She was finally alone. The kids were safely at school and her husband had left for work. The house was quiet, and she was able to acknowledge what she’d been contemplating for weeks. It was no longer a peripheral thought that passed through her as she picked up after kids, cleaned up dishes after meals, or folded the never-ending mountain of laundry she was always battling. The thoughts were so loud they were screaming at her. Just do it! Get it over with already! But could she?
She stood in front of the bathroom sink and looked at herself in the mirror. The clippers in her hand had been used more times than she could count. She cut her son’s hair for the first time with those clippers, and she buzzed her husband’s head every week. They had saved quite a bit of money in the long run and now they were going to save more than just money.
She flipped the switch on the side, and they came alive.
The buzzing created a lime-sized pit in her stomach, which was ironic when she thought about it. For half a second she smiled to herself. Lime-sized pit. She started to think maybe she was about to make a horrible mistake, but she took a deep breath and a sudden calmness settled through her.
She put the clippers up to her hairline and did one quick swipe from front to back. Her hair fell to the ground and a single tear along with it. There was no longer a question of whether she could do it or not. She was committed.
The last two years of her life had been hell. Doctor after doctor, scan after scan, procedure after procedure. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, so they ran the gamut of tests.
“Are you sure you’re not just having anxiety?” One doctor asked. How the hell do I know? Isn’t that your job?
“You might have a stomach ulcer or a hiatal hernia,” another doctor surmised. It all seemed like guesses to her. Do any of these doctors actually know what they’re doing?
“It might be an inflammatory response to dairy products. Just stop eating dairy, and if you can stand it, stop eating sugar and gluten as well. That should take care of these symptoms.” She followed the doctor’s orders and after a few months she’d lost over a hundred pounds. But she felt worse than she ever had, and the symptoms were no better.
After the third specialist and an abdominal MRI, they found it. A lime-sized mass in her abdomen. Limes are supposed to garnish a summery cocktail, add tartness to a pie, or mix with avocados to make a tasty guacamole. They’re not supposed to wreak havoc inside your body or mind like this one had in hers.
She became increasingly aware that this thing… this Interloper, was growing inside her and she desperately wanted it to come out. For several months it consumed her every thought and made it impossible for her to be present in any occurring moment.
But this wasn’t even about The Interloper, specifically. It was about the aftermath. Because even after The Interloper was gone… and that pit she felt for many months was no longer there, she still wasn’t free.
As a young girl, her mother always put an importance on hair. She always had it brushed so nicely, adorned with frilly barrettes, or bows. Seeing how much joy her hair brought her mother as a kid, made it her signature calling card of sorts, as she grew up.
She spent so much time and money maintaining her hair in her thirty-six years. She colored it, straightened it, curled it, cut it, grew it out. It was a way for her to express herself and change the way people perceived her. Every change was an opportunity for reinvention. Did blondes really have more fun? She knew the answer.
Changing hair for some people is uncomfortable, but it wasn’t for her. She loved her hair. She loved how it so easily took the form she wanted it to and how it was never a source of self-consciousness. Many would comment on how brave she was to make such drastic changes like she did because they could never do it themselves and she relished the comments and compliments.
A few months after surgery, she noticed the shower drain catching so much more hair that usual. Hmm. That seems like a lot. But she chalked it up to stress and figured it was just temporary.
As the days and weeks went on, her hair was falling out in clumps, and it was taking clumps of her self-esteem with it. Oddly enough, the gravity of a tumor growing inside her body hadn’t been as painful emotionally as the thought of losing that glorious hair that had been such an important sense of self-image. It got to the point where she could see through the length of it; she could see between the strands.
One day in the shower, as she washed the little that hung on, she contemplated ‘GI Jane-ing’ herself. She even mentioned it to her husband, but he convinced her to just go get it cut short. She did but in her heart, she knew it was just a stop gap. The Interloper and the extreme weight loss had done a number on her body and her hair just wasn’t going to hold on any longer.
For weeks she thought about pulling the clippers out of the cabinet. Every time she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she tried to picture what she would look like with no hair. Would people accept me? Could I even accept myself? She wasn’t sure, but she grew increasingly emotional the more she was able to freely see her scalp that was once covered in luscious hair.
Then she finally mustered up all the courage she had. She knew what she had to do and after that first quick swipe, she felt some of the weight of the last two years leave her. Each swipe took more until she was left with a floor covered in hair and a much lighter heart. She felt relief for the first time since her health journey began. The heaviness of the last two years – the Interloper’s hold on her mental and emotional well-being, the devastation of the rapid loss of hair that she believed defined who she was as a person – was gone. Finally, she was free.
She wiped the tears from her cheeks, cleaned up the hair off the floor, and rubbed her freshly buzzed head. She smiled at the new image of herself. It wasn’t as bad as she thought it was going to be.