Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hair and anxiety. Anxiety and hair.

For me, mental health has been an important consideration in dealing with the stress that comes with raising a special needs child. And while I know that physical health is connected to mental health, even when I was in my best shape - a good weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol - my mental health was lacking (all I have to do is look 4 years back in my blog, and I can see that). Even counselling didn't fix it. It wasn't until my doctor put me on an SSRI a year ago that I started feeling okay again.

So that's about 4 years of struggling with anxiety and mild depression. It sneaks up on you gradually. For me, it started with physical symptoms. I developed contact dermatitis. Then I got shingles. Then other skin issues. Then my heart started to race for no reason. Then I developed a breathing issue where I could never get a satisfying breath. It got so bad I had to stop running or riding my bike. All the tests came back normal. It was my version of hell.

It was right around that time that my mind started going to bad places. Where every ache and pain was a sign that I was dying. I would lay away at night, scared to fall asleep, because I thought that I wouldn't wake up.

I was miserable. It was horrible. I hated it. And it was very hard to describe to anyone. So mostly, I kept it to myself, but I knew it changed who I was when I was around people.

I knew that my thoughts were ridiculous, but I could not shake them. Counselling helped with that and frankly, sheer determination. Determination not to let my mind go where I did not want it to go. I eventually - after a couple years - got my thoughts reasonable again, but my physical symptoms persisted. Even if I was able to stop my thoughts from going down a rabbit hole, my body went there. And there I was, heart racing and lungs not cooperating, unable to control it.

Then came SSRI's and now, those symptoms don't come back. Unless I forget to take my meds. Like I did a few weeks ago. It was horrible, it felt like I was going to die. But I didn't. I'm still here.

So, that's the background to my little story. My story about how sometimes my mind still goes to those dark, panicky places. And how I have to be so vigilant not to let myself go there.


It's a story about my hair, probably my favourite feature about myself. Ya, it gets greasy too fast and can go flat. But the colour is good and it cooperates with me and I like it. My skin is red and blotchy and acne prone. My body is flabby and out of shape. But my hair, well it doesn't matter what state of health I'm in, my hair has always been there for me. Which is why, when something seemed to go wrong with my hair, I panicked.

You see, it had gotten prematurely greasy after I'd swam in a lake. That's weird, I thought, but traveling and lake water will do that too you.

So, after I had a shower and blow-dried my hair and my hair was greasier than it had been before I washed it, I started to consider worst case scenarios.

Enter rabbit hole.

Suddenly, in my mind, I had an endocrine problem. And my hair was never going to be nice again. Something was wrong with ME!!!!

Maybe. Maybe I'd accidentally put lotion in my hair instead of conditioner. We were in a hotel after all and all the bottles look the same. No, pretty sure it wasn't that. Maybe it was the type of product in the hotel. No, no it couldn't be that, I'd used it before.

It was the strangest thing. I worried about it all day.

We got home that day and after we'd unpacked the car and everyone seemed settled, I went up to shower. Two showers in one day. Well... I had to know. Was there something about the product I'd used? Or was there something wrong with me?

I washed my hair three times. I washed my face with soap. I had to get all the grease away from me.

And then I blow-dried it again. My hair was much better, but still, a little on the greasy side. And that's when it dawned on me.

My brush. The brush I used when I blow-dry my hair. It had been in my toiletry bag and some oil had spilled in my toiletry bag. There was oil on my brush. It explained everything.

My life was okay again. I had my hair back.


Anxiety can do that to you. Take your mind to places that don't make sense. Make you skip those logical thoughts that explain things and keep you sane. I can mostly avoid those rabbit holes now, but sometimes they come back, unbidden.

That's when I'm thankful for my meds that keep my body from joining my mind, which goes a long way to helping me think logically again.

Any hey, my hair is okay. At least there's that.

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