13 June 2017

Dear me

Just before I came to Spain, Eric Hutchinson's new album dropped. The very first song on Easy Street is called "Dear Me", and in addition to the upbeat rhythm, it has some great lyrics (they're mildly cliched, but that's what makes them true).

This past week, this song has taken me back to a post that I wrote back in 2011 (It's just been sitting as a draft in my blog feed until I could summon up the courage to make it public). Life looks different at 30 than it did at 14, and I sometimes wish I could go back in time to just clue 14yo me in to what life has in store for her.

My favorite line in Hutchinson's song is the following: "Things are gonna change, but change is better than you thought." If I could have known all of the changes that trich had in store for my life, and how much better my life would become as a result of addressing it, I don't think the shame would have weighed nearly as heavily. These changes have all been really emotionally and mentally draining, and the financial burden that some took (and the time) is not available to some people.

But recognizing how this thing that I was once so ashamed of has come to shape my perception of myself (and how subtle shifts in perception and action have helped it to go away) has led me a richer, more fulfilling life. It has led me to yoga, acupuncture, meditation, to digging deep and goofing off. To drinking more water and eating more vegetables. To getting more sleep (we all need more sleep) and to spending less time in front of a screen. To baking more and also eating less sugar (that's a conundrum I haven't quite figured out).

And it has led me back to writing, an activity that I love, yet that I always used to put off because of the anxiety that it provoked.

I'm sure we all have advice that we would like to share with our younger selves. The post I wrote 5 years ago and never published still rings true for me today. I've included it after the jump.


Dear 14 year old me: 

That mass of hair of yours - so curly, dry and damaged? All those split ends just begging to be "fixed" somehow?

Don't touch them. Don't even think about it. I know you're bored, or stressed, or anxious, and you may not even know which, but find some other way to deal. Fidget. Bite your nails. Chew on a pen cap. Anything but that.

Learn to love your hair. Learn how to take care of it. And most importantly, learn how to accept that it is only one small piece of the most wonderful parts of you. You must accept it, because no matter what you do, you can't change it.

And when I say that you must learn to love your hair, I mean that you must learn to love yourself. I know that you feel awkward. Alone and maybe even friendless. But these feelings won't last nearly as long as that coping mechanism you're toying with.

It's called trichotillomania, and there is no easy cure. It's going to take a few years of therapy for you to even begin thinking about writing down that name in connection with your own, and probably even more before you begin to feel like you might overcome it one day. And you're gonna have to take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time, because conquering this habit is gonna be the hardest battle you'll ever fight. (You will, after all, be fighting with yourself. And you know you never give up easily.)

You're gonna be awesome. You're going to travel to wonderful places and learn interesting things. You'll eat snake and octopus and all other sorts of things you never imagined. You'll learn new languages, meet wonderful people, and walk barefoot in Paris.

You'll even fall in love.

But what you are doing to that little strand of hair will make you build fences. You're going to be so afraid that first time you fall in love, because you will know that no matter what you feel, you will ALWAYS fear that he will judge you and despise you if he only knew.  It's the one part of you that you will never want to share, and yet the one part of you that is precisely what you need to share in order to overcome that self-doubt so common amongst all of us. 

You pull out your hair, and you will have for years before you start to figure anything out.

So please learn to love yourself before you start destroying me.


(NOTE: This post was inspired by this video warning teens about the risks of melanoma. It's got a pretty important message, and I wish that I had heard that message too when I was a teen. Nevertheless, since trich's health factors are different from melanoma, this is by far the more important message for me to have received. We all make mistakes when we're young, but only by opening up about our own mistakes will we be able to convince another generation to make different ones.)

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