I haven’t mentioned much about this before, but one of the physical consequences of Postnatal Depression, for me, is that I lost a lot of my hair. It became very dry all over, snapped off in places, and just generally lost volume and depth.
My wardrobe and makeup bag leave much to be desired – I have little interest in labels, my fashion sense is very much my own, and my makeup is either supermarket brand or years old, it only comes out for special occasions! But I have, over the years, ‘prided’ myself in my hair. I’ve taken care of it and how it looks and I’ve been pleased with it, most of the time. I used to wash it, condition, and style it daily – feeling like I was ready for the day ahead, with that routine complete!
I’ve been colouring it myself since I was 14 years old – the odd mistake, the odd treat to the hairdressers for something ‘different’, but generally we have got along well! I’ve had one awful, horrible cut about 10 years ago – which eventually grew back.
This is not the first time I’ve lost my hair. When I was 12, I was very ill, with a rare blood disorder, and the treatment meant much of my hair came out. At the time, I was feeling too awful to care – I just wanted to be well again. But I do remember, sitting with my mum and a Specialist, who measured me for a wig. Mum, I recall, was so upset – I wasn’t. Again, the effect hadn’t hit me. I didn’t end up with a wig and my hair did begin to grow back. I had wonderful friends at school, who never made me feel self-conscious about it and their support was really important. The worst of it was the ‘tuft’ which emerged as the fringe grew back – I remember using countless pins and hairspray to try to keep it in place.
During pregnancy, I lost my hair again – around my temples. But thankfully that could be covered easily by what was left – unless I put it in a tight pony tail. It was late December 2014 where I noticed something wasn’t quite right.
Here’s a photo of the last time I remember being happy with my hair (excuse my face – I look awful!). You can’t really see well, as it’s tucked underneath Reuben, but it all came down to just about his ears – where the yellow arrow is pointing. If I had to use describing words I would say ‘long’ and ‘luscious’!!! This was Autumn 2014.
Early December it looked like this (Santa picture). You maybe can’t see any difference at all but I remember styling it that morning and feeling like something was ‘wrong’…I thought it was just time of month!!
Christmas Eve, this is how it was. Lacking volume, very spindly and thin, easily breaking and snapping, with lots of ‘layers’ appearing – especially around the front. These where not, in fact, layers but are where my hair was breaking off.
January 2015 (below) it look a turn for the worse. It was so fine and fragile that I couldn’t even run my fingers through it, without pulling and breaking bits as I went. One day, as I was putting my usual conditioner through it, a huge lump came out and stuck to the shower door – it was a long length and some short pieces – which again gave me a new ‘layer’ to deal with. I was gutted. It was also unbelievably dry and none of my usual treatments seemed to be working. I started wearing it up but needed lots of hair slides, to cope with all the short bits – I hadn’t used those in years.
Every day was a battle in front of the mirror. It sounds so shallow but I was so grieved over loosing my hair. I already did not feel like myself (read more here) and this was one of the last straws. It got to the point where I was afraid to look in the mirror, in case a new chunk had broken off, and I dreaded having to wash and dry it. It was so badly dried out, that the moment it got wet it matted together and not even conditioner seemed to help.
I would cry when I had to hairdryer it, the piles of hair on the floor and the all the different length of ‘layers’ made the task seem impossible. It was all I could do to not have a panic attack, every time I knew I had to wash and style my hair. I remember one day yelling at Gavin, who innocently came into the room while I was trying. I was so on edge and anxious I shouted at him “just go away and give me space”. I was self-conscious and got to the point where I hated everything about my appearance. I constantly asked Gavin if he would still love me if I got a wig – his answer was always positive and encouraging.
So what happened and what helped?
Well, I decided not to dye it again myself – I knew that would definitely not be good for it and I’d just have to deal with the roots. I also stopped washing it as much – I went down to as little as 2x a week and instead used a tiny amount of dry shampoo, when I had to. I only straightened it when I was desperate. Unfortunately, it also lost its lovely natural curl – the one I’d let loose in the summer and dry naturally with a little mousse – or I would have stopped the hairdryer heat altogether.
I invested in some good shampoo and conditioner – for 3/4 months I only used this- L’oreal Professional Absolut Repair.
(It’s worth saying, I have used some of this brand in the past – the colour one listed below. Often, for my birthday, I would ask for it as a treat. But it was only for special occasions and a smaller bottle, than above, would last me a whole year.)
This stuff really worked and really helped! No, it didn’t regrow my hair!! Standing in front of the mirror, traumatized, as it continued to break and fall out, I had to remind myself there was no miracle cure. I’ll willingly admit I prayed for one!! I also wasted time researching all sort of weird and wonderful ideas about to get your hair to ‘grow inches in a month’, and the like. None of those work – what it really needs is time and healing.
What the shampoo and conditioner did do, so well, was repair much of the dryness, within a few weeks. It also made washing my hair less stressful, as very soon it stopped matting together and being ‘sticky’, as soon as it sensed the water. My hair did not come out anywhere near as much when I was using this – it was kind to it. (I’m not on commission for L’oreal, I promise!).
Then I took the huge leap and visited my trusted hairdresser – I needed to, here’s my roots after 4-5months:
She gave it a great cut (AHH!! I had to take a deep breath!) and fixed my roots -no colour on the rest of my hair, as we weren’t sure it would handle it. Here’s her great job –
After that, I moved to using this L’oreal Proffessional Shampoo and Conditioner Vitamino Colour. I love it – it’s my favourite of them all! I’m still using it today – no looking back. Before this, I used to buy whatever was on offer in the supermarket, from my list of a few favourites. I also had a ‘mid-priced’ conditioning treatment, for weekly use. Not any more – this is my beauty treat to myself and my hair is thanking me for it. Self care, eh? Although, I still only wash my hair 2-3 times a week and use dry shampoo instead. My straighteners are also on a part-time rate! (Btw -Amazon normally have the good price for this, if you are interested, I’ve shopped around!!)
Two more visits to the hairdresser, each 4 months apart, meant that more still had to be cut off, to get it into a style and more level all round. I also only got my roots coloured each time. My hair ended like this, the 1st photo August 2015, 2nd photo, December 2015 –And today? Well it’s much repaired. I am considering whether I might go back to colouring it myself again, sometime soon – I’m not sure yet. I don’t mind the length so much now…but I do miss the how long it had got back in summer 2014. I guess, vainly, I had been growing my hair for such a long time and was pleased with how far I’d got. (My current style/length – March 2016)
I’m well aware that many of you reading this might think I’m being very vain – perhaps you are right. But loosing hair can be very traumatic for some people, being in the midst of severe PND and Anxiety meant all my coping mechanisms were our the window. I also know that some of the photos are awful – forgive me!! I wanted to try to let you see what it was like. The very worst was not photographed, I could not bring myself to re-look at it.
PND has meant I’ve paid the price in lots of parts of my life, and in loosing inches of hair I have gained some perspective. It’s rocked my confidence and heightened my anxiety but it is only hair. It may never be the same again – the volume and depth is gone for now and might be forever – but I do have to be thankful that my hair is growing back. There are many other, more important things, that I could have lost on this journey. So, with all things considered, this is not the worst thing that of could happened!