This morning while in the shower I caught myself falling into old habits of treating my body a little too harshly.
I’ve been through a lot of transition and grief in the past year. On April 21, 2021 my beloved husband of 31 years died suddenly of a heart attack, just 2 days before we were supposed to move. I’ll definitely share more about this in an upcoming blog post, but for now let’s talk about depression in general, and thinning hair and grief in specific.
Over the past year I’ve been gradually working my way back to a new sense of normal with the help of a whole team of amazing people who I love and adore.
The first 8 months without Angel were filled with depression. For me my sadness showed up in complete exhaustion. I was so sad that many times I couldn’t get my head up off the pillow. I have been down the road of depression and grief before.
Like so many people, my life has been touched by depression and worry. But because I’ve always used food to self-medicate, I never really noticed I struggled with sadness and anxiety until 2017.
Worrying About Everything and Everyone
The straw that broke the camel’s back, came for me, soon after both my daughter and son moved out of the house, when my precious, 14 year old Cat Owie (pictured left) was diagnosed with kidney failure. No wonder he was all of a sudden having accidents everywhere.
The stress of it all was making me feel more than a little disconnected from my husband, Angel. It seemed like we were squabbling all the time because I had become so unnaturally overprotective of Owie, never wanting to leave his side, always worrying about him.
In the winter of 2005 Owie came to us as a stray cat. After trying to find his owners, I realized he had probably been abandoned. When I saw that he had no claws, I knew I had to adopt and protect him.
Welcoming Owie into our home opened up all my old wounds around being raised in a violent and abusive household. Owie was very skittish when he first came into our home and he was anxious and fearful around my husband son. I told myself the story that Owie had probably been abused by a man. Over the next 8 years I became passionately involved in cat rescue. My family and I helped feed and care for 7 generations of feral cats/kittens. I had some very deep feelings around my love for Owie and all the strays.
As my time with Owie was drawing to a close, facing the prospect of losing him to death combined with the reality of being an emptynester and aging felt overwhelming. I felt a little bit like I was losing my mind.
Isolating Myself to Feel Safe
Something had rattled inside of me that shook me to my core. All of a sudden I felt as vulnerable as I did when I was a kid. I lost all sense of confidence and I stopped feeling safe and secure.
I developed a fear of being alone. I became consumed with fearful thoughts, from ISIS to clowns to killers. Certain that something horrible was about to happen to me, I retreated into the shadows. I’ve never been very comfortable with sharing my personal struggles with my friends or my family, so I have a tendency to isolate myself and push away people who I love.
Re-gaining Weight and Now Losing Hair too— What!!!
On January 31, 2017 my beloved cat, Owie had passed away. By that time, I had created such a deep rift between myself, and my family, that I was convinced nobody loved me. With Owie gone and my precious daughter, Cara so far away, it felt to me like my grief was endless. Because I had isolated myself to such an extreme degree, I felt completely alone.
In the throes of my suffering, I sunk into a deep depression and stuffed myself with ice cream, regaining about 35 pounds that I had worked so hard to lose 2 years’ prior. One day while looking in the mirror, I noticed that my hair was also thinning. For me, that change marked the beginning of the end of my depression and feelings of helplessness.
Sharing My Thinning Hair Experience with Prevention.com
Several months later, I was approached by Joni Sweet, an author who was writing an article on hair loss for Prevention.com
Joni asked me to share my story with my own hair loss so that she could include it in her article, clickable below, entitled,
8 Women Share The One Surprising Tweak That Slowed Their Hair Loss Way Down
Below is an excerpt of what I shared with Joni talking about the grief I was experiencing after Owie passed away:
“In the emotional state I was in, it was causing my hair to get thinner. I was finding my hair in the drain, on my clothes, my desk, my bed, my car. It seemed to be everywhere.
A dear friend told me about Ho’oponopono, an ancient Hawaiian forgiveness exercise that involves saying the phrases ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘Please forgive me’ and ‘Thank you’ to the divine. I decided to try it on my hair loss.
As I recited the phrases in the shower and tried to slow down enough to feel the meaning of the words rippling through my body, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the momentary pain of a hangnail getting snagged on my hair.
Until then I didn’t actually realize that I had been clawing at my scalp, furiously scratching and scrubbing my head, just rushing to get finished shampooing my hair. How many times had I done things like that and been so abusive to myself? Realizing how cruel I was being to my body, I started sobbing and I dropped to my knees in humble recognition that I had been beating up on myself and treating myself like crap for a long time.”
Thinning Hair: Don’t Care – My ‘Turning a Corner Tips’ to Manage Aging and Hair Loss
Let Go – It’s medically proven that hair loss is often tied to stress. By letting go of whatever you can’t control, you will relieve your burden and ease your anxiety. Think about the places in your life where you are holding onto habits, relationships or ideas that don’t bring you joy.
According to the law of attraction, what you focus on, you get more of in your life. If you focus on all the reasons why you are miserable, you will keep on being miserable. If you’ve been feeling victimized and overburdened, it’s time to let go of all the things that make you feel sorry for yourself.
Begin to notice times when you are worried, anxious, angry, or sad. Your emotions are important clues letting you know what you need to release in order to be happier. I realized that my tendency to worry and be afraid was just an old habit of years of feeling out of control.
Despite the fact that I was now safe and living in a loving environment, I was acting like I was a helpless child living under constant threat. As a result of fears constantly running my thoughts, I had become overbearing, anxious and I was acting old, far beyond my then 54 years.
My compulsive worrying and anxiety about Owie, the kids, my mother, my marriage, mourning being estranged from my father, and constantly grieving my past was wearing me down. I had to start to loosen my grip on trying to control everything and everyone in my life, because the constant vigilance was making me miserable.
Choose a Different Response – By holding onto shame, blame, guilt, and resentment, complaining to others, you are getting caught up in habits of acting like a victim. You’re not a victim, but you’re acting like one. Maybe like me you have a lot of pain and adversity in your past. You may have suffered abuse, been betrayed by a loved one or endured unspeakable losses. That’s your reality and I empathize with your pain. I know what it’s like to suffer from those types of hurts. Maybe your experiences have prevented you from trusting others, being happier, and having more fun.
The sad truth is that your life will not change unless you make the decision to do something different. You may have no control over your circumstances, but you can change the way you feel about yourself by changing the way you think about your situation. If what is causing you pain has not yet killed you, it’s made you stronger.
Reach out for help – As one of my mentors, Barbara Sher says, “isolation is the dreamkiller.” You don’t have to feel so alone. There are online and offline groups you can join. Call a friend and meet for coffee.
Pick up the telephone and tell someone you love them. Hire a coach, speak to a therapist, invest in an image consultant. Do whatever is necessary to go back to living from a more fierce place. You’re awesome and you deserve the best. By engaging in life again, you will release the grip of negative emotions and feel better.
Awareness – Make a bug list and chip away at it everyday. Get clear on the things you want to change. Go through each room of your home and pay attention to the emotions that crop up. Anything that annoys, irritates or makes you feel any overwhelming emotion is pointing you in the direction of greater awareness. If you tend to overeat when you are stressed out, see your overeating as the gift that it is. Really this also applies to any compulsive behavior that you do as a result of being stressed. Stop shaming yourself and thinking it’s a weakness. Think of that behavior as a beacon shining a light on the areas in your life that are making you unhappy.
Take action to change – Now it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. Although you can’t change everything, focus on doing whatever you can so you can feel more relief. Pray, meditate, take a walk, clean out a closet, watch YouTube, do something that is in your direct control. Your goal is to do whatever you can to just feel better in the next few minutes.
It’s your willingness to take tiny baby steps each day that will uplevel your confidence and give you a sense of self-respect that you may have been missing. After I realized it was a waste of time to try to stop my hair loss, I was inspired to remember all the entertainers I love who are very vocal and proud of wearing wigs. That’s when I thought it might be fun to start experimenting with new looks. My search led me to YouTube. There I discovered Monique Parent, a Hollywood actress, and former make up artist who created an amazing YouTube channel for women over 40 teaching them how to feel and look fabulous. She earned my trust with her willingness to record several of her videos without makeup. I liked her style and kept watching and learning from her. The video of hers that made the biggest difference for me is entitled, ” How to Style Fierce Hair When Growing Out An Undercut or Pixie.” I loved that because it showed her re-wetting her hair, switching the part over and curling the bangs. Wearing my hair with the part switched to the opposite side was exactly what I needed to break the compulsion of worrying about my thinning hair on the left side. A few weeks after styling my hair with the part reversed, I forgot all about my hair thinning and began to notice new growth. Now my hair is no longer thinning. But if it should ever happen again, I’ll go right back to learning more styling options on YouTube.
Be self-compassionate – See yourself through the eyes of one who loves you. Life is tough enough without you beating up on yourself making you feel worse. Nobody is perfect and you’ve been trying your best, but things haven’t worked out the way you wanted. I learned that by looking at myself through a new lens of self-compassion, I could feel a renewed strength in my faith in God return. I realized that if divine forces wanted to take away my hair, there was nothing in the world I could do to stop it.
From that day on, I decided to approach my hair, and my whole life, with more gentleness. I shampooed more carefully, avoided excessive use of the hair dryer, and stopped touching my hair when I was nervous. After a few weeks, my hair started to grow faster and experienced less breakage. My hair loss was stopped in its tracks. I can’t promise you that your hair won’t fall out, but by making a commitment to yourself to be more gentle in everything you do, it will put a fresh perspective on the little things in your life. Step outside of yourself and see yourself from a more divine, empowered and loving perspective.
That day in the shower made me look at my circumstances in a new way. I got real with myself and knew that I was creating my own sense of fear and distancing myself from the people who I loved most. It was time to channel my thoughts into recreating myself and my life. I’ve since taken a lot of steps that have put me on a much bigger path of self-love. As a result, my coaching and my message has expanded beyond self/esteem/confidence to sharing stress-relief tools to manage depression and anxiety for women over 50.
If you have been retreating from your own life, struggling with fears, anxiety, and depression, I’m here to help you. I hope my story helped you to understand that you have more control in your life than you realize. You don’t have to be sad and depressed. I feel you. I know that getting older is no picnic. But we can find ways of redefining aging to make our lives fabulous.
Join my Facebook group, “Baby Steps to Lovin’ the Skin You’re In” and get a fresh perspective. Let me teach you how you can use tapping and big doses of self-compassion to boost your confidence, so you can feel better and focus on your dreams.
Great advice! I definitely have some stress going on and I overeat, too. I’m on a medication that can make you lose hair, so I am going to try to love it up as you’ve suggested and work on my stress, too.
Thank you for sharing your story. I have experienced hair loss, too. I think mostly as a result of going through menopause, but it hasn’t seemed to completely stop now that I’m on the other side. I have come to realize that I need to be more gentle with myself when I shampoo and I have had some times of being stressed and depressed in the last few years. Some of the same stuff you had going on – empty nest, my daughter moving away, parents moved in, Dad died. I have come to realize that is a lot and recognize that it is instead of explaining things away. Time has helped heal sorrows, but I also gained weight during this process and I have to remind myself not to focus on that too much. I’m working on it, but it sure doesn’t get any easier when you’re older!