“I woke up early this morning because I couldn’t sleep.” Why, what’s wrong?
“I kept thinking about your hair. I think you should shave it.”
I sobbed and hugged my mum, because 12 hours before, I had cried. I cried because Mum had noticed my scalp at the back of my head. I cried because a few days earlier, I had told her that my hair was shedding so much, and I didn’t know what to do. I cried because Mum hadn’t expected my hair to thin as quickly as it had. Neither of us had expected it to thin as quickly as it had. I cried because despite using the cold cap, I could see through my hair to areas I’d never seen in my life.
My head was sore. It was itchy. And no amount of patting with the bottom of my palm would do me any good. It was worse than the first time, and it was just unbearable.
I’m going to shave my head Mum.
It’s been nearly two weeks since I had my hair cut by Lucy, and how things can change quickly over that period.
As the first week turned to weekend my parting started to become visible. I had created a routine of waking up and quickly checking my pillow for any hair. I would then head to the mirror to check if my hair was any thinner than the day before. For the most part, everything would appear ok. If I positioned my hair in a certain way, you couldn’t tell. This was my morning routine for a full week.
I was still finding layers of hair on my clothes and shoulders all the time. Every time I would touch the back of my head, hair would instantly be in my hands. Come Sunday night, with the bathroom light above my head, I saw the top parting and scalp in all it’s glory. I was close to having a comb over.
I was trying to work around my hair loss, but I was failing miserably. I had been told that massaging your scalp when washing should be avoided; and that drying it should be done naturally. I had stopped brushing my hair. I had stopped washing it more than once a week. I was obsessed with keeping everything in tact. I was scared of losing it all. My obsessiveness with keeping my hair was getting beyond ridiculous.
There is nothing quite like being in a shower, washing your hair, trying to untangle a section, and the whole piece just breaks off into your hands. This happened twice. I couldn’t tolerate the psychological scarring of it all anymore. I knew had to get my head shaved.
The head shave
Where are you? I’ve got to be somewhere at 3pm.
The plan was for Chris, Fiona and Mum to be over at midday, and just get the shave over and done with. It was 1pm. They were running late.
“We’re on our way.”
I sat and stared blankly at my coffee table. Over the last couple of weeks, I had been working on a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I had progressed with it quite well and had picked up a rhythm. But, at that point, I was just moving pieces around and staring blankly. I was getting anxious.
Thinking of the chunk of hair that had broken off into my hand had mortified me. I desperately wanted to get my hair cut, but at the same time was struggling with the idea of letting go of it all. I kept my hands on my head.
Come on Caroline, you’ve made the decision. Now stick to it.
They were here.
Chris, Fiona and Mum entered the flat, and I headed straight back to the sofa.
“How are you?” I’m ok.
“Do you need help with the puzzle?” Yea, go on then.
Mum took her position in the armchair, Fiona sat next to me. Chris hovered in the kitchen. I was suddenly very focussed on the jigsaw, and nothing else.
We all chatted, I had a mint tea in hand. Given that I was adamant to get my hair cut at 12pm, I was now doing everything in my power to delay it even starting. We carried on talking. In all honesty, I hadn’t had a proper catchup with all of them, despite seeing them in group settings a few days ago. It was nice to just have a sense of normality in conversation for once, and it was suddenly a great distraction for me.
I looked at the clock. It was now 2pm. I took a deep breath and stood up.
Ok, let’s get this over and done with.
We setup my kitchen area with a mirror on the worktop, and a plastic bin bag to rest on my shoulders. We weren’t professionals, so this was the best we could muster. I grabbed some scissors and cut off a piece. My hair was still too thick for the clippers to do the job straight away. I looked at Mum as she teared up on my armchair.
Ok, let’s start.
If there was an opportunity to experiment with different hair styles at a given moment to see what would suit me, it was now! I discovered that an asymmetric cut would work for me. An undercut with a long quiff would work on me.
“You can do the Rihanna look.” I know!!!
I was having a surprisingly fun time. Maybe I could just leave it with the top layer in? I asked Fiona to take a photo of the back of my head. It was the one area I couldn’t see without struggling with a mirror.
When I saw the patch, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Despite the laughter, the sudden reality of why I was doing this was sinking in.
Just shave it all off!
We started with a grade 5, but it wasn’t short enough to blend in the patches. So we went down to four, then three, then two.
Fiona, can you take another photo of the back of my head?
I saw the patches.
Go down to grade 1.
“You have a really good shaped head.” I guess!?!
It was the first time in my life that I was seeing myself with a buzz cut.
During this whole thing, neither Chris or Fiona had said anything. I was partly expecting them to give their input on whether to go shorter or not; but I realised that this whole process would be wholeheartedly my decision. If I wanted to keep it as is with a patch, they would let me. If I wanted to keep it long, they would let me. It was my choice to do this, and weirdly enough I felt quite free as the hair was coming off.
Before I knew it we were done, and sweeping up what was left of my hair. I turned around, looked at Mum and smiled. I could see Mum looked sad, and I understood. It was hard for her to see, but as I went over to her I felt free. I was expecting tears throughout the process, but none came. I was weirdly happy with it all.
All the anxiety, all the tears, all the effort to try and keep something that was inevitably going to go. I just couldn’t deal with the constant trauma of it. It sounds dramatic, but hair loss is not a fun experience. If there was ever a time for me to take back some form control on something I couldn’t do anything about, it was to shave my head, and now I had done it, I felt this sense of lightness.
Later that evening I looked at myself in the mirror and cried. The emotions of the day had caught up with me. The sadness of loss; the acceptance of what had to be done; the relief. I just felt this huge amount of relief!
I grabbed my vacuum, and starting hoovering the carpet. If I was to look at this as a new phase of my treatment, I wanted to make sure that it was done with a clean slate; and to start it off, I had to get rid of the carpet of hair. The memory of the shedding was not something I wanted to linger on any further.
Drastic change always take time to get used to, and despite the comments of a “great shaped head”, and looking like a “bad ass” like “Demi Moore”, this would inevitably still take time.