In the last post I included pictures of my hair at its shortest. That was less than one month out of the hospital, and two months’ worth of growth after the last shave (it was shaved four times for four different brain surgeries, two being emergency, life-saving surgeries). Sorry I don’t have any bald-headed pictures, and my hair is covered by a baseball hat…it always was at that stage. It was heart-wrenching enough every time I looked in the mirror (I often avoided my eyes, so I wouldn’t start crying), or someone stopped to do a double check. I know it was out of curiosity at someone my age being in a wheelchair in that condition, but it bothered me SO MUCH when people would stare. So I always wore a baseball hat, to at least cover the short hair and scars…plus, until I saw a barber, my hair bloomed out like a dandelion!
The emotional backlash of coming out of a coma to find my beloved long hair gone took the longest to get over. To anyone other than women that might sound silly, but I think women will most identify with why that bothered me more at the time than being partially paralyzed. For twenty years I had seen my shining, long blond hair as what defined me, at least externally. Now I felt everyone just saw this ugly shell I was stuck in…a shell with a buzz cut. No one told me my hair was pretty, no one said anything…they just stared at this beat-up girl who looked like a boy.
Eventually, I started getting excited about trying out the different hairstyles as it grew out. I had lots of fun with the spiky phase, as that was a hairstyle I’d always wanted to try, but never had the guts to cut all my hair off. It took me a while to learn that I just needed to put a little gel on my fingertips and mess it up…by that time I was almost to the pixie cut phase – my favorite! At that time, I was living with my best friend Jaena’s parents, as we were still trying to find a house. Jaena’s mom is Strong Mom to me…I think I’ve mentioned that. I apologize, between the memoir itself and the blog posts I’m not always sure what I’ve mentioned and what I haven’t…hopefully I’m not being too annoying. Strong Mom loved me with shorter hair. She said she’d never realized how beautiful my eyes were (thank you, Strong Mom). She said they always got lost in the long hair, but with short hair, they popped more. Maybe that’s why the nurses in the hospital were always commenting on my “beautiful blue eyes and big eyelashes.” The eyelashes grew more because I wasn’t wearing mascara and eye makeup in the hospital…that seems to be the key. It’s funny, because my eyes are gray, but some people see green and some people see blue. I guess short hair and hospital lighting equal blue, because that’s what everyone in the hospital saw. My husband and mother, though, will argue all day long that they are gray, and since they’ve looked more deeply into my eyes than anyone, I take their word for it!
Anyhoo…while I was living at Strong Mom’s, the girl down the street was having her Sweet 16. They had a horse-drawn carriage that was giving all the girls rides, and Strong Mom asked if they would come by and give Mom and me a ride, to which they kindly obliged. They stopped in front of the house and helped hoist me up, then they drove Mom and me around the Spring Valley neighborhood, where so many of my friends had grown up and lived. It was a wonderful break from my depressing reality, and it was in the carriage where Strong Mom took the picture above. Sorry the hat's on again...you can tell Mom had pulled it up, because she hated the way I pulled them down low over my eyes. I liked hiding under them. My dad loved this picture of Mom and me, but I have to cut her out, as she abhors having her picture taken. You will never get a nastier glare than if you whip out a camera in front of my mom. There’s a picture of her Brownie troop in line when she was a little girl, and Mom is ducking behind another girl so she won’t get her picture taken. In her Senior High School yearbook, her spot says “Photo Not Available,” because she didn’t sit for her picture. The guy voted “Most Handsome” (with whom she went out) is in there…but Mom is not. If Tiffani gets her camera out Mom always admonishes her not to steal her soul…she has just always hated having her picture taken, and she’ll kill me if I post one, so I’ll edit her out. This picture was only maybe 2-3 months after the pictures with Grandma, and my hair was already growing out to a length I felt more comfortable with. I still felt like I looked like a boy, but at least my hair was starting to go down my neck a bit.
I do this to show that I understand how much you feel your hair defines you, and how incomplete you’ll feel until it’s back. Some people never get it back, but you know what? They make wigs even prettier than the hair I can grow, and you can decide which color hair you want every day of the week! Maybe one day you want to be blond, but another day you want to be exotic and dark, or maybe on Wednesday you feel like a fiery, crazy redhead! If it was me, I think I’d have to make Fridays purple and hot pink days…although Scott would hate that! My point is, there are always silver linings, so don’t get hung up on the rainclouds. This is something that’s always easier to see and say after the storm is over…but believe me, it’s not like my life is storm-free these days, I just have to remind myself to see the good and the positive, and not dwell on all the negative. I had to learn that lesson over and over throughout my recovery and life since. Some days are always easier than others, but remind yourself of all you have to be thankful for.
Even when you feel you have nothing, you always have God’s love! And let me please remind you of what my mom tried so desperately to tell me: that your self-worth is not wrapped up in hair follicles!! Who you are does not come and go with a changing hairstyle…YOU ARE the beautiful, unique person God created you to be! Each of us is different and special to Him and the people who love us in our own way. All the little things that add up to you are what make you special…NOT YOUR HAIR!! You are beautiful no matter what!