Looking back now, it’s all so obvious. But you know what they say about hindsight…
The first time I cut my own hair, we were living in Wyoming, it was summer and I was hot. I was tired of trying to grow my hair out and we didn’t have money that day for me to go to a salon, so I just started chopping. It was liberating. Setting myself free from my heavy, overlong tresses. Okay, let’s be honest, my hair was just reaching my shoulders, but anyone that knows me knows that I’ve had short hair for over fifteen years. It’s just me. Though, there may be a mental block as to why that is… hmmm, I’ll have to ponder that one.
I remember feeling like a new woman after giving myself that first haircut. Something inside me felt lighter, a little less stressed, a little less painful. That should have been my first clue. Well, that and the timing… it was a remarkably stressful time for me.
Over the past seven years, I’ve continued to sporadically cut my hair. Though it’s gone from intentional haircuts to chopping a piece or two here and there every couple of days, to cutting it nearly daily (multiple times a day, daily… like every time I entered the bathroom). I didn’t think it was a problem; I justified it to myself as a way to save our family money. Haircuts are expensive, ya’ll. It wasn’t until I found little clippings of blonde on my bathroom rug that I realized I had a problem.
My sweet daughter, who was seven at the time, had gone to take her shower very angry with her mama, her brothers and the universe at large. And she came out a few inches of hair less… just in one spot, right on top. My first reaction was frustration: why would she do that? How were we going to fix that? I’d have to have her hair cut now to cover it up. But then there was a quiet something painful deep inside me, whispering awareness to my mind. Suddenly, I knew. This was something she’d learned from me.
I had to ask myself: what exactly does she see on my face when I’m cutting my hair? What is it that I’m really doing to myself? As realizations dawned, I cried for that hurting woman inside me, the one that had developed a justifiable self-mutilating habit that she had no idea how to break. I cried for my sweet girl and the obvious pain inside her that had clung to the release she’d seen me use.
It has taken me two years since the day Baby Girl first cut her hair to stop doing it myself. It’s been three months since I’ve cut my hair. The longest stretch ever since that first time I picked the scissors up. It may sound silly or harmless, but assure you it isn’t. There are very specific reasons why my hair was my chosen target, one being an abuser's unnatural obsession with my hair, something that has come back to haunt me over the last year or so and that has made me want to shave it all off on multiple occasions. I’ve had to use every mental health and spiritual tool I’ve ever been given not to do just that. I’ve thought about dying it black, but… yeah, I’m a redhead, that’s not going to happen. I’d probably look better bald.
I’m writing this now because, although I currently have a fabulous haircut thanks to a dear friend, there’s still something inside me that cringes every time someone tells me how much he or she loves my hair and I have a compulsion to cut it. There are days when I feel so stressed and overwhelmed and I just want that liberating lightness to come back. That feeling of newness, of I can do this, of my life is in my own hands. That release that comes from cutting. There are days when everything is in utter chaos inside me and on those days I still have an urge to shave it all off. And yet, the thought of being without this part of my identity makes me cry.
I’m working on all of this. It’s a process. But I need to celebrate my victories, my glorious three months without cutting. I need to remind myself why that is a victory. I’m not that abused girl anymore. And I want to let others know it’s possible to stop the self-hurting, self-abusing habits used to cover up pain and chaos, shame and distress.
I should be able to hear “I love your hair” or “You have the most beautiful shade of red” and “I just want to touch your curls” because, you know what, it’s all true. I was born with gorgeous hair. And that shouldn’t hurt. Ever.
I should be able to be stressed without wanting to take it out on myself. I’m capable of conquering the world around me. I am stronger that everything the world has thrown at me, because, you know what? I’m still here. I’m still doing good in the world. I’m a loving, dedicated wife and mother. I’m a loyal sister and friend. I’m a talented writer. I have an awesome ability to harmonize my voice with almost any song I hear. I’m witty and funny and beautiful.
I have value in all my spheres. I have worth in the world. I have importance in the universe.
As we all do!
To paraphrase Gordon B. Hinckley, there are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. We, each of us, are His divine creations. And to quote Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
Remember that you are spirit [children] of the most creative Being in the universe.
Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative
and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece,
created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.
But to what end were we created?
We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fullness of joy. Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness.
So every time I’m tempted to cut, to retreat into the shadows of my inner thoughts and ruminations, to believe that I’m chaos personified, that I am not good enough, that I’m broken, instead I will remember those words and I will seek out and create my own joy. Because I can. And so can you.