Monday 2 May 2016

Reclaiming Myself - One Strand at a Time

I have a weird relationship with my hair. For the last eight years I’ve had the same hairstyle keeping it long and alternating between blonde and red in colour, that may seem pretty normal for some people but I used to be someone who worked in a hairdressers and would constantly change my hairstyle, just for fun. I’ve experimented with pretty much every hair colour going (it was even hot pink at one point) and have played around with styles and different types of hair extensions but that all changed in my late teens when I lost my hair from stress caused by being in an abusive relationship. It would fall out in clumps when I washed it and would literally snap off when I tried to brush it, the long thick hair that I’d always considered to be my best feature ended up breaking off into a thin and wispy bob that reached my chin. It stayed that way for a good couple of years until I eventually broke away from my ex and it slowly became healthy again and began to grow.

I haven’t dared cut it or change it too much since then, always preferring to play it safe in case it got damaged again. It finally grew back to the length it was before it all fell out and I swore that I would never have short hair again. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and be reminded of that time; I didn’t want to see the person I was then reflected back at me. I’d even go as far as to say that my hair became a safety blanket that I could use to hide behind letting it hang over my face as I walked down the street. Having long hair was proof that I was healthy, strong and out of that toxic relationship, that I wasn’t the same girl that I was back then because I didn’t look like her.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to cut my hair. I’ve been admiring shorter hairstyles (I’m looking at you Taylor Swift) for the past few years and thought about how I’d love to have my own hair that way but was too afraid to, not because of how it would look but because I wasn’t sure how I’d react to seeing myself that way again mentally. This year, with the help of my counsellor, I’ve been reconnecting with the old me who I shunned when I came out of that relationship. It was like I couldn’t deal with being that person anymore so I let her go and created a new identity so that I could move forward. In therapy I’ve been working on reclaiming those parts of myself that I cast aside and placing them back into my personality, kind of like a jigsaw. Being adventurous with my hair is just one of the jigsaw pieces.

Before and After My New Haircut

For me cutting my hair was about so much more than simply wanting a new style, it’s being okay with who I was back then and even allowing that girl a little room in my present, it’s also about embracing a new chapter in my life. It’s doing something I really wanted to do and not letting anxiety or bad associations hold me back. It’s about taking what once was a bad experience that was out of my control and turning it into a positive experience where this is completely my choice.

My family do this thing where when they see me making progress they say “we’re getting the old Jess back” for years I rejected and even hated that statement because I did not like the old Jess. She was the girl who was hit by her boyfriend, she was the girl who was manipulated, she was this version of myself that I hated being. For many years I’ve blamed her for the abuse and rejected her, rejected me. Now after a lot of therapy I look at that young girl and realise that It. Was. Not. Her. Fault. I realise that I even like her, she was strong and intelligent and got us out of a shit situation before it was too late. I might not be here writing this without her.

That day when I cut my hair was me accepting that girl back into my life with open arms. It was me picking up a heart-shaped, dusty old piece of jigsaw and putting it back into the space where it has always belonged.

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No judgment, no hate, because it is already tough enough being a girl.