Friday, June 11, 2010

My Crowning Glory

I've spent the last few days engrossed in Robert Whitaker's new book- "Anatomy of an Epidemic", so much so that I have been off line.  I cannot put this book down, and will be writing about it shortly. Suffice to say, it belongs on everyone's bookshelf.

My mother and I went out yesterday- my energy has been coming back and I am currently cutting back on some of my meds. I am feeling like the old Susan from before- I've been in a four year depressive state, so it's nice to know it's finally lifting. It's a wonderful, wonderful, thing.

I had not had my hair cut in 2 years. It was way to long, unweildy, and it needed it. Of course I am unhappy, I asked for 3 inches to be cut, she cut off close to six.  I don't like short hair on me, I like it long. So it feels weird. But, it's not so bad as a friend reminded me last night on the phone, it can grow back.

What upset me, and shocked my mother, was as the girl was shampooing my hair, and then arranging it to be cut- she started seeing bald spots. As she put her comb through my hair, it's coming out in lumps. My mother is shocked and I am biting my lower lip not to cry.

"Did you have cancer?" the hair stylist asks me.

"No", no I nod.

"By any chance are you taking lithium?", she asked- and both my mother and I almost jump up- in our chairs.

"Yes, Yes".

"Well,  I have other clients who take lithium. You know it makes your hair fall out".

Shit. Well, my hair is falling out, and I am trying not to cry. My mother asks about what we can do- and she suggests either hair extensions, or a wig.

"Or just style your hair like this= it will look OK.", she assures me.

This morning I went for my blood draw, and looked long and hard in the mirror. Not only is it short- shoulder length instead of past my neck- but the texture is now baby fine from kinky curly hair- like Elaine from Seinfeld had in the first few seasons. I really cannot look in the mirror without crying.

Stupid me. I know there are people who follow my blog who have been through hell in Afganistan and Iraq. There are people who have lost children and marriages due to this illness. I know another reader two weeks ago who just died by his own hand. This is just a hiccup in my life, I have been through worse. No doubt it will make me stronger. But not today. Today I just want to say "F**K You lithium".  You took away my crowning glory. But you aren't going to get me. Not me or my soul. It's on! 


Red Pill Junkie said...

"Today I just want to say "F**K You lithium". You took away my crowning glory. But you aren't going to get me. Not me or my soul. It's on!"

Do shout it as hard as you can! Frak the neighbors. Remain with that attitude.

Hmm, those word verification Jungian mysteries. Today I got "psion"

Kristin said...

I think with a borderline personality, your appearance is very important. Your core sense of identity is wobbly to start with and something that shifts things too far from comfortable will cause a meltdown. Yes, your hair will grow, but don't beat yourself up over how you reacted. I think being upset was the correct response - on top of hearing that the lithium is making your hair fall out. Double whammy!
I am also blown away by Robert Whitaker's book. I am half-way through and keep wanting to tell someone something that I just read. In fact, it makes me even more angry, if that is possible, at the treatment of my daughter.
xx kris
You are right, it should be on every bookshelf.

Breanna said...

I just wanted to let you know that those feelings are totally valid. I went through cancer a few years ago. Just before I got diagnosed, my aunt and I had dyed my hair blonde and I loved it. When I was laying in the hospital bed a few days later, I just kept feeling so grateful that my hair looked pretty. It made me feel more "damsel in distress" than "poor sick thing the cat dragged in."

Later, of course, it fell out. Not entirely, but it got so thin that it was more attractive to just shave the rest off. And I can tell you, it absolutely matters. It is a huge part of your self image. I learned that it is not uncommon for cancer patients to be more distressed by the hair loss than the prospect of imminent death. And that is not to say they are being frivolous. It does matter, and you have every right to be upset.

On the other hand, it will get better. Even if you have to stay on lithium, you will find cute ways to style it and you will get used to what you see in the mirror, and even start to like it. Your crown is just being refashioned.

Anonymous said...

One thing I have learned . . . just because my loss is "less than" pain experienced by others, it doesn't change the fact it still really hurts me.

Allow yourself to grieve . . . losing hair is a "good enough" reason to grieve!

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

susan said...

@RPJ-my neighbors are an 88 year old woman who is stone deaf, and a young couple who are never home. I can shout! I love love love that scene in "Network"!

@Kristin I;m not a borderline, but I buy into everything you said. And I just feel so strange not having my hair on my shoulders, which I am sure I will get use to. I just feel, well, um. naked.

I am glad you like the book. I wish it was on the NYT Times Best Seller list.

@ Breanna, thank you so much. I feel stupid complaining to a cancer patient/survivor. You are a strong woman and I thank you for the kindness and coming by. I will definately think of this advice.

@Marie, thank you. I get so much strength from you blog and your wisdom.Thank you.

PTSD, A Caregiver's Perspective said...

I don't think grieving about the loss of your hair is trivial. This is something you have absolutely no control over, and we all need to feel in control.

As the caregiver of a disabled veteran, I recognize his frustration at not being able to control some of his symptoms. And probably the worst of all, is this man with a Master's degree now has difficulty with memory, cognition, and keeping his train of thought.

Donda said...

I wanted to say something but I really can't say it any better than the others already have.

susan said...

@PTSD- please tell your husband I totally understand. The exact reasons you listed is why I am on disability, and I have an advanced degree as well.

I think you are right about the control issue, but it's a bit more- I think it makes me think I am ugly and my self esteem goes in the toilet. And then the depression starts to cycle again.

@Donda, it's ok. I am glad you commented. Thank you

Syd said...

I am glad that the depression is lifting but sorry for the hair difficulties. Hopefully, that will get better too.

Anonymous said...

Don't minimize your pain-- it's your hair, you have a right to be upset about it! But I'm really sorry to hear about both the haircut and the hair loss. Maybe it has something to do with your blood levels?

But I am very glad to hear that you are coming out of your depression! That's amazing! Maybe one day I will join you.

Wishing you well,

Sairs said...

I have a rare condition that makes me look like I'm shrugging, so with short hair, I don't look good. I totally understand your feelings about losing your hair length as I would feel the same as well. I take lithium but thankfully don't have the hair problem of it falling out. I would be just as upset as you if it was. I hope that soon it starts to grow back and you will feel better. I really empathise, I have had shorter hair before and I felt really uncomfortable as I tend to hide behind my hair when I feel bad in public. Thinking of you!
Sarah xx

Andrew said...

If it's not one thing, it's another.

It sometimes gets overwhelming when one thing after another is there to try and trip me up. I do need to have the faith that things will eventually work themselves out.

Kristin said...

Sorry for referring to BPD, mislabeling wasn't intentional - just a starting point for my idea. Sometimes I am loose with labeling because I think symptoms jump ship and adhere themselves to the wrong diagnosis. Whatever, a difficult haircut can really demoralize anyone. I liked what Breanna said, "Your crown is just being refashioned."
xx kris

Wonder Woman said...

You are not silly for feeling guilty about your hair.

Hair is very important. In the documentary following Farrah Fawcett's battle with cancer, the loss of her hair was a big issue from her physician's perspective and hers. Hair is a large part of our identity.

When I read that the stylist cut off 6 inches I cringed - - that is a drastic change for someone going through emotional ups and downs. I would be a complete wreck. So yes, your feelings are very valid.

Once again, I am with you in solidarity and also thank all the previous people for posting supportive comments.

With you in Spirit
Wonder Woman

ps. I am proud that you "keep going" as your blog title implies. You are strong and powerful. You affect many people across the country who read this blog...remember your compassionate power and it's national reach.

susan said...

@Syd, thank you. I think I am fine with the hair now, I just needed to vent a little. But it still feels weird, I guess that will take some time.

@NOS-hang in there. Mine lasted almost four years. I am praying this isn't a hiccup, but I really am coming out of it. IF I can, you can too. You are a strong lady. Don't forget that.

@Sairs, thank you. I never heard of lithium making your hair fall out eitber but it's in Whitakker's new book...

@Andrew, you are right. If it's not one thing it's another.

@Kristin, no biggie. Actually I think we all have BPD traits. And I had BPT therapy which I thought to be extremely valuable.

@Wonder Woman, thank you again for your kind words I have to keep going.... if I don't I don't like the alternative and the cat would starve.

Radagast said...

Well, as Marie points out, pain is a subjective thing... One might look at the thing that another person is feeling pain over, and decide that one's painful thing is "less," but actually, this is a completely worthless way of looking at things. Do you know, if you ask a person to think of the most traumatic thing that's happened to them, in their life, and score it on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being least traumatic, most people score the traumatic event they're thinking of at a 5, with some going to a 6 (I've tested this, by the way)? Does that mean anything? I don't know. How do you score your hair loss? And is it permanent, by the way?

A funny thing I've noticed: most people view "knowledge" in a strange way; they love their facts, and they love to cobble the facts at their disposal into all kinds of weirdass shapes, most of which are extremely unlikely, if not evidently untrue. And so it is that most people ask a question, receive an answer, and believe that they have added to their store of "knowledge".

Where am I going with this? Oh, yes - this method of "intelligence-gathering" is highly inefficient, because, as Nietzche points out, "there are no facts, only perspectives". The closest one can come to the Truth is to complete the loop by reaching agreement on what the truth actually is - and one knows one has completed the loop, when one has nothing more to say.


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