So you’ve had your first heart-stopping moment when seeing a photograph of yourself with an apparently receding hairline, or caught a glimpse of your reflection in a window or mirror with the sun or bright lighting seemingly shining right through your hair. Or perhaps you’ve just noticed larger than usual quantities of shed hair in the basin or shower after washing. You’ve endured fevered sleepless nights trying desperately to convince yourself it’s been a trick of the light and there’s nothing wrong, which turn into fevered days hogging bathrooms and trying to persuade mirrors from every angle that they’ve made a mistake with that parting which seems to have become oddly wide. How did you not notice it before? Perhaps you’ve run to the chemist to buy a handful of eyebrow pencils to fill in any gaps alongside every shampoo bearing the word ‘thickening’ you can lay your hands on. You start obsessively scanning everyone else’s hairline in the street. You suddenly notice how every cafe and friend’s kitchen is filled with ghastly diochroic spotlights almost designed to highlight every human flaw, particularly hair loss and avoid them like the plague. Going out in harsh sunlight without a sunhat also becomes a no-no. Cuts and colours are experimented with – when you can pluck up the courage to go to the hairdresser – and occasionally you still experience a pleasantly surprising ‘good hair’ day, where it might be thinner than it used to be but it still manages to look good again. However the following day it goes back to looking thinner than ever and you plummet back into your pit of despair. It is hard to focus on anything. You are aware your work and the rest of your life is suffering through this devastating attack on your confidence. On who you thought you were (and speaking for myself, my thick crowning glory had literally been that – my best feature – and no small part of my identity.)
Perhaps, like I did, you find yourself going out less. It becomes harder to drag yourself out of bed in the morning to debate whether to wash your hair as normal for that extra bit of bounce and volume that freshly-washed hair always seems to have or to treat it like fine china for fear of losing even more hair in the washing process, but risk it looking lank and even thinner as a result.
So in this position, is there any consoling thought to be had?
Well yes actually, because unless you’re an absolute master of self-delusion, or have had the misfortune to suffer sudden alopecia or lose more than 60% density overnight (extremely rare unless having cancer treatment, in which case hopefully you have been forewarned), then chances are you are the only person who has noticed you have a problem so far as for the most part, other people are remarkably unobservant, particularly those who see you on a daily or weekly basis. Which buys you valuable time to research all your options and make the right choices for yourself while you distract them with funky items of clothing or jewellery!
So where do you go from here? As someone who’s been where you are now, I would head straight for the doctor, who will almost-certainly look at you in disgust as he has patients dying of terminal diseases on his books and here you are bothering him with trivial hair loss. But it is not trivial to you. He tells you you are depressed. You concur with his diagnosis but try to tell him that that’s because of the hair loss. You are unceremoniously dispatched with a prescription for anti-depressants which you almost don’t bother picking up from the dispensing chemist, but hey, you need something to get you through this, right? Then you get the box home and read the side effects on the leaflet, one of which is, you’ve guessed it, HAIR LOSS!
In the bin they swiftly go.
Read part 2 of my journey to find out what happens next…