Back a few months ago, I wrote a piece on cutting my hair. For a long time, I held onto it because I felt as though I had to, before deciding one day that enough was enough, and I was going to cut it all off. That was one of the most freeing and liberating things I have ever done, as I wrote in that blog post, and it was freeing for more reasons that one.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with severe depression. Opting to not go on medication, I was in and out of counseling for a couple of years, until I told my mom that I didn’t need to go any more. So, we stopped. This is something that should be well thought out and discussed, because each case of depression is different, and what helps one person might not help another. For me, I knew that counseling wasn’t helping, and in fact, making a lot of things worse. Sometimes, that happens. I made a clear, conscious choice to stop going, and that was the right choice for me, and a choice that I still stand behind today. But, each person has their own case of depression and mental health, as well as different places in their life, and that means different solutions are right for different people.
Writing has acted as an anti-depressant from the time I was in grade school. When I felt as though all other option were either unavailable, exhausted, or barren, I turned to writing. It helped, a lot. Today, it continues to serve as a savior and a sort of salvation during times like this. During both high school and college, I would throw myself into the publications that I ran. Then, later on I would freehand a few personal pieces, and start a blog- this blog, in fact. I had such a passion for writing, for these publications and pieces, that sometimes I almost forgot about dear old depression. But, he is always there- lurking in the shadows, waiting to come out whenever he felt it was right to do so.
Depression manifests itself in different forms.
Sometimes, one might be depressed and prefer to hang up curtains, blocking light from entering their room, and their life, and sitting in the dim darkness. Other times, one might be depressed if all of the sudden there is a blatant lack of interest in things that were once, well, interesting. Again, all of this depends on the person, and I have experienced a few different manifestations of depression in the past decade that I have been living with it. Depression, for me, also has the tendency to take a physical form, but not in one that most might think. Rather than never getting out of bed, which I feel has become a sort of stereotype about depression and people who live with it, mine was more about not taking care of myself. Case and point: August of 2016. It was bad, and I couldn’t find the strength to brush my hair. What was a simple task for most was so difficult for me, something so mindless for them took each last ounce of thought and determination, and even then, that wasn’t enough. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t.
So, I didn’t.
Have you ever seen a stray dog, with thick, matted fur?
Well, that was what my hair looked like. There were thick sections of hair that were matted, past the point of what most would consider a knot, and several covered my hair. I would tie it up into a bun, put it half-up to cover most of the bad ones, and pretend as though this wasn’t a bigger problem than it appeared to be. It would have taken hours to untangle, a lot of tears, and most would have done that at this point, but again, depression restrained me from doing so. I dealt with it in silence, not telling a single soul about this, chuckling at the nest of hair that I created and blaming it on laziness in front of other people, laughing about it so that I wouldn’t start crying about it. But, then one day I found the dose of courage that I needed to do something I had been wanting to do for a long, long time. I made the choice then and there, that I was going to be free of this monster who had been consuming me for as long as I could remember, and if I couldn’t do that, then I would at least cut off one of his main resources.
So, I did.
That afternoon, I decided it was time to tackle this head-on, alone, with strength, a smile, and a pair of scissors. I had someone transform a mundane, medium-length, matted mess into a fresh, brand new start. No one else influenced me in doing this, no one else was even allowed to give me an opinion on a process that was so deep and personal for me. I would not change a single thing if I were to go back and do it all again.
This wasn’t about hair.
This was about taking control of the demons that held me captive for so long. This was about getting a good enough grip, and deciding that from now on, I could go after what I wanted to do and be and look like in life, rather than have depression decide that for me. Shedding the dead weight I carried for so long freed me, and left me feeling in control in a world where there was so much that I could not.
Back then and now, I feel as though this hair is fitting for who I am, who I have become, almost representative of the growth I’ve undergone while here in the city. Everything felt right, all as aligned and, in a sense, I felt like myself for the first time. Disregarding the expectations of everyone else, the standards that society has set for me and every other woman out there, forgetting all of that and doing what I wanted to do was one of the most incredible feelings i the world, and set the tone for how I would take on life from that moment on.
Depression still follows me, lingering behind like a lost dog, but I am in control now, and he no longer chooses what I say, do, and want in this life.
I’m not ashamed of the past, and I’m not ashamed of having a mental illness, for I know that it does not define me. Talking about mental health, and normalizing depression and anxiety through conversation is needed, it is what will give a little girl, like me ten years ago, hope as she tries to cope with her own mental health. When I look in the mirror now, instead of seeing someone that I don’t recognize, I see a girl who makes decisions for herself, tackles life with a smile no matter how difficult it might get, and can tough it out and brave it all through anything that life throws her way. Some might see short hair, but I see so much more than that. I see strength, I see resilience, I see radiance. I see someone who is more at peace, comfortable with, and embracing of herself, and who she is, and who she has grown into, and who she will become than ever before.
This wasn’t about hair.
It never was.