When I was a little kid, my friend had this kind of ugly, knock-off Barbie that was almost completely bald save for a few follicles of millimeter-long brown hair. I don’t know why she was bald but we named her Gerabaldine. And we laughed and laughed. What a hoot, right?!
I had actually planned on blogging about something only marginally related to my hair situation and not at all about my hair itself. But… I figure I’ll see some of you sooner or later and I won’t be able to hide it so…we may as well just go there and get it over with.
My hair is falling out. A lot. Shedding. That’s what all the women’s hair loss web sites call it. Because nothing boosts your confidence like a dog reference.
Brushing it has become an exercise in futility. I try not to tug too hard or pull at any tangles because I know it will just make it fall out faster…but it just puts off the inevitable. The shedding never really stops—I pick hair off my arms and shoulders all day long.
Showers? Well, what ought to be a nice, relaxing experience is now it’s own kind of hell; something I’d avoid completely if being clean wasn’t a social necessity. I spend half my shower picking and shaking hair off my hands while I try to convince myself that it’s less than what fell out last time and trying NOT to cry.
I used to curse my thick, wavy hair. It made certain hairstyles, like a sleek bob, impossible (we didn’t have flatirons and smoothing serums in the olden days) but even when I finally did begin to love my hair, I took it for granted. And now? I’m losing it—a fact of which I remain acutely aware as I unconsciously reach back to touch the thinnest area at least twenty times a day.
How it started…
It all started about 8 months ago. Well, actually, I think it had already started but that’s when I started to notice that there was a lot of long, dark hair collecting on the floor behind the bathroom door. I didn’t think too much of it, though, because I’ve read many times that it’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day.
Sometime after that, I started noticing that there was a lot of my hair collecting around the shower drain. Again, I didn’t panic. It’s normal to lose hair every day and I have a lot of it, I rationalized.
I continued to use that same rationalization for a while until one day, when I grabbed all my hair to pull it into a ponytail and realized—OMFG—there wasn’t nearly as much there as there used to be. It was so…thin. I’d reached the tipping point where my hair loss had become noticeable. Now, to be fair, it probably doesn’t look that thin to anyone else because I had a lot to spare, but relatively speaking, I have about half as much hair as I used to and that? Is a lot of fricken hair gone. And still going.
These days, if my husband accidentally rolls over on my hair in bed, I freak OUT. If one of my kids pulls it while giving me a hug, I bristle and bite my tongue while mentally calculating how many hairs it just cost me. In the shower, I try not to look at my hands and when I blow dry it, I purposely try not to see all the hair littering the sink and floor until I can psych myself into dealing with it.
Despite everything, there is one small upside—I have tons of new little hairs growing all over my head, so what’s falling out is coming back.
The not-so-upside is that even the new hairs fall out sometimes. And? It will be a couple years before these new hairs even reach my ears. My biggest fear is that even all the new hair will eventually fall out and I will have to wear a wig.
A wig? Here? I can’t even imagine wearing a wig in Florida in the summer—and it won’t even be a nice wig because those are VERY expensive. So yeah…me sweating my brains out of my ear, while wearing a cheap rug. And I’ll probably get head zits or something.
Gah. It’s so pathetic it’s almost funny. *sigh*
What I know…
I know that late last year I found out through a routine metabolic panel (for my thyroid, which is doing fine) that I was anemic. This is not uncommon for me. I’ve been diagnosed with anemia several times in my life. I admit to never sticking with the iron supplements. This time, however, my doctor (as well as Dr. Google) confirmed that hair loss can be caused by anemia and that it’s one of the most common reasons for hair loss. So…I started taking iron 2x a day and my serum iron levels are up to normal levels now.
My hair, however, continues to fall out.
SO. I’m going to see a different doctor next week, one who might *crosses fingers* actually CARE that I’m probably going to be bald in a year. Or less.
Many tests will be conducted and perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will at least know what is causing this waking nightmare. And that description is not me being dramatic. For a person who loved their hair as much as I did and who is as vain as I am and who is a woman in a totally shallow and vacuous society…hair loss IS a nightmare.
What I really started this post to discuss…
About a year and a half ago, I went to the doctor because I kept having these insane physical symptoms for no apparent reason: heart palpitations that felt like my heart might just pop right out of my chest; a constant churning stomachache and an inability to feel calm and relaxed no matter how hard I tried. I also noticed the heart palps became much more common right before my period.
My doctor informed me that these are classic anxiety symptoms, though I had never had them before in my life. After doing an EKG to make sure my heart was okay, she suggested I try Xanax. I scoffed. Just try it and if it works, then we know your problem really IS anxiety, she said. So, I tried the Xanax, it made the weird symptoms go away and now I have a prescription, to be taken as needed.
But I’ve spent over a year, possibly longer, feeling like I was doomed to be dealing with mental health issues of one kind or another for the rest of my life; that I was somehow defective and horribly abnormal. I mean no offense to anyone who suffers from depression or anxiety, as I have dealt with both, too, but that’s how I felt about myself—defective.
Well, while I’m still pretty doomed in the hair department right now, I’ve noticed something very interesting… Since I’ve been on sufficient doses of daily iron, the heart palps have stopped and I haven’t noticed any feelings of anxiety since I’ve been on it.
Naturally, I consulted with Dr. Google and guess what? Low iron levels can cause anxiety and heart palpitations—not that my doctor ever put that together or even thought to check.
I’m NOT a doctor and I don’t play one on TV but knowing how deficient Americans are in so many key vitamins and minerals, I have to wonder is sub-ideal iron levels could be a contributing factor to what seems like an epidemic of anxiety (almost every female I know takes a prescription medication for it).
In short, if you suffer from heart palpitations or anxiety or notice it kicking in right around your period, when you lose iron, you might want to have it checked, or at the very least, supplement with a safe daily dose (I recommend Slow Fe because it doesn’t make you smell like metal).
Wish me luck this week at my doctor visit and let’s hope after I get more blood work done, that I actually know something more than I do today—because seriously, the worst part of hair loss, aside from the obvious, is not knowing if it will ever stop.
Well, that and the fear of head zits :) <– feeble attempt at levity