#atozchallenge Hair


It’s only my hair, I said
it’s not as if I have a life-threatening disease.
– although I was embarassed to think that
I may attract pitying looks in the street
from people who assumed
I was receiving intrusive cancer treatment.

being consumed by far more pressing terrors
I didn’t even notice it until my daughter,
who was lovingly brushing my hair,
paused, and I heard the intake of breath,
sensed something less than a chill,
but more than nothing.
she put the brush on the floor.
mum, she said,
and again, there was that still, tense, pause,
reflecting a concern, a question in her head,
a preparation for words spoken with care.
but she could think of no other way,
so she said it plainly
mum, your hair is falling out.
well, I replied, it does, doesn’t it?
hair, falls out, all the time.
she’d given me a massage,
and I was too relaxed to manage full sentences.

she scumbled her fingers through my scalp
pushing the strands this way and that,
tangling them. examining, scrutinising the damage.
No, mum, she said, it’s more than that.
you have bald patches.
Have I? oh,well, can’t be helped, I murmered
through a sleepy smile.
It crossed my mind that I had lately detected
a lot more hairs than usual
clinging to the plug-hole of the bath,
and now I knew the reason.
I caught the uncertain don’t-alarm-mum tone in her voice,
the effort at a business-as-usual mood
while she told me that they weren’t that bad.
but, try as she might,
Laura was unable to hide her dismay.
As for me, even when she guided my hand
to the smooth gaps where my hair should have been,
I didn’t really care.

over time, those rude, naked circles increased in size.
Laura bought me some vitamin pills to strengthen my hair
but my mind was filled with other matters
and I rarely remembered to take them.
I got a hairdresser to chop off
my thinned out, fading golden locks,
and arrange my shorter hair
in an effert to hide my born-again-virgin skin;
but still my friends and aquaintances
looked at my silly disfigurement in horror,
and gushed words of sympathy.
as if I was about to die, as if this was my sickness,
and not just a symptom of what ailed me.

I wanted to tell them that my daughter
had returned to the boyfriend with whom
she had first enjoyed her poison
that I could see she was slipping dangerously,
that I had recently resuscitated my son,
bringing him no closer to giving up the drugs
and it looked as if they would kill him,
that his writing had become illegible,
his short-term memory was shot,
he had kidnapped my home and my life,
and stolen most of my valuables and
every penny I had, leaving me cold, hungry and in debt,
and that every day I woke up disappointed
to discover I was still living.

I wanted to say to my friends and associates
why should a little alopecia matter to me?

but instead I said, it’s only my hair
it’s not as if I have a life-threatening disease.

Note: My hair started falling out almost three years ago. Since then, it has grown back, perhaps thicker than before.

Β©Jane Paterson Basil


27 thoughts on “#atozchallenge Hair

  1. Lord, I wish MINE would thicken up. When I think of all the times my mom had it thinned by the beautician when I was young it makes me ill. Glad you have a full head again — of hair, I mean. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She had it thinned? My daughter Claire has the thickest hair you can imagine, but I would never have dreamed of getting it thinned. When she was in her teens and undercuts were popular, she shaved off a few inches underneath. (and did the same for all her friends) Her hair was so bulky that you could hardly tell the difference, while her friends were going around half bald.
      Claire had some games with her hair back then. When it grew out she decided to dye it black, but after a while she didn’t like it. She decided to leave it to grow out, but once the original blonde had grown to about five inches she got sick of it and bullied me into bleaching her hair. The result was almost white at the top, and copper coloured at the bottom. She left it a bit longer, and after a while she had three horizontal stripes; natural blonde at the top, very pale in the middle, and copper at the bottom. People used to stop her in the street, announce that her hair was beautiful, and ask where she went to get it coloured! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love my hair and would be mortified if it started falling out but I can see that with your son on the verge of death and your daughter in such a precarious state the alopecia was the least of your problems. Your son reminds me of myself, I was using cocaine 22 hours a day and rampantly bulimic. The doctors said every time I made myself sick on that quantity of cocaine I could have a fatal heart attack. My response to one time thinking I was having a heart attack was to take more cocaine. I thought I wanted to die. The doctors gave me 3 months to live. Yet I am alive with all my addictions and mental health problems in recovery, I was 11 years clean at the beginning of this year. My family forced me into treatment and the forced abstinence brought my sanity back enough to realise I didn’t want to die. There is hope for your son and daughter I know many people who have come back from the depths of addiction and are now happy healthy and living productive lives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really appreciate your story, it is so encouraging. Forced abstinence doesn’t always work, but I’m glad that it did in your case. It must have been horrible, but at the same time you must be very grateful to your family. Having said that, it is to your credit that you stayed clean. I’ve known people who have had serious warnings, but been unable to stay in recovery.
      I have high hopes for my son, who is currently in prison. He came out on probation last July, and was clean, but things fell apart and he asked his probation officer to send him back, because heroin is effectively inaccessible in that prison. He comes out in ten days, and has got his probation officer and I to line up all the help we can get for him when he comes home.
      As for my daughter, to hope is painful and frightening for me. I know how close to death she is, but I also know that it is possible she could reach the point of recovery. Unfortunately I think she is permanently brain-damaged, not from heroin, but from new substances that were not, until recently, made illegal.
      The only thing I can do is keep moving forward, and I thank you, people such as you help me to do that.


  3. As a kid, my hair was a straight, oily mess….did the Sun In one summer, fried my hair…actually cut it all off,,basically a long crew cut..loved it.,when it grew back, it grew in thick and wavy?!?
    Now I keep it short…

    Looks like you have long wavy thick hair Jane…our bodies are amazing how they react and deal with the stresses of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My son was like you – he had long, straight hair that went into tight curls when it grew after he cut it short.
      Don’t be fooled by the photo of me – that was taken almost five years ago, before my hair started falling out. I used it because I don’t have many pictures of myself. Since then, I have aged in appearance by about ten years, but at least I have thick hair πŸ™‚


      1. I think everyone is brought back to the lesson you’ve learned again and again. It’s not that we don’t have responsibility for each other–it’s just that we also have a responsibility for ourselves.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I had the problem common to most parents of addicts – I thought the only way to be OK was for my children to be well, so I concentrated purely on achieving that end. I go to a family support group, and people show up in a a state of trauma, hoping we have the cure for addiction – they don’t see any point in such a group if it dooesn’t hold the secrets to curing their child’s addiction. When we tell them the group exists to help us to be well in spite of unsolved difficulties, they decide that the group is no use to them. It’s terribly sad.


          1. I have a friend who is in such distress over his daughter that I wish I could show this to him but I know he would resent it. I am going to send it to a realtive of his however and perhaps they could present it to him. Thanks, Jane. I know your honesty in presenting your dealing with your own traumas must be helping others as well.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Unfortunately everyone has to come to it in their own time, but the odd push may speed things up. I hope he starts to pick up the pieces soon.
              In Families Anonymous, we believe that when we, as parents, begin to go into recovery, there is a chance that the child may follow.
              As you must know, addiction and co-dependance are often closely linked – it’s worth thinking about.
              I wish I could do more for those victims of addiction (addicts and their loved ones). It breaks my heart to think that more are being added to the number every day. It just goes on and on, a terrible pandemic.


  4. You’ve travelled a long and hard road Jane. You can only be there for others if you yourself have the strengths, courage and resources to look after yourself first and foremost. That’s a hard lesson for all of us to learn, and I guess for those in circumstances like yours, even harder. You’re doing amazingly well as far as I can tell πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Raili. I’m building up my strengths. I know that without them I’m no use to anyone, and if I serve no purpose in this life I may as well be dead. But it won’t come to that. My family gives me a purpose, as do addicts and their families.
      My life’s moving forward, and I can see several opportunities coming up. It’s exciting πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can see how you would have thought your hair falling out to be the least of your worries. At least it’s back now and having it is a good sign that things are better – at least better than they were back then. I’m glad you’re still feeling positive for Paul and hope his release goes well. A positive fresh start will do you both the power of good X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am feeling positive, but wary. I had a horrible dream about him last night, and woke up furious. All the things he’s done to me over the years piled up on me, and I realised how he gradually raised my level of tolerance to a shocking height. If the build-up had been more sudden I would probably have disowned him. This flash of insight has come to me at just the right time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s so easy to not notice these things if they’re gradual, Jane. A slow erosion of respect and consideration – one selfish act leads to another and before you realise it that’s just the way that person behaves. But you’re right – it’s unacceptable for him to treat you that way. I hope he’s learnt while he’s been inside and things will be better for you both. All my very best as always X

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I noticed – as soon as he started smoking cannabis when her was thirteen years old – but he was completely out of control, and then it just got worse. I’m hoping to get him into an innovative new recovery project when he comes out – it was dreamed up by someone I’m lucky enough to call my friend. He’s been working with addicts in recovery for over fifteen years, since he, himself, got clean, and has finally aquired a house with eight bedrooms. Even if Paul doesn’t choose to go there, I’m excited about it, because if it works, it will be a blueprint for a community led system of recovery – the community being the addicts in the house. He showed me over the place this morning, and explained the principles. It requiress total commitment, but the concept is beautiful. Clients are expected to mentor, and it is hoped that they will continue that when they leave (perhaps through Narcotics Anonymous). I see the possibility of it growing outwards like the branches of a tree.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sounds very positive. Mentoring really can work, can’t it? I know someone who’s son’s inside awaiting trial and he’s been a mentor, helping men who are depressed and suicidal. It’s grim, but had given him a real sense of purpose and of being useful.
            Let’s hope Paul can find his way to your friend. πŸ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Prison is a community like any other. I like the fact that people who have never found a useful purpose in life can go there and be of service to their co-prisoners. Apart from the obvious benefits, they sometimes leave their with higher self-esteem and more confidence (until the world smacks them on the nose again)
              Paul probably won’t move into the Bideford Lighthouse Project. It’s largely inspired by the principle of Narcotics anonymous, and he’s always avoided NA – maybe it’s too touchy-feely for him – but he respects the principals of the twelve step programme, particularly steps 8 & 9
              He used to love My name is Earl. It was a comedy, but it brought up a serious point.


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