The mystery of the missing hair

So my hair is falling out. And after weeks of feeling insulted that my hair just didn’t want to hang out on my head anymore I think I’ve solved the mystery.

It started about a month ago when I thought there was a dead rodent in my shower before I realized that the small animal was not an animal at all but a mass of hair that had once been on my head. I figured that I must have just forgotten to brush my hair for a few days, but then I noticed that my brush was unusually full of hair, too. And then the small animals in the shower grew in size, I started having to clean my brush every day and all my clothes were covered in hair. I can’t run my fingers through my hair without losing at least 15 to 20 more strands.

Oh and the most annoying part? All this fallen hair gets tangled up with my yarn and then crocheted into whatever I’m working on so I’m constantly ripping out stitches. I don’t have random bald patches on my head or anything; it’s orderly and evenly-distributed hair loss and I do appreciate it taking that courtesy. Plus I had a surplus of hair to begin with…

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So even though my ponytail is about half as thick as it was a mere month ago…

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There is a decent amount left. But still, it’s a rather concerning problem. I was lightheartedly considering the fact that maybe my winter coat was just coming in, you know like dogs and horses, while seriously considering making an appointment with my doctor and getting ready for a long process of trial and error trying to figure out which medication was causing the hair loss.

And in the meantime, I was troubleshooting the problem with a friend. No malnourishment. Iron is going up and anemia is improving. Thyroid was checked last month. A couple of new meds in the last few weeks but nothing around the time that this started. Mystery! My friend then suggested that it could be somehow related to when I was really sick a few months ago or just a cumulative effect of the stress of being more unwell than usual the last few months.

Now before I get to my point I’m going to take you off the edge of your seats and solve the mystery for you…or at least my theory about why this is happening. I did some googling on the structure and life cycle of hair (and learned some very fun ‘fun facts’ that I won’t bore you with now but will save for the next time we’re at a party together and the conversation needs a little pick-me-up) and at any given time about 5 to 15% of the hairs on your scalp are in ‘telogen’ or resting phase, and then about one to two months later when the resting phase is over and a new hair starts to grow in its place the hair falls out. I also learned that big physical and mental stressors, such as surgery or death of a loved one, can cause a large percentage of hair to enter telogen prematurely. And then I learned that one of these so-called physical stressors is high fever!

Ah ha! Two months ago I had a high fever for several days with almost no relief, and then once it came down I continued to spike temps on and off for another few days. So my theory (my speculative, I-read-about-this-on-the-internet theory) is that the fever I had two months ago is why all my hair is falling out now. Apparently you can lose up to 70% of your hair this way! Luckily, though, it should fully recover within a year.

Fascinating stuff, right?

Alright, so now time to get to my point.

Let’s backtrack to when I was troubleshooting with my friend. Do you know what I thought when they suggested it could have something to do with my mystery illness from a few months back? I thought oh but I was only in the hospital for 10 days! Only…because 10 days this fall is nothing compared to the 37 days last fall so I had somewhat disregarded it.

And do you know what I thought when they pointed out that I’ve been more unwell than usual lately? I thought nu-uh that’s not true, is it? At the exact moment of that conversation I felt okay so I had to stop and think about it before realizing that oh yeah…my health took a dip over the summer and hasn’t managed to fully bounce back yet.

It’s hard to notice regression when you’re in the middle of it. I had a bad week, and then another, and then another, and now I’m looking back four, five months and realizing that I’m not doing as well now as I was then. When every day you just feel blah, all the days kind of blur together and blah stops being blah and instead becomes the norm.

But the opposite is also true! It’s hard to notice progress when you’re in the middle of it. And it’s easy to become less conscious and appreciative of the good things when you’re surrounded by them. I forget how awesome my family and friends are until I hear stories from people without a support system.  I don’t always realize how great my doctors are until I come across one I don’t like.

It works both ways. So I’m going to try and be a little more mindful, acknowledging the toll that the bad stuff takes and recognizing that the good stuff is good even before the bad stuff comes along and points it out to me.

And in addition to being more mindful I’m also going to get my hair cut. Small animals in the shower shall be extinct!

Ohhhhhmmmm.

7 thoughts on “The mystery of the missing hair

  1. I also had this problem a few years ago when I was ill (and have become sick again with the mystery we have no idea what’s wrong illness but with new symptoms too) and my doctor suggested Vitamin D and calcium supplements. I have very thick, very curly hair and it was starting to become noticeable and I cried to my doctor because of all those years I hated my hair as a teenager I didn’t want bald spots!!! The vitamin D helped immensely. My hair stopped falling out! The hair I still had was looking healthier and so did my fingernails.

    • Oh I’m glad you’ve found something to help with the hair loss! Vitamin D and iron seem to be supplements that can make a big difference with hair loss. I completely know what you mean though about finding ourselves missing parts of our lives that we spent years resenting or not appreciating. I guess it’s the whole hindsight is 20/20 thing. So happy your curls are staying put now though!

  2. Boo to hair loss! Around December last year my hair started falling out in huge clumps too, but thanks to my super thick hair no one that didn’t know me could notice. A year later it is back and overly thick again 🙂

  3. I know just what you mean about losing track of where we are on the “getting better” “doing worse” scale when things can shift so subtly or because we just get so used to the new now. Thank you to friends and family who can see the bigger picture when we forget because we’re in it so deeply every day. I’ve found that I can really only track my level of health by looking at where I was a year in the past. May you enjoy your new hair cut and have your scalp recover soon!!

    • The Nelson Mandela quote “there is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered” comes to mind here! Thank goodness for those family friends – for so many reasons! And thank you, so far I am loving my new hair 🙂

  4. Newly diagnosed with gastroparesis and JUST posted about the fact that I’m losing hair by the handfuls on my FB page. Like you, I have super thick hair so it’s not noticeable to most everyone else. (Well, and there’s the fact that I’m a plain Mennonite, so I wear it up under a prayer kapp most of the time. ::grins::) Still, very annoying. Thanks for writing this post, ya just gave me some suggestions of answers!

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