Embracing Vulnerability and Learning To Let Go: One Year Wig Free

I am blooming from the wound where I once bled.

One year. One whole year without hair pieces, wigs, cover up powder, or adhesive eyebrows. One whole year of spending more time on campus rather than rushing home for appointments. One whole year without the fear that the wind or a hand would unintentionally show all I had lost. Most importantly though, it’s been an entire year of growth and self-acceptance. Learning to embrace my vulnerability rather than cover it up in makeup, synthetic hair, and excuses has been one beautifully messy journey.

As with any year, a lot has changed for me since I took my wig off. I was able to look at myself in the mirror again and accepted what I saw rather than despised it. I called myself “trash” less and “warrior” more. I finally let myself cry after so many years of repressing my emotions and could really start healing. I became more aware of the light in myself and finally felt that I had the potential to become the beacon of light I long to be. I learned that I have an incredible support system that stays alongside me during the ups and downs of this complicated self-love journey. I began embracing the parts of myself that once disgusted me. I made peace with my past and realized that I can forgive myself much like I can forgive anyone else.

Nevertheless, I am always growing and evolving. I will always be self-conscious about my appearance and hesitant to take up too much space in this world. There are parts of my story I am just facing now that should have been addressed years ago. I am struggling to care for myself like I aspire to care for others. I’m a chronic perfectionist and will never meet my own expectations. But that’s all ok because I’m still growing. I’m still learning. I’m still living my story and I’m not giving up.

But that’s all ok because I’m still growing. I’m still learning. I’m still living my story and I’m not giving up.

In letting go of my wig, I let go of my safety blanket. I’m learning to embrace vulnerability rather than shy away from it. I am becoming comfortable in my own skin instead of desiring to be in someone else’s. I’m realizing how beautiful life can be when you’ve conquered so many mountains. I was made to survive so that I could live the life I once thought I could never have. I seldom say this, but I’m proud of myself for making it this far. Thank you to anyone who has been a part of my journey–even just tolerating a cliche-filled blog post means a whole lot to me.

To further celebrate this personal milestone, I have revised my “recovery playlist” of sorts. I am pleased to share the songs that have validated my experiences:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/12811853/playlist/6v9TkRcECckHP8nmJXM18N

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“Why Did I Stay?”

I’ve found myself desperately seeking validity,
“Why did I stay?”
Then I remember:

Connecting at every concert,
Striving to be every beacon I see,
Reconciling my relationship with the mirror,
Sharing and healing with my story,
Freeing myself of the weight of my mask,
Learning that I’m not alone,
Defining myself as a warrior,
Accepting the love I’ve deserved,
Embracing hair that is my own,
Surrounding myself in light,
Continuing to find calms in my chaos.

A Spark.

(this was the first poem I ever published online. I have slightly revised it, but sharing this over a year ago was a big step in my journey so I would feel inauthentic if I rephrased all of its’ flaws)

Hair in my hands,
And suddenly,
Darkness.
Everything around me
Felt unreal.

Lonely, self-loathing trash
Became my personality.
I found residence in rock bottom.
Only music understood,
Freed me from the burden,
And provided arms of comfort.

Then came the sparks:
There were moments of community,
Unexpected offers of help,
People willing to listen
And keep me company,
Concerts that spoke what I felt,
Vinyl records that put me at ease.

For the first time,
I had a place in this world.
My presence is valued.
I am not a waste of space.

These sparks
Ignite a light within me,
And remind me
That hope is real.

Sparks that seemed small
Became the motivation
To get better.
To take that light
And become a beacon
So that others
May not feel so broken.

An Affirmation: My Story is Valid

A few months ago, To Write Love On Her Arms wrote on their Tumblr that they were looking for writings to potentially be shared on their blog. As I hold this organization in a special place in my heart, I immediately responded to their request and sent them my story.

Here is how I introduced the submission:

My name is Mary Kate and on my better days I consider myself a warrior. I have grown up with anxiety that develops into depression. This especially got worse when I lost all my hair due to alopecia totalis. I once was near ending my life, but I kept living because I wanted my story to fuel a purpose in this world, to spread light.

Anyway, aside from the cliches, below is a draft of my story. I would love to write something specific to body or self image, but wanted to contact you in advance to ensure that I have the kind of story you are looking for.

Thank you.

Below is their response to my email. I have added their message to my collection of things I keep tucked away to refer to on my darkest days. They understood me. They found my story valid. They believed in me. My favorite organization believed in me. Words cannot describe how much their email means to me.

Hi Mary Kate,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write in and share a part of your story with us. We are so inspired by your words and bravery. Thank you for your patience in hearing back from us, we have a lot of blog submissions and take our time to read and respond to each one.

It is so great that when you posted your story on Facebook you got so much praise and support. It is wonderful to hear that you even had someone reach out to you and now you two have each other for support. We are firm believers in the power of people connecting with other people, we are so proud of you for speaking out.

We think your story is beautiful and are so thankful you shared it with us. Our blog posts are typically 700-900 words of text. We also will not post blogs with content that could be triggering to some of our readers. You are welcome to submit us a blog, we just want you to be aware that we unfortunately cannot post most of the blogs submitted to us. The blog, Why I Choose to Celebrate by our former Intern and now staff member Rebecca, may give you some ideas on what it looks like to write about a physical illness for us.

We are so glad to hear that as you chose to own your story, a weight began to lift off of your shoulders. We hope that you are continuing to open up to professionals about your thoughts and feelings. We firmly believe in the power of counseling and we hope your doctors are encouraging the same thing. We hear you when you say you thought of your problems as a burden. We want you to know that we as people are meant to take up space in this world. You are worthy of help and support and we hope you never forget that.

We think your line “Our outer shells will never depict the beautiful minds we possess inside of ourselves” is such beautiful text. It is so true that our beauty cannot be measured by continuously changing hair styles or makeup trends. Our beauty is inside our hearts, and Mary Kate, you have a heart of gold.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write in and share your story with us. We are honored you have allowed us to be a small part of your journey. While you may only consider yourself a warrior on your better days, we consider you a warrior everyday. Warriors do not give up, so when you are having those extra difficult days, know you are proving your warrior title even further. We believe in you and we see your unfading spark.

With Hope,
TWLOHA

 

The Mind/Body Dialogues: Covers & Chapters

My body is the cover to my story: Dark under eye circles, thinness, a curly pixie cut.

My mind is each chapter: Anxiety, love, self-doubt, optimism, perfectionism.

My body is constantly telling me to stop.
“Slow down.” “Be happy.” “Breathe.” “Listen.” “Accept it.”
I ignore the warnings until I crumble in surrender to fatigue.

My mind is having multiple conversations every minute.
“You’re worthless.” “You’re worth it.” “You’re a burden.” “Your presence matters.” “You’re alone.” “You’re loved.” “You’re broken.” “You’re strong.”
I cannot ignore my mind, hence my crumbling and surrender.

My body is both my enemy and my security.
My pieces do not fit.
I am not a finished puzzle.

I’m supposed to be healed.
I’m supposed to be healthy.

My body is a vessel around the mess that is my mind.
It is an illusion of optimism and health.
It suppresses the realities of my thoughts.

My body is an anchor, but my mind is searching for air.

My mind needs to be heard.
It can no longer be silenced.
It aches for recognition.

My body is weak, but it is capable.
My mind is a mess, but it is capable.

My body has transformed dead roots into beautiful vines.
My mind has transformed death from a solution to a fear.

My mind and body were once the villains of my story
They have built the foundation
Upon which I have risen.