This is a part of the array of eating disorder information that I never knew really until I experienced it myself. For someone who has done an immerse amount of research about these illnesses, I didn’t find much about this at all. Of course, everybody’s experience is different. But awareness is so crucial.
Eating disorders aren’t pretty. Anything but. Maybe they fit into some unhealthy aesthetic, but they aren’t sunshine and rainbows. When I had gone through my many up’s and down’s over the years, in and out of the recovery and relapse process, I had similar physical and mental symptoms that I had grown very accustomed to. They felt comfortable even.
Not until my last, most dramatic relapse to date, did I experience new symptoms I never had before. I never had chest pains going up stairs before. I never had peach fuzz growing on my back before.
And, I had never lost a very significant volume of my hair before. It might sound silly and superficial, but that was the one symptom out of all of them that really terrified me. Probably because it’s something so basic in our appearance, especially for women. Who doesn’t wish their hair was as luxurious and beautiful as the models’ in every shampoo commercial out there?
Hair in of itself can be a form of identity. I had always liked my hair, despite the constant split ends and frizziness. People had always commented about how much hair I had and how thick it was. Whenever I was looking for a little change in my life, I went to my hair, a touch of experimentation for an otherwise very safe person.
My head is always prone to shedding. When my hair started to fall out, I didn’t think too much of it, not really judging my hair loss to what it usually was. But I did notice when I was seeing chunks of my head with much less hair than usual. That when I pulled my hair back after shower, I was pulling back sparse clumps into a much thinner ponytail.
I cannot tell you the time I spent looking up anything I could on hair loss and regrowth. Why an 18-year-old college student would have problems like those of some middle-aged women. I of course was not ignorant that the assumed cause was my eating disorder, but I mentally blocked that off as a possibility. It was like a traumatic experience I didn’t dare consider because that would mean actually facing the real problem at hand.
Depriving yourself of vital calories and nutrients for too long means that everything you do feed yourself goes to its priorities: vital organs. So auxillary goals go to the wayside, leading to drier skin, brittle and weak nails, lack of focus, irregular or no menstruation in women, and, in this instance, hair loss.
When it comes to my body, I don’t notice or think too much of how it changes. It always looks the same to me, which can be quite frustrating. I know when I’ve gained weight, but in a phase of losing weight, I get frustrated when no matter what the scale says, it all looks the same to me.
My hair, on the other hand, I could notice. My mind is not blind to when my part is wider, that what was a mass of strands now clung to dear life. There’s a reason I’ve gotten more into hats recently.
My hair became a very big motivator for me recovering. When I didn’t want to eat as much, I remembered that I was trying to regrow my hair, which I’d guess lost half of its volume in the matter of a couple of months. I focused on my hair to avoid the discomfort that comes from gaining weight. But it helped.
So whatever problem you might be facing, find your motivation, the thing that you really focus on as a reason for moving forward and doing what’s right. There are plenty of reasons to choose health over disorder, right over wrong, but don’t feel ashamed or selfish for clinging to a reason that isn’t very forward-thinking or beneficial to others. The only thing that matters is that you are overcoming the obstacle. That in of itself is forward-thinking and beneficial to yourself and loved ones.
And, once you make it to the other side, the little things like a full head of hair become that much more meaningful.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie