The old woman was a witch shadow – hair like matted spiderwebs, hooded ’round darkness of features, eyes like glittering jewels.Frank Herbert
So, I want to talk about hair.
Ah, I’m sharing another of my great secrets now.
You can tell a lot about my state of wellness by how I wear my hair.
Right now, I am a bun-on-the-top-of-my-head kind of gal.
Each morning I wrangle it more or less into a neater version of the thing I went to bed in.
I look relatively respectable, right?
Looks can be deceiving!
My hair has been in a bun for almost two months.
I’ve washed it 3 times over that period. While it was still in a bun.
It’s a secret few people understand. People like me, with chronic fatigue and long periods of being bed-ridden know. So do people with severe depression. When you lie on your hair for extended periods without brushing it, or when you stop habits of daily personal grooming, hair can matt together.
In fact, hospital matted hair, depression matted hair and nursing home matted hair are documented conditions, and they are more common than you might think. If you are very unwell, or if you go through periods of depression, low energy, or high stress and anxiety, you may not have the energy or the headspace to keep on top of maintaining your hair. The longer your situation goes on, the worse your hair matting will become.
I have very long curly hair. When I became ill recently and ended up in hospital the first time, I popped my hair in a bun to keep it out of the way of all of the cables and things that were monitoring my heart. It stayed like that for a week or so.
Then, when I was home and finally found enough energy to stand up in the shower unassisted, I couldn’t lift my arms long enough to brush out the knots so I could give my hair a proper wash. After a few minutes of unknotting I’d trigger chest pain, so I’d pile it all back into a bun, and hope I felt better the next day.
Eventually I realised that it was going to be a while before I’d have the energy (and lack of chest pain) to get those knots sorted.
Meanwhile, I ran fevers. My old friend Lyme reared its ugly head and I suffered heavy night sweats, drenching my clothes, my bedding, and soaking my hair. Like sticky spiderweb it matted together more and more. Each time I found the energy to tackle it I could only ever do part of the job. Tangles grew upon tangles. When you have limited energy, major hair unknotting becomes a low priority.
Now, even if I take off the band holding my hair on the top of my head, the hair stays in place. It’s clean, but it’s also a tangled, matted mess.
I’m no stranger to this. In the past thirty years this has happened a dozen times. In the end I’ll find the energy and get it sorted. Or, I’ll take a razor to it and hack it all off. I’m not decided yet on which way I’ll go.
I know, some of you will suggest that I just go see a hairdresser and have them sort it for me. Simple. Except that it isn’t. That would still take hours in a chair. Plus getting there and getting home. Plus COVID risk. And I don’t have that kind of energy just yet.
I’m not letting it get me down. In fact, I took some hilarious pics for you. LOL, no-one can ever accuse me of being vain. Thank goodness my business does not rely on me needing to be some kind of glamorous influencer.
These pics show my massive recent progress. This is my hair now when I take off the tie and tease it out with my fingers. You might be appalled but I am thrilled. It’s not all stuck on top of my head. Slowly, it’s beginning to release – in ways that will make it easier for me to restore it back to curls again.
My technique? Clarifying shampoo to help strip out sweat, grime and anything else that’s sticking my hair together. When hair is dry again and most of the stickiness is gone, use my fingers to gently finger comb small sections. When a section has had enough knots and loose hair removed, brush it and then secure the newly unknotted hair in a plait or tie to prevent it re-tangling. When hair is mostly tangle free, wash gently with more clarifying shampoo, condition well, and comb out in sections with the conditioner still in the hair. Rinse in cool water, and then let it dry.
Celebrate, and rest up. Try not to let it get that bad again.
Chronic illness and other hair-matting calamities. They’re not for the faint-hearted.
Take care of yourself today. However you can.
Love, hugs, and hairbrushes, Nicole xx
PS – see that one little plait of unknotty goodness? That’s called progress!!!
PSS – for all my entrepreneur friends who will be mortified at my latest potentially brand-damaging post? Take a chill pill. My people get it. We are a community of sensitive souls, many dealing with illness, all doing our best. I’m sure my community will take real over highly edited any day. This is my real. I won’t ever apologise for that.