I’ve been growing my hair out for six months.
When I say it like that, it doesn’t seem that important, but it’s monumental to me. You see, I’ve had depression for longer than I haven’t. For the most part it’s a lot like a perpetual cloudy day. Sometimes it’s fine, other times debilitating. Because of this, I’ve struggled to take care of myself on a regular basis.
I always been told I have the most beautiful hair. Thick, voluminous, curly, high maintenance, unruly hair. As beautiful as it is, as often as people have fawned over it, questioned how it could possibly be natural, begged me not to cut it; I have always been entirely overwhelmed by it. When you have depression, simple tasks take a lot of energy. The pantry could be fully stocked and you still end up microwaving a corn dog because the idea of cooking makes you not want to bother eating at all. The idea of washing, styling, drying my hair regularly… well I never have.
Depression has caused me to hurt and neglect myself in many ways, but none so much as my hair. For as long as it’s been my responsibility, it’s never been cared for. I’ve left it up in messy buns for weeks, and gone without washing it for longer than I’ll ever admit. Whenever I’d get it cut, hairdressers would mention the strain at my hairline, recommend biotin and ways to keep it healthier. I never listened.
When I had my daughter, depression changed. It was like depression on steroids and my hair completely fell from my mind. I had mattes and had to cut hair ties out to remove them. After a few times I just left them in. Whatever. So when postpartum hair loss kicked in, my hair decided it was time to jettison. My hairline receded several inches and was receding along the part was well. It hurt. Imagine the feeling of taking your hair down after having it pulled a little too tight all day, but it never goes away. I tried to hide it, but it kept getting worse. Each day I was looking more like Riff Raff. So I shaved it off.
I can’t explain the amount of pressure that went away when my hair was gone. No hair is so easy. I had to do nothing for it, I could handle nothing. 15 minutes every month and a half to shave it back down, was nothing. Nothing is so easy.
Oula was a challenge for me at first. Doing it means I’m actively talking care of my body and mind, both of which have never received much love. After the four months of oula, I started to think about my hair. Here I was, for the first time taking regular care of myself so maybe I could take care of the most challenging part too. So in October, right about the time I’d normally be shaving it back down, I announced to my training class that I was finally ready to let it grow. It had been a year since I first shaved it.
I’d like to say it’s been easy, that it’s just hair. But as it grows it requires more time and more maintenance. Sometimes I want to go back to nothing, to easy. Each day I learn more about my hair and myself and the resilience of both. Growing my hair out is a monument to how far I’ve come in my ability to love and care for myself. Each day that it grows is another that I do too.