensitive remarks. I felt that she had created her own karma. Of course, I also feel for her. Hair loss at any age, for any reason, is devastating. It is one of nature’s cruelest tricks and I hope that someday it will be as rare as smallpox.

To this day, I still count the hairs that fall out of my head all day long. I’m ashamed of myself for this obsessive-compulsive ritual and keep my other equally deranged little routines to myself. I have a dear, understanding gentleman friend (with long, thick hair) who, despite his kindness, will never know the private abyss to which this problem has brought me. I will not live with him because of my hair. I don’t want him to see me crying as I vacuum the house (and sometimes the walls) each week or throw yet another expensive hair cure in the garbage.

Hair loss is hell. I could live with that for two more lifetimes to spare my daughter, who is beginning to experience the curse herself. When I was her age, I begged my mother to help me. (She told me I was vain and to get over it.) My daughter won’t talk about her problem. Ironically, she has decided to become a hair stylist and I am putting her through school to this end. The insensitivity of that industry is beyond my comprehension. She is forced to style her hair for every class, and it is breaking and thinning. I have tried to talk to her and to her “instructors” but it seems that this hair curse will follow both of us to the grave.

I have been suicidal about it at times, but would never go through with such a thing. My daughter needs me, my sister needs me, and I am so angry so much of the time that it keeps me alive. The rage keeps me alive. I feel I am at war with a curse that is in my DNA and that I have passed on to my daughter. Perhaps some day she’ll need someone who’ll understand and I will be that person. But I wish that weren’t the reason why I keep going. I wish, instead, it were for the sake of just being alive, enjoying the light, the wind, the water and the memories.

But it will never be that way for me. Like the women in this forum, I’m marked.

Thanks so much for listening.

Lilac

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