This post might not resonate with many, but it’s my reality. I admit, I’m vain and take a lot of gratification making myself look professional. I’ve had a lifelong love of my hair and played around with many different looks. My last look was long silver-blond hair. I could play around with it in so many ways. It was my perfect wedding hair and I couldn’t be happier.
After my brain surgery, the surgeon shaved my hair partially. I felt like Ben Franklin, with my lovely locks matted together intertwined in blood. I looked in the mirror and cringed. I pleaded with several nurses to shave the rest of my hair to get rid of the matted rat nest that rested on the bottom half of my head. After several days, two nurses came with a razor and got rid of the remaining hair. I immediately felt relief to have the weight gone so I could sleep better. My self-loathing didn’t hit me at the time since I had several battles ahead of me.
When I was released from the hospital the first time, I felt like a little boy, laying around in pajamas with no makeup. This was expected because I’m recovering and had no strength to move around. As time passed, I would catch a glimpse in the mirror and cry. How would my husband ever find me attractive? He assured me he still did but I could accept that I was. Slowly I started to put on a little makeup to brighten my face. Still that wasn’t enough.
After my second surgery, I really gave up. I spent a week on the sofa unable to get up and my head felt like it had been through a meat cutter. My hair that began to grow was shaved again for the shunt. Here I am with hair that’s half shaved and half bald. Again, I mustered with what little tears I had left and put the mirror down. I lost a piece of my vanity I was always proud of. I told myself I was ugly, looked like a boy, disgusting. These hateful words echoed in my head cowardly.
My body changed too. I’ve always been small framed, but I felt like my body was morphing into something else. My stomach felt like it was pouching from the drain. I knew I couldn’t help it, and perhaps it will get better. The more fluid that drains, will make my stomach fluctuate.
With this self-loathing of losing my vanity, I woke up one day and said STOP! Be thankful you are ALIVE! Too many people have spent ample hours ensuring that I recovered. So, I looked in the mirror and saw something different- a beautiful person who survived hell. My vanity was not how I looked but how I projected myself. I gained strength to become a warrior. I wanted people to look at me as strong.
As the days past and my mental recovery progressed, I threw out the lounge wear and began to take a shower every day and put on my makeup. I selected an outfit I would normally wear to work or out to do something. I began to embrace my short hair. For once it felt thick and strong after decades of dying it blonde. I felt empowered.
I began to google images of my icon- Audrey Hepburn and discovered that she had a period of short hair. I loved the look and decided I’m going for it because she exuded so much from just a single picture.
To conclude the reason of this post- I want to normalize what people go through with this traumatic experience. Yes, we are glad to be alive and yes, we battle every day to stay alive and progress to our normal selves, but we also go through vanity issues. This is just a small facet of the circumstance and it needs to be exposed. The essence of what I learned through this vanity trauma, if that’s what I want to call it, is beauty is how you project yourself. Be strong, heal, be a source to others, be kind, love. The physicality will change but learning the internal love is a change that others will congregate to.