I am a 26-year-old with the thinning head of a hair of an 80-year-old.
To be fair, my head was never known to produce thick, luxurious locks, but in the past year, every strand of my hair has gone from thin to emaciated. The gauntness of my face has met its match. My thin hair is giving my thin body a run for its money in the race for which physical feature can survive at the slimmest size/weight/circumference possible.
Right now my hair is winning.
For the past year I have been trying to avoid the subject of my dwindling hair. My journey went through five stages. First, I simply denied that the strands were thinning. When my ponytail began struggling to fill even the smallest of elastic hair ties, I ventured out of denial and straight into anger.
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The lifeless, lank brown strands drawing down my face made me mad at more than my hair. It made me mad at multiple sclerosis (MS) for ravaging my body and stripping me of my physical being. MS has taken my weight, damaged my vision, destroyed my neurological signaling and now it was robbing me of my hair.
Initially, I retaliated by twisting the hair tie around a few more loops and wearing headbands and hats. Then I had an idea that took me from the stage of anger to the stage of bargaining: mousse.
I introduced a green bottle of sticky mousse to my post-shower routine. I shook up the bottle, placed a dollop on my hands and followed the manufacturer’s instructions to achieve maximum volume. After several attempts, more pumps from the bottle and a bigger round brush, the verdict was in. The bargaining tools of the hairstyling trade couldn’t remedy my hopeless case of early female pattern thinning.
And so I went onto the next stage — depression. In my case, depression took its form in abject sadness. I looked in the mirror and saw emaciated bones framed by scraggly hair.
I abandoned the sticky, useless mousse and decided the next best option was to simply get a haircut and hope a few less dead ends would help to revive some lift and life to the brown mop on my head. The stage of sadness took me to the door of the walk-in hair salon with the shortest line and cheapest prices.
At a loss for a look, I asked for a bob, paid for the unflattering cut and style and went home even sadder. Back home, I tried to like the new cut, but all I could see was thin hair. All I could see was my thin body, the toll of invisible symptoms and years of chronic illness. When I looked in the mirror, I saw so much more than that haircut. I saw what MS was taking from me, and it broke my heart.
That was the moment I decided it was time to leave stage four behind and end my journey. I decided to accept my hair. Not the cut — the cut had to go — but the hair, as thin as it was, would stay. Either I could get a wig, try on some extensions or I could take drastic measures and cut it off. Can you guess which option won?
A few hours later, I was seated in the chair of a new hair stylist at a salon that required no more than a $10 bill and do-it-yourself hair dryer. I showed her a picture of a pixie cut and put what little hair I had in her hands. Just before she took the shears to my strands, she paused, caught my gaze in the mirror and asked, “Are you sure about this?” With a deep breath and complete conviction, I answered, “Absolutely.”
Little did the stylist know that my response was about much more than hair. I could affirm the haircut because it was a confirmation of my heart. Absolutely I will accept what MS has taken from me. Absolutely, yes, I will love my body that has been stripped of weight, muscle and even hair. I will absolutely live fully and vibrantly in this tiny little body and short pixie cut.
When the cut was complete, the product applied, the style perfected and my chair turned around, I was met by a new face in the mirror. She didn’t have scraggly hair pulling down her cheekbones. There was life on the face in the mirror. There was lift in the hair that brought light to the eyes. I looked in the mirror and saw me — the inner me — that hasn’t been ravaged by MS and chronic illness.
In the mirror, I saw a joyful, radiant, energetic overcomer. I saw who I want to be and who I can still be in spite of MS. I left the salon with a new hair product, a new style and an appointment to trim it up again in four weeks. But most importantly, I left stage five and journeyed into a whole new stage of life: joy.
I looked in the mirror and believed that every ounce of weight, strand of hair and flaring muscle had been made in God’s image and created for His glorious, majestic purposes.
I’m not MS, my symptoms or my weight on the scale. I’m not a head of a hair, a hot flash or a fatigued body. I am a great surprise in a small package. I believe God made me perfectly, specially and without flaw.
It’s because I believe in the greatness of my creator that I can love this life, this hair and live with a joy that is bigger than any body.