Living with a chronic medical condition comes with uncertainties: I don’t really know if my condition will change -- worsening or improving. Likewise, living with a chronic medical condition also comes with certainties: habitual pain and discomfort, multiple prescriptions.
My medications have helped me, have decreased my discomfort and have slowed any dangerous progressions within my body. But, medications have side effects. Short term side effects like dizziness, nausea, or constipation. Long term side effects like liver problems and temporary hair loss.
Generally, I don’t read the list of side effects that accompanies each medication. Frankly, I don’t want to know the scary specifics. But every so often, I’ll read a magazine article, and a light bulb goes off, and I think, “Whoa, I’m taking that.”
Recently I found out that one of my medications may cause thinning hair. Now, each night when I empty the drain after my shower, I look at the loose strands of hair and wonder: Is it excessive, a sign of my thinning hair, or is it “normal”?
My hair used to be the one part of my body I never criticized. It was so easy to find fault with everything else. My nails weren’t properly filed. My skin was dry. My eyes were tired. My nose was too freckled. My teeth too crooked. But my hair was soft and shiny and a rich, healthy brown.
The longer I live with this autoimmune disease, the more I detest it. It’s become like a malicious octopus, stretching its dirty tentacles out and touching all aspects of my life and robbing me of pieces of myself. First and foremost, it has taken my teaching career. For a while it took my rings (another medication caused significant weight gain, to the point where my rings no longer fit, and I had to invest hundreds of dollars to have them all re-sized). It has taken my wardrobe as well, since my skirts remain in my closet because panty hose feels much too tight on my legs.
Now, it may be taking my hair.
For a while, all I could do was focus on the negatives, the things in my life that had been changed, the things in my life I could no longer do. Now, I am making a conscious effort to try and see things from a different angle, more of a “glass is half-full” perspective. I can see that there have been benefits, trade-offs if you will, that are a result of my autoimmune disease. Because I am no longer teaching, I have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. Because I am no longer teaching, I was available to participate in a chronic pain program and subsequently, I made a new friend. Because I am no longer teaching, I have more time to write. I am writing more than I ever have, my writing is published, and I’m getting paid for it. It’s just that in my case, all these trade-offs come at a high price -- my health.
However, I’m having a difficult time seeing this new development as anything other than a negative. I can’t quite see the trade-off of my thinning hair. Yet, I feel guilty for even being pre-occupied with my hair. Let’s face it; there are worse things I could be worried about. My condition isn’t deteriorating. My medications are working. I’m still able to care for my family.
But, there’s the little voice in my head that plays devil’s advocate and tells me I have a right to be concerned, to be pissed off even. I just can’t linger there.
So, I try not to wallow in my despondency. I give myself a virtual little slap, tell myself to snap out of it, and remind myself that I’ll just have to wait it out and see where this newest development takes me. Then, I can look for the trade-off.