During the two years before my life mate died, my naturally wavy hair became wiry and lost its curl. As a person ages and goes gray, the characteristics of one’s hair changes, so I figured this was an age-related problem. It was a small problem considering everything else going on in my life, so I let my hair grow, wore it tied back, and forgot about it.
A few months after he died, I cut my hair, and was shocked by the further deterioration. It was so wiry and straight, it stood out from my head like a bush. Yikes. This was back when I was writing letters to my dead mate to help me get through the days, and I wrote:
With so much emotion and pain and sorrow and missing you and trying to reconcile your being gone with the memories of you still filling my head, what am I worried about today? My hair. Just like you said would happen as I got older, it’s turning to straw. Straight as can be. I always looked terrible with long hair, but what other choice do I have? It won’t hold a curl—just sticks out in all directions. I wonder what other people do? Oddly enough, I can find people to talk with about the big things but not the small everyday things that worry me.
About a month later, I noticed a bit of a crinkle at my hairline, and I realized my hair was starting to grow again (it hadn’t grown much for a while) and that it was growing in normal. My diet now is atrocious. I have a hard time convincing myself discipline is a good thing, and I feel as if I should be treating myself. But until recently, I always ate healthily. Lots of vegetables, good protein, whole grains. The reason I mention this is that a bad diet can damage hair, but that wasn’t the cause in my case. Nor did a diet change affect the change for the better.
For a while I had question mark hair—wavy toward the scalp, straight as can be on the ends—but a few weeks ago it was long enough that I could cut off the rest of the damaged bits. That’s when I realized my hair change came not from aging but from . . . Post-Traumatic Tress Syndrome.
Grief is exceedingly stressful, and stress affects our tresses. Most often, people undergoing stress begin to lose their hair or go through a period when it stops growing, but apparently stress can also damage the cuticle (the outer layer of the hair shaft). Just another fun thing to have to deal with when so much else is going wrong in one’s life. I’m far enough along in the grief process that I’m done with hair problems for now, at least until my bad diet catches up with me!
July 14, 2011 at 11:29 am
This is not my usual type of article, but I misread Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in my notes and cracked up at what I thought I saw: Post Traumatic Tress Syndrome, and so I had to use it.
July 14, 2011 at 11:37 am
Gotta admit, Pat, I cracked up when I read the title too. Thought it was a humorous blog about having a “bad hair day” but when I read your article I was truly touched by your words and sensitivity. Thanks for sharing!
July 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm
Lynn, I would have liked to write a humerous piece, but somehow my sense of humor is on hiatus. Thank you for your lovely comment.
July 15, 2011 at 1:43 am
I also have aging-related tress problems, even though I haven’t gone grey. My hair is now so fine and dry I had to switch to a dime-sized spot of baby shampoo once a week, and lots of conditioner on other days. Seems to help.
July 15, 2011 at 6:39 am
Pat, what a great post – love it! Maybe it was the spark of humor – ironic humor, which is what I have.