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I have always been blessed with strong, thick and healthy hair, which I’ve kept long for most of my life. My hair has always been the most striking part about me. I used to get compliments daily and I used my hair as a form of safety blanket, which I could hide behind when my anxiety reared its ugly head.

I used to be very overweight and very self conscious about my physical appearance. But no matter how fat and ugly I felt, I always loved my hair. After losing weight I kept my hair long and became even more protective of it. I actually feared going to the hairdressers in case they took off more than 1 inch, when I asked for just a trim. I also had frequent nightmares about my hair falling out.

Fast forward a few years and my physical health deteriorated to the point where I was unable to care for myself. I developed severe ME/CFS and fibromyalgia. The exhaustion and weakness caused by the ME/CFS meant I couldn’t wash and dry my own hair. The Fibromyalgia meant anything touching my skin, including my hair, was extremely painful. And I had developed constant tension headaches from the weight of my hair when it was tied up. I wasn’t well enough to sit in a hairdressers chair, so my hair got dry, damaged and very, very long.

Some of you reading this are probably thinking; “What’s the big deal?, it’s only hair and it will grow back” With all the challenges I face on a daily basis living with severe ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, cutting my hair would seem insignificant. But girls, from an early age, are force fed the notion that you need long hair to be beautiful and feminine. I was terrified I wouldn’t be seen as attractive anymore, but it actually went a lot deeper than that. My long hair was such an ingrained part of my persona, I was afraid I would lose part of me if I cut my hair short.

Image description: Two photos side-by-side. Left: a woman (me) with very long, thick, wavy brown hair. Right: a woman (me) with a brown hair shaved to a grade one.

So, 7 years ago, I had to make a very tough decision. To cut my hair off or risk my health deteriorating even further. I chose my health and it’s a decision I’ve never regretted. The one thing I feared the most, losing my hair, had happened, yet the world didn’t end. It was actually quite liberating. I felt physically and mentally lighter. I could hold my head up without the weight of my hair dragging it down. My tension headaches stopped and the pain in my neck and shoulders reduced.

I was able to wash my hair in 1 minute and let it air dry, no more spending 30 minutes under the hairdryer. I only had to wash it once a week which meant I could use my limited energy on other, more important tasks like eating. Because I’m unable to sit up long enough to have my hair styled, I have a buzz cut once a month. Yes, it’s quite a drastic solution, especially when you are used to having long hair, but it will grow back.

I don’t know what the future holds. For now I am housebound – pretty much bed bound. In the future, when I am able to leave the house, I may be more self conscious of my lack of hair, but there are other solutions. When that time comes, I look forward to shopping for hats, beautifully coloured scarfs and possibly wigs.

Have you had to make any tough decisions to protect your health?

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