Laying in bed – nearly lifeless – I often wondered what would’ve happened had my life not turned out this way.
Had I not been struck by whatever horrid illness this was – had I not lost out on so much. I wondered what it would’ve been like to actually attend my last year in college with my friends like I had my first two – to do more internships, get experience, plan a future and have a life.
These thoughts used to haunt me and run in my mind constantly when I was sick. And I was quite sick. I had to drop a semester in college, I lost 26 kg of weight, and among other things, I lost nearly all my hair.
My hair was one of my most prized possessions prior to my illness.
It was my everything, in a way. I was insecure about a lot of things- my face, my body and my skin being a few of them, but my hair was always perfect.
My locks were extremely thick, long, and beautifully brown. They were healthy and full of life. I used to get compliments for my hair in college almost daily. And I was known in college as “that girl in Sociology with the really pretty hair.” People often mistook my natural hair to be fake, a wig, or color and a heavy amount of styling – that’s how flawless my locks were.
It obviously didn’t last because the day my thyroid got diagnosed, my hair fall had already started a month prior to it. Initially, it was slight and the doctors said it was normal with hypothyroidism.
But then, the horror happened.
I went to get my hair washed in the salon one day and I got an oil massage done. I was not aware that thyroid makes the scalp too weak to get a massage. The massage tangled my hair completely and the weak scalp gave up – half of my hair fell flat on the ground in one go.
It was the scariest experience ever.
But surprisingly, it did not get to me. Probably because my mind was already worried about why I was having fever, rashes and body aches again and again and again.
After this episode, the hair got so thin that I decided to get them chopped off. I got them cut to shoulder length and they started looking much better. And I felt good about this decision.
A month and a half later, I was washing my hair at home and again, I saw a lot of hair go down the drain and in my hand, I held nearly half my hair. This time around I went into shock when it happened and I had a panic attack (probably because I witnessed it first hand). The result was that now my scalp barely had hair and you could count the strands that I did have.
Things were not good.
When my illness finally got diagnosed and we discovered that I have lupus – it explained everything. Also, the fact that my hair would come back – eventually.
But despite all this, one thing that surprised me was how I dealt with it. I was not shattered. I had lost my most prized possession to my illness but it did not bother me because I’d also lost so much more in that period. I’d nearly lost my life – in every sense of the word.
I had metaphorically lost my life in the college, social life and work experience I’d missed out on. And I’d lost my life in the near-death experiences I’d had with my flare-ups and the cancer scare due to my illness. It had all shaken me up so much, that my hair loss was… nothing?
It was just another mundane thing to have happened in my life. Because I knew I’ll get my hair back, eventually. I might not get everything else back but I will get my hair back. My mental health, surprisingly, did not get affected as much as I’d thought it would, by this.
Though, my body image definitely did get affected (and still does, to an extent). I still get questions about my hair and it truly frustrates me how they are now – compared to how they used to be. I see girls with long, beautiful hair and I get envious of them. I feel sorry for myself at times. But then I remember that a pity party will not help.
Having hope and faith will.