Thursday, October 24, 2013

Going Natural: A Painful Journey with my Hair- Part I

Before the chop, sometime in early June this year. 
I live through my hair. You can tell a lot about me through my hair. It speaks proverbial volumes about my life and perspective on a lot of things. I didn't realize how much my hair personified me until I started noticing some instant loss, thinning, and breaking.  It all started last June and the journey to pinpointing what the hec caused what I thought was going to end my days on TV-- kinda --  (no matter how infrequent prior to this summer/fall; really just my obsession with my hair) to settling on the perfect regiment and treatment to revive my mane.

If I had a picture of my hair in college, I'd share it and you wouldn't even recognize me. In fact, I had a serious FRO... all out FRO in junior high. Thick, bushy, and just awesome. Really.

Do we all go through that bad breakup where we want to change everything about ourselves? Perhaps as a way to erase the person he liked but took for granted? I'm not really sure, but about 15 years ago, I chopped my super black, super thick, super long hair all off and went a bit longer than pixie style. And colored it some wack strawberry blonde. I lost 15 pounds and found this new me I loved. 

Little did I know I was about to enter a horrible, train-wreck relationship with my hair. I went through every color between rich auburn to blonde-blonde, to blacker than black and some "shades" in between. I gradually started going blonder and blonder with beautiful highlights; sometimes even my base was borderline blonde instead of just a few shades lighter than my super black natural color.

I loved it more and more and kept switching up the hues of blonde, like my shoes. I started memorizing bleach numbers so I could tell the next "fabulous" hair dresser (or not!) what I wanted.

My styles ranged from really long and wavy blonde, accomplished by the magical hands of Dominicans (whom by the way are not good at coloring... trust me from experience), to really dark whirls of curls by accident. I cried when I thought of the idea of being natural again. I hated it. It was thick but entirely too dark.  So I'd pay a lot of money and risk instant loss and have it lightened again.

And I loved rocking it curly, tho... the most natural state my hair could be in. It was about the only thing I could do without money or fussing... washing and going.

Sometime in '06 I settled for a really pretty auburn which I wish I could back to.  And my hair was still really healthy. Curls were amazing. Perfectly locked. Beautifully smooth. Lovely texture. Little maintenance.

See! (two more hours and it would expand to a full, lioness mane)
Here I am in Nov. '06 in Paris, enjoying the prettiest color and the healthiest my hair's ever been.

And then I allowed it to do its own thing around 2007 and didn't fight the growing roots. I let this (picture below) happen and it was all good. It was super thick again, full of body, and the curls were tamed. I loved it and got stopped a lot with questions on how I got it so curly; or who did my color, or what products did I use; did I perm it, etc...

Natural, baby. By then I had stopped doing roller sets or blowing out myself, which I'd do just about every Saturday for church.

Singing au natural at Apache Café in Atlanta, GA, 2007

I settled on that and even a bit darker and even some red tones for two or so more years. I was okay. No emotional stress over my hair. I was happy where it was. For the most part.

Some kind of horrible "red" around 2009 but it was long and still really curly. 
And then one day, the imposing dark hue I had ended up with some point in 2010, started haunting me... and I decided I wanted more blonde.

Again.

And ended up with this in 2011... which I still love, love, love.

On set at CNN in Atlanta, Oct. 2011...had just colored it the day before. Roller set to get the loose look. 

This is when the trauma began. I think.

It was super pretty. It's still my favorite look and color after 15 years of torturing it. It was still thick (enough), and a great length (layered), but I was starting to become concerned with what all the bleaching and processing would do. My colorist, the best I've ever had, assured me I'd be fine. But she did do a lot of processing to get it to be the most perfect blonde I'd ever had.

But that started killing my hair. Literally. And a few major stressors in my life: My grandfather died a few months after I went that blonde; And I decided to leave everyone and everything I had in Atlanta after 7 years and go back home to DC.

Three days before I left Atlanta in June of 2012, I got a haircut by my colorist. She also touched up my color since I didn't know when I'd see her again. It was still blondish.

But two days later I noticed the right side was visibly shorter. She noticed too, thought it was nothing, and snipped me equal.

The next few months and up until 3 months ago, my hair lost itself. I started losing it left and right, up and down. My roots were growing, yes, but yielding in the most horrible ombré ever; and I didn't want to color it even or cut it. I just let it spiral into deeper destruction.

The curls wilted by about 70%. It was mostly stringy. It started feeling more and more like rope after washing it. My right side became totally stale. It gave up. Nothing. No growth. No sign of life. I'd wash my hair and would be ready to play golf with my clump of hair I'd roll up in one shower. My ends at my fore were all broken and completely thinned out. My scalp was way too accessible.

Clockwise: Stringy and barely there in April; Super blonde and kind of okay in August 2012; Stringy in Jan. 2013; Just horrible in Oct. 2012
I paid it little mind because I think I didn't want to deal what whatever was going on. So I kept on living with ugly hair... color, length, texture, you name it.

But the 4-5" difference between my left and right was painfully visible. Like the worst asymmetrical bob job ever done. One side was 3" below my shoulder, the other about 2" above. So I evened it out myself and that didn't help. 2 weeks later my left side had grown like a chia pet and my right lay flat.

Totally stumped, I had blood work done... twice. I was starting to get really desperate. And more stressed out. And I had a new man in my life. Though he didn't know what I had just two years ago, I hated feeling like I had to wear my hair in horrible looking buns on top of my head --- I mean, I tried to make them look en trend, but it took more than a foam sponge to make it work.

And then I went to my derm who checked my scalp and said everything was fine. Blood work came back fine. All vitamin levels were solid. Thyroids were good. No infections. Nada.

What.the.hell.

I cried and cried and cried. Literally. 15k units of biotin was doing nothing. B-12 was doing nothing.

What.the.hell.

I contemplated chopping it all off but was mortified by the idea of going short. It had been 15 years since I'd seen anything above my shoulders.

But my man, being so supportive, encouraged me to chop it off and go natural. As in no more color.  He thought it'd be cuter anyway. By then, or just 3 months ago, my roots were 16 months out. I won't even show you how disgusting my mane looked. It was a sight...

So in July... July 17 to be precise, I had a serious convo with myself while visiting my boyfriend out in Phoenix. I woke up, hated my hair and went right over to SuperCuts. Of all places, I went into Hair Cuttery's sister shop.

I was that desperate.

What the tatted up snipper told me was not encouraging in the least. But I let him cut most of my hair off... chopping off the blonde ends in hopes of embarking on a new journey of regrowth, restrengthening, and thickness.

And maybe going back to all black.

Oh wait, that was too much. Short and all black? No, no! So not ready. Cutting it off was dramatic enough.

So here I am... 3 months later, with a bob. A 'do' I never thought I'd have again since my high school days.

Clockwise: July 17th, when I cut if off---doesn't my face show how sad I was?!; Short but looking super full &; much thicker inn August; Great bounce while cooking in Sept; Hanging at the W with my girlfriend visiting from Atlanta sometime last month.

But now, today, my hair is about 40% stronger, my curls are mostly healthy and actually curl (hallelujah!), and I'm almost all natural.

I'm not in love with the length, but I'm in love with knowing it's starting to like me again. And no more crazy looking buns for a while. Or blonde. Or heat.

I never thought I'd talk about my hair issues, but a few of my natural hair girlfriends asked me to talk about this crazy journey.... because I'm on one... a very long one... and if I can serve as inspiration to someone going through something similar, than I'll talk. Hard as it may be.

But I feel better. Next, I'll share the regiment and routine I put myself on after months and months of crucifying myself for not being more careful. It's definitely helping but still so far to go!

Share your natural hair journey with me! I want to know.

Til next time, lovelies.

B chic!

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3 comments:

Kee Kee said...

Great Story and thanks for sharing - I myself went through a similar experience...I was already at a bomb length and had to go shorter and no more perms or color. It it back to being healthy, thank God!! My struggle now is it's growing very fast and I am at a lost of what to do with it now. The funny thing is the longer it gets the tighter my curls get (so not complaining) but I am the type of person who doesn't have the same hair style long and this new process it making that a bit difficult. I have gone to all natural and organic products which I so love and have make a significant difference in the look and feel of my hair. I can't wait to see what products you are using. I have tried a number of different ones but am stuck on Curls Unleashed right now.

Leslie Limon said...

Bren, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. I went through a very similar journey with my hair. I've dyed my hair pretty much every color of the rainbow since I was about 15 or 16 years old. Had one problem with my hair in my early 20's from over processing, but that's the only problem I ever had with my hair. Until about a year and a half ago.

I was going through a very stressful situation, and noticed that my hair was falling out in huge clumps every time I showered, and every time I brushed it. I really thought I was going to lose all of my hair. I had blood work done, saw my dermatologist, and everything was fine. Everyone just chalked it up to the stress I was under, and a few sad & traumatic events that happened at the time. Then last year after I dyed my hair jet black, I noticed that my hair felt differently, and not in a good way. My hair is naturally curly and very full. But by then it was limp, lifeless, and the ends just felt dead. They wouldn't curl, straighten, or even lather up with shampoo when I washed my hair. So I chopped off about 6 inches and layered the rest. The top part of my head started to look like it's old self with a little curl in it, but the bottom part was still dead. And my hair was still falling out in clumps.

By that time, I decided to take a break from dying my hair, no matter how much gray I had. I hadn't dyed my hair in several months, and my roots were growing out, so I decided to chop off even more hair. I got a shag haircut (aka The Rachel), that left about an inch or two of the black hair on my ends. The rest was my natural hair along with my natural gray.

It's now a few months later. My hair is still in it's natural state, gray hair and all. (I'm not crazy about the gray, but I'm learning to love it.) The curl is back, as is the fullness. And best of all, I can run my fingers through my hair with out a huge clump of hair falling out. It's a wonderful feeling, and I couldn't be happier. So I know exactly how you are feeling. I'm happy to hear that the hair loss and the problems with your hair are all coming to an end. Again, thank you for sharing such a personal journey.

By the way, I think you look beautiful with the bob haircut. La que es linda, es linda!

Collene Puterbaugh said...

Quite a journey indeed. You know, these little things, these seemingly minor details can really creep up and haunt you. Like a simple hair loss or whatnot. You find yourself circling around the problem, trying to trim and fix its contours left and right, to such a point that these bothers can be buried and dealt with through a newer visual profile. It's what pushes us to innovate at every single point. However, we can step out of that type of frame by simply getting the hair back in ways we haven't contemplated.

Collene @ Baja Hair Center

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