I was talking a to a friend today who is having Chemotherapy as part of a treatment for her MS. Knowing that she was going to lose her hair, a few weeks ago she had her hair cut short and donated her hair to the charity that makes wigs for children with cancer, a lovely thing to do. After getting used to her new short style, which really suits her, she is now at the stage that her hair is falling out and the next step is to shave the rest off. It got me thinking that the main thing people worry about when having Chemo is the hair loss and they feel self conscious and worried about how they look. Most people having Chemo shop for wigs and or hats before treatment. This of course does give them a bit of control over what is otherwise a very difficult treatment and something that is often done alongside having to get used to the shock of diagnosis too. As I said this friends donated her hair to be made into wigs for children, but maybe there could be a way of having people’s own hair made into a wig and make them feel more themselves.
Amy Dowden from Strictly come dancing is currently undergoing treatment for cancer and has shared videos of her shaving her hair off. On Saturday night she appeared on live TV without her wig, she looked amazing and I am sure she probably felt awful.
So why is our hair so important and why do we feel so ashamed of losing it? If you are having chemo it is often the only indication of the damage that Chemo does to the whole body, but it also shows what you are going through and people should be proud of what they are doing. Ironically the professional dancers on Strictly this week did a number where they were all wearing wigs as they danced to a Barbie theme. They all looked so different I couldn’t tell who most of them were. Changing hairstyle and colour is often something we do to make ourselves feel better or happier about ourselves and the amount of money spent on hair products is crazy.
Hair also often says something about our character or allows us to fit into a specific culture, eg skin heads, punks, goths etc, it becomes part of our style. Growing up in the 1970’s saw some wild hair styles and colours.
People do make assumptions about people related to hair styles and colours, eg skinheads are thugs, blonde’s are stupid, goths are weird. As a child I always had short hair and my hair was black, most people assumed I was a boy. I did grow my hair a couple of times, but much prefer it short. As my hair started to go grey I spent time and money on covering it up. I always found having my hair coloured so draining, but felt I had to do it regardless of this. Thankfully I have now accepted the grey, I might not like it as much, but it means I have more energy and money for more important things. Appearances are important and we all want to look our best, but we should not be ashamed of something that is natural and or out of our control.
It’s not just a female thing either, male hair products has become big business too. Many men are ashamed of going bald and or grey, especially if they are still relatively young. In the area where I live we have so many barbers shops and there always seems to be another one opening.
Why do we get so ashamed of how we look? As a wheelchair user and hearing aid wearer I am really bad for it. When I first had hearing aids I grew my hair over my ears to cover them, when actually it’s much more practical to have it cut around my ears. What is there to be ashamed of, I can’t hear without them and a lot of people don’t even notice that I am wearing them. People used to be very ashamed of needing glasses, now they are almost a fashion accessory. I only wear glasses for reading and it’s such a pain having to take them on and off all the time and I can never remember where I put them, but glasses now seem much more acceptable than other corrective aids. I hate people knowing I wear hearing aids and even with them my hearing is not great and I spend much of my time either avoiding contact with people or coming across a stupid rather than explaining that I cannot hear. I wonder if people with guide dogs feel ashamed, I do hope not.
None of us are very good at accepting things that make us stand out as being different. I use a wheelchair outside of the house and I hate the way people treat me because of it, I am not a lesser person and without it I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. I hate that I am reliant on someone to push me and feel sorry for my daughter and husband and often avoid going to things if it will make it awkward for them. I think perhaps some of the shame comes from feeling that I am not justified in using it, I am not paralysed, I just can’t walk far. I do feel like a fraud when I get out of my chair to do something or use a blue badge parking bay, even though I have a blue badge.
As someone who has an illness that imposes a lot of limitations on me, I still feel so ashamed that I don’t work and I don’t do much cooking or cleaning. I hate asking for help and am ashamed that people have to do the daily chores for me. It makes me feel a lesser person and an unworthy person. I can’t accept that it is not my fault, I always feel it is my fault and I should try harder and do more so then this piles upon my physical limitations and adds to the exhaustion and means I can do even less. I always think that people think I am lazy and spoilt because I don’t work. I also feel that if I had another sort of illness it would be more justified, but with ME, you feel so ill, but nothing much shows up medically so you feel such a fraud. I often wonder how I can feel so unwell and have so little energy when apparently there is nothing wrong with me.
I am currently feeling so useless as I am supposed to be making stuff for a hedgehog recue charity to sell, but I never manage much and other people are so productive, it puts me to shame. The lady who runs the rescue is badly sight impaired and has multiple health issues, she is also foster Mum to disabled children and she work relentlessly. I do want to be able to help so much more and am ashamed of how little I get done.
We all put so much pressure on ourselves to keep up appearances and to appear normal. What is normal anyway?