For most of my life, I've had a love-hate relationship with my naturally curly hair. During my younger years, it was mostly hate. All throughout middle school, I longed for straight, smooth hair, frustrated that my curls prevented me from trying out various hairstyles and cuts. (Granted, this didn't stop me from thinking a pixie cut would be a good idea in sixth grade — it was bad, guys.) People often say you always want what you don't have, and that was me when it came to my hair.
No matter how many people told me that they loved my curls or how jealous they were, I would look in the mirror and focus on the frizz and the flyaways. To me, my mane was unruly and hard to manage. I would spend hours in the bathroom with a straightening iron and even tried chemically relaxing my hair because I felt so insecure about it.
But as time went on and as I got older, my curly hair went from being one of the things I was most self-conscious about to one of the things I loved most about my appearance. My late-high school and early-college years were when I really began to appreciate my hair as something that made me unique. With time, styling tips, and the right hair products, I was able to control the frizz and had my hair looking the way I wanted it to. When people complimented me on my hair, I could actually embrace their comments and feel good about myself rather than shy away.
In my early 20s, I had finally come to a place of acceptance with my hair — then something extremely scary started to happen: my hair started falling out.
Anyone with thick, curly hair will tell you that your hair coming out is nothing new. On average, losing between 50 and 100 strands of hair per day is normal for any hair type. But this was far from normal. My hair was coming out in clumps in the shower, and I was horrified. I was certain that I was going bald and was anxiety-ridden over all of the different medical reasons that could be the cause of this drastic change in the amount of hair I was losing. My morning routine would lead to sobbing as I pulled more and more hair from my drain.
"My morning routine would lead to sobbing as I pulled more and more hair from my drain."
Luckily, at the time, I had recently signed up for a healthcare plan through the Affordable Care Act and was able to go to a doctor about my growing concern. In addition to my sudden increase in hair loss, I had also noticed a decrease in energy and a lack of interest in activities that usually brought me joy. Without a clear idea of what exactly was going on in terms of my health, my doctor ran a number of different of blood tests to try and narrow down a diagnosis. It was one of the most uncertain and terrifying periods in my life.
Through multiple rounds of blood tests, I eventually found out that I had Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It sounds like a made-up condition from a sci-fi film where the heroes have to find a cure for an outbreak threatening the population. But Hashimoto's is an entirely real autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your thyroid gland, thus preventing it from creating important hormones for different body functions. It's also a condition that I live with day-to-day, but before I was officially diagnosed a few years ago, there were a couple of major symptoms that alerted me to the fact that something wasn't quite right: depression and hair loss.
It wasn't until after it was diagnosed that I ended up finding out that almost every woman in my family, on both my mom and my dad's side, has some sort of thyroid condition. It's surprisingly common in women and is easily managed with medication. The relief I felt at finally knowing what was happening with me was overwhelming. However, something I struggled with greatly at the time and continue to struggle with to this day is the hit it took on my self-image.
I had finally come to truly love my curly hair and then, just like that, it deserted me. When my thyroid condition was still undiagnosed, and my hair loss was at its most extreme, I remember looking at my hair in the mirror and it was as if I was right back in middle school; all I could see was frizziness as the strands separated from one another and it became hard to control. For a long time, as I was figuring out the situation with my health, I would simply pull my hair back or cover it with bandanas and beanies. All I wanted at that point was to show off my curls, but at the same time, it felt hard to feel confident with in my appearance.
The whole experience made me realize how long I had taken my curly hair for granted. Nowadays, I take a regular thyroid hormone replacement, and my hair loss is back to what is considered normal. I still have days that are tough. There are days where, after styling my hair, if it turns out looking particularly frizzy, I can't help but wonder if it's a normal amount of frizz or if it's my thyroid condition acting up again. That being said, I can also honestly say that I've never loved my curls more than I do now, and when a complete stranger stops me on the street to tell me that they love my hair, it means more to me than they could possibly know.