- a great family pizza and movie night watching the latest PREDATORS movie which was, surprisingly good considering the genre.
- the satisfaction of FINALLY getting out to Zumba class on a Saturday morning. Something that the universe has been conspiring to prevent me from doing for weeks.
- a very fun date night with my sweetie, which included seeing the movie BURLESQUE (fun movie with lots of hot bods) followed by an evening of pool in which I gave my hubby a sound thrashing. That does not happen often...and I thoroughloy enjoyed the feeling.
- that my oldest, The Wizz, didn't come home from college for the weekend.
- and finding another little bald spot on my scalp. It's right above my left ear, which makes it more visible than I like.
It will be two years ago this coming January when very abruptly, and unexpectedly, I started to notice that I was losing copious amounts of hair. It felt like handfuls came out in the shower, and then while brushing out my hair. The sink was a nightmare of lost strands...and I immediately experienced a faint sense of panic. But surely it was an aberration. A one-time thing. Or merely my imagination! In a few days everything would be back to normal. Well, it wasn't. The sink continued to fill up and look like a rats nest from hell. I checked websites. How much hair loss is normal? They told me that up to 150 strands per day was considered "normal". So, just to be sure I wasn't crazy...I counted. Yes, people. That is exactly how obsessive I felt about this. I counted the hair that I shed during comb-out and came up with a shocking 350. Sometimes more.
Needless to say I saw my doctor. Only to be kindly dismissed and told this was "normal" and it would pass.
NORMAL? Were they insane? Surely they have no idea of the scope of this problem. So, when I finally discovered my first bald patch...about the size of an egg on the side of my head--and thankfully easily hidden--I called again. This time I got a slightly elevated level of concern, and a referral to a dermatologist--in 5 months. Up until that time there was nothing I could do...but wait and try to keep my sanity--and my ego--intact.
During those months I came the closest I have ever come to full-fledged depression. It was horrific. I couldn't get away from it! Everywhere I went the evidence continued to haunt me. Hair seemed to practically drip off me, and I was continually sweeping it up off the floor. I began to notice that my part was getting wider. I didn't want to go out. I cringed whenever anyone touched my head. And yes...I subscribed to female hairloss forums and websites. (It is far more common than we know) I was in the midst of checking into wig options when I came across the simple article that finally gave me hope.
This article informed me that my general hair loss was termed Telogen Effluvium, and that it afflicted up to 30% of the population at one time or another in their lives. It said that it usually resulted from some sort of physical or emotional trauma. Anything from childbirth, to a death in the family to a high fever. But that in up to 30% of cases--like mine--there was no discernible cause. What really comforted me was the simple knowledge that it usually lasts 4-6 months and that a sufferer can lose up to SEVENTY PER CENT of their hair! But that in 90% of cases...it all comes back.
The mechanics of it are simple. During this trauma or time of stress, the hair goes into a state of stasis. It simply stops growing for a time, and no new hair is generated. Suddenly, about 3 months later, everything kicks back into gear, and the hair loss that I was experiencing is actually due to the new hairs coming in underneath and pushing out all those old, dying follicles.
I was strangely uplifted. There was hope. Somehow my doctor's assurance that this was common came off as too dismissive and made me think she couldn't possibly understand the severity. This article acknowledged the severity...and yet gave me hope. I felt much better...and within less than a month after that the hair loss abruptly....stopped. I was down to shedding less than 15 hairs during and after my shower.
A month after that I started to notice all the fine new hairs coming in. There was a veritable fringe of it all the way around my head...and in the two bald spots that I had noticed. Life was good again. My ego was saved.
And then about 6 months later, as I was putting up my hair in a pony tail I noticed...ACK!....another bald spot. But...this couldn't BE! I thought it was all over! I hadn't noticed any excessive loss. What was going on?
But more reading revealed that this--Alopecia Areata--again, is a very common problem, and is probably one I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. In the last year I have had small bald spots appear...and fill in...here and there. Every new one is a small trauma, and one that I watch closely for changes, but I'm heartened by the knowledge that it will be temporary...and according to my hairdresser it is far more common than we suspect. Many women have them and don't even realize it because they are hidden far beneath their tresses.
So, that is my story. It is one that I felt it important to share, because I think far too many women deal with this pain in silence and ignorance. Yes there are cases that result in permanent and very traumatic hair loss, but those are the exception rather than the rule. While it was happening I tried to comfort myself with the fact that this was a minor problem! I was experiencing no pain, and there was no threat to my health. The only threat was to my physical appearance, and even that could easily be fixed with falls or wigs or whatever. And yet none of this comforted me. A woman's self image and ego is tied up very closely with her hair, and some of the websites I visited described this trauma as being on a level almost equivalent to experiencing a death in the family.
So, be aware and take heart. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing or has ever experienced this phenomenon, chances are good that it will be transient, and life will return to normal soon. Talk about it. Read up on it. And feel free to speak to your doctor. There are treatments for those cases that become more serious, but hopefully it won't be necessary.
And try to remember...you are worth far more than what you spend on hair care products.