Sunday, February 21, 2016

Why don't you wear your hair up?

This story starts a long time ago. In the fall of 2008, I was finishing my last semester of college.

Up to that point I had thought college was the worst thing I would ever have to go through in my life. I frequently skipped class and spent my days reading in the on-campus bookstore. I battled depression, especially in the winter months. And my introverted self was not the best at striking up conversations with random people on campus or attending social functions in order to meet men and get married, which any girl who has attended BYU will tell you is one of those things you’re “supposed” to do while you’re there. I had a few really good close friends I liked to hang out with, and for the most part, I also had great roommates. But yeah, college was hard for me.

So you can see why that fall I was so ready to graduate and be done. I was super pumped at the thought of moving out of Utah and moving on with my life. Of course, that’s not exactly what happened. I did graduate, barely, but I got offered a job at Cedar Fort a few weeks before my last day of class that fall semester, and I took the job. That meant staying in Utah.

And that’s when things started to get a little crazy. Over the course of the next year, I . . .
  1. Graduated
  2. Started a new job
  3. Moved twice
  4. Bought a house with my parents
  5. Went through the temple
  6. Gained a sister-in-law
  7. Tried to renovate my house on a very limited budget
  8. Became a landlord
  9. Joined a new ward
  10. And worried about money and my life and my future all the time!
This is right after we bought the house.

Looking back on it now, I kind of wish I could tell my younger self to slow down. That was a lot to take on in one year. I was basically twenty-four going on thirty-four, but without all the life experiences to put things into proper perspective. As you might imagine, it ended up wreaking havoc on my physical health, my mental health, my emotions, and my hormones.

Kitchen renovation in progress

I was crazy stressed out a lot of the time. And going from walking around campus to sitting at a desk every day meant that I gained weight very quickly. That in turn caused additional health problems, some of which have had lasting effects. Eventually, I went in to see a doctor and things settled down and I mostly got back to normal. But as I said, a few of these health problems persisted.

At this point I need to mention that I’ve always had very unusual skin. For one thing, it’s really dry. I’ve never had a pimple; that’s how dry my skin is. But it also means that I get dandruff really easily. My red face and the bumps all over my skin (keratosis pelaris) aren’t entirely caused by my dry skin, but those things aren’t helped by it either.

I also need to mention that I love my dad. He’s the kind of guy who always wants to fix people’s problems. Which is an awesome thing to have in a dad because any time I mention something to him, he just jumps in and takes care of it.

And because my dad loves me and because he sometimes sees my skin as a potential problem, he periodically drags me kicking and screaming to the dermatologist’s office to see if there’s a cure yet. It’s sweet. And I should probably be nicer about it. But the thing is, I pretty much already know what they’re going to say: “Your skin is dry. Put this stuff on it every day or twice a day.” The “stuff” varies from doctor to doctor but it isn’t usually any more effective than regular lotion you can buy at a grocery store and that costs way less than anything they’ll prescribe you at a doctor’s office.

Sorry. That was a long aside. All of this information is to get you to the next part of the story. Because a few years after the house-buying and landlording and new-job-stressing, I found myself once again at the dermatologist’s office in order to appease my dad, who was worried about my dandruff and my dry skin, and the red face.

The weird thing was, this doctor had something new to say: your hair is really thin. It wasn’t a revelation to me. I had noticed. But suddenly I found myself thinking back to that time right after college and remembering the amount of hair I would find in the bathtub every time I showered. I remembered the sinking dread that this would keep happening and the twinging thoughts that it wasn’t normal. But in the midst of all my other stresses, at the time I didn’t feel like I had any bandwidth to deal with it.

And of course I just assumed my hair would grow back. As soon as I got my life and my hormones back in order, everything would go back to normal.

But it didn’t. I stopped losing large amounts of hair, which was good.

But now the dermatologist was telling me that my hair wasn’t going to grow back again. Ever. She said that my hair follicles were permanently scarred. I would never have my hair back and there was nothing that could be done about it.

After the initial surprise, I felt triumphant. I know that sounds weird, but I did. I said, “I told you so” to my dad for thinking that there was some miraculous cure at the dermatologist’s office. And because I really love who I am, regardless of how I look, the hair thing genuinely didn’t bother me for a long time.

Most of the time, it still doesn’t . . . except when I try to wear my hair up.

Because this is what happens.

Without much hair, you can see straight through to my dandruff-y scalp. And it just looks . . . weird. Weird enough that I’ve often felt self-conscious doing it, and so I haven’t lately. Instead I wear my hair down or pulled back in a low bun or ponytail. But there are times when you really want to wear your hair up! I took these pictures right after jogging on the treadmill. That’s one of those times when you just have to get the hair off your neck.

So why am I bringing this up now? Because I’m tired of trying to hide it all the time. And because I’m thinking about cutting my hair really short and I’m not sure if that would help the problem or make it worse. What do you guys think? Would short hair help anything?

I obviously don’t go around looking at the back of my head all the time, so maybe the efforts at hiding it haven’t been working anyway and I don’t even know.

I guess I just wanted to put this out there so that I can be honest about the fact that it does bother me sometimes. There are days when I look at girls with long, thick hair and think, I wish I could do that. But then there are other days when I remember how grateful I am that it takes me less than ten minutes to straighten my hair and that because my hair is curly it still has a lot of volume, even though there isn’t that much of it.

It’s like the dry skin thing and never having had acne. I try to focus on the positives. Plus, I like that no one I know is friends with me because they think I’m beautiful. They’re friends with me because they like who I am on the inside. I think that’s really cool that I can say that.

But what really inspired me to share this story was watching this video of a girl I so admire. I was one of her counselors one year at girl’s camp (several years ago now) and I just think she’s amazing. I didn’t ask her if I could share this video. In fact, I haven’t talked to her in years, but I’ve watched it several times since she put it online, and I just feel like it’s awesome that she’s being so open about this.

Honestly, I think all of us have things about ourselves that challenge us. Some people struggle with physical limitations. Some people are hurting on the inside. And a lot of the time we’re afraid to admit that we’re not perfect.

But no one is perfect. Well, no mortal person, anyway.

The important thing is to be honest with yourself and others, to keep trying, and to trust that God has a plan for you. He doesn’t make mistakes. He loves you no matter what you look like or how badly you mess up. He looks at your heart and sees your efforts to be better. And He’s always there to help you move forward.

Happy Sunday, everybody! I hope you’ve had a lovely one.


  1. Love ya, Heidi! And oh how I loved that White House on 4th and 4th next to the park.

    1. It was a great house! So many good memories!

  2. Hi Heidi, My mom, Carla Anderson, had me read your article because she knows the products I found have big potential to help with alopecia. I will request your friendship on FB so I can message you some more info if you are interested. Lisa