Monday, August 20, 2012

Just Call Me Baldy - My (Not So) Private Battle with Hair Loss

This is a blog post that I have been thinking about writing for some time now.  There is so much I want to say and I don't really know where to start.  This is a highly emotional subject for me and I also find it really embarrassing, which is probably why I have taken so long to start writing it out.

I have been on a journey of medical self discovery for over a year, and it feels like a long story to tell.  I already started to write about the beginning of my journey when I blogged about PCOS.  Since first being told I have PCOS, I have done a lot of investigating.  Unfortunately, my body has continued to change and do things that I don't really like.  Which brings me to the subject constantly running around in, or maybe on, my head (pun intended) loss.

Yes, by some ugly twist of fate, I seem to be losing my hair.  Like, not a few strands here and there, like seriously, it's leaving and not coming back.

I noticed the beginnings of hair loss a couple of years ago.  I didn't really think anything of it.  My braid seemed a little slimmer than it had been in the past, whatever.  Then last year I started to freak out because the hair loss seemed to be happening more than "just a little bit".  I knew that hair loss could be connected to PCOS, so I started a regimen of herbs and supplements to try and get my hormones in order.

Nothing changed.

It got to a point where all I could think about was my hair loss.  I was having terrible dreams about going bald.  I would (and do) stand in front of the mirror every night staring at my scalp as if I would be able to discern some secret message hidden in my hairline.  I was constantly complaining, worrying, and stressing over it.  (Let's get real here, I am writing like this is past tense, but it totally isn't.  Just writing this is proof that I am still totally worried, stressed, obsessed, and freaked.)

My partner (who has been very supportive), and probably most of my friends, must be really sick of me talking about it all of the time; cause I do....all. the. time.

I kept researching, PCOS, hair loss, thyroid disorders, and so on.  There are actually many reasons that women lose hair.  Some reasons are connected to issues with diet, stress, and rapid changes in weight.  Well, I lost thirty pounds this past year, so I was hoping that the hair loss was connected to one of these simple issues and not something else.

It is believed that anywhere from thirty to fifty percent of women lose their hair.  Most often this happens when women are in their fifties or sixties, but it can happen at any time and at any age.

Most people lose about 50 to 100 strands of hair per day and on days when the hair is washed the number can be as high as 200 plus.  I haven't started counting the stands as they fall out, but let me assure you, I haven't been losing any more hair than what I would consider 'normal'.  The hair isn't falling out more quickly, it just isn't growing back.  What's more, the individual strands that are growing back are much thinner.  *Sigh*

There are some serious medical issues that can cause hair loss; thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, PCOS, high lead levels, and other hormonal imbalances, just to name a few.  Unlike men, women tend to lose hair in the front half of the scalp or in the middle.  Women typically don't get a receding hairline. 

Armed with this information, I went to a new doctor who isn't convinced that I have PCOS, she thinks that I have endometriosis.  Yay me!  (Note the sarcasm.)  Basically two different reproductive issues that are hard to prove and you can do nothing for.  (Two great flavors that go great together. *wink*)

Doctor number two sent me for a barrage of blood tests and guess what?  All the things that can be tested are in their normal range.  There is nothing 'wrong' with me, oh except I am losing my hair and I have chronically painful menstrual cycles.  "But don't worry, we can take care of your menstrual pain with drugs.  As far as the hair loss goes, well, thirty percent of women lose their hair, you can always try Rogaine." Said my doctor.  Bang, boom, crush went my heart. 

Let me say this.  I don't have a terrible fatal disease.  I know that I am really lucky that all my tests came back normal.  I know that I could have it a lot worse.  I KNOW that, but in the back of my mind, I feel like if something was officially 'wrong' with me than something could officially be 'fixed'.

Feeling utterly deflated by western medicine, I went to see an acupuncturist.  She tells me that endometriosis is totally treatable and she can help me; the hair loss, she's not so sure about.  Since I have been watching this so closely for so long I literally cannot tell if my hair is still falling out.  I can't tell if it is getting worse, but I know that it isn't getting better.

Dermatologist, Wendy Roberts, says that up to fifty percent of women will lose their hair; fifty percent!  So why was this something I didn't know?  How come I never heard about this before?  Why I am I so scared, embarrassed, and feeling so isolated about it?  Why aren't more women talking about this?  Is this just another part of aging that we try and hide, cover up, and pretend isn't happening?

Throughout all of this I have started to notice other women who are losing their hair or have thinning hair.  There are a lot of us out there.  Most of these women are older than me, but still.  Now that I am looking, I see my balding sisters everywhere.  In some ways it makes me feel better and in some ways it makes me feel worse.

Is wig wearing in my future?  Perhaps.  I guess it's a good thing I love drag queens so much and have paid attention to their fashions tips.  But in the meantime I did breakdown and get Rogaine for women.  It's been about a week now.  It can take up to four months to see if it will work and if it does, I will have to use it for the rest of my life.  Nothing like a little vanity to make me feel crappy.

So why am I writing about this on my Pagan blog?  Well, this is part of my process.  It is part of my work.  It is part of my own personal 'fire in the head' Shamanic transformation of sorts.  And it is a way for me to release, to let go, to stop feeling guilt for my vanity.  Because that is part of it too, guilt for being so vain and worrying about something so trivial.

For now no one can tell that my hair is so thin, except for people who have known me a really long time.  Who knows if that will be true in the future.  All I know is it makes me sad for so many more reasons than I can express.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story publicly; hair loss in women is so common, yet so little discussion happens around it. I know it's pretty likely for me too, my Grandma and an Aunt both had pretty major hair loss and mine isn't particularly thick to start with.

    I don't consider a high level of concern about hair loss primarily a vanity issue; as you said, it is a symptom of many different conditions many of which are pretty alarming.

    I hope that you are able to make peace with the situation once the shock of it coming up and fear/frustration that have come up in finding a reason behind it are resolved.

  2. Thanks for sharing, dear. It takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there about health concerns. "I feel like if something was officially 'wrong' with me than something could officially be 'fixed'." -- I totally know what you mean. Not that one wants to be sick, yet it can be hard to have a cluster of vague symptoms that don't add up. Wishing you healing and peace.