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How to Stay Mindful When Your Body Betrays You

It seems dramatic, but sometimes we feel like our bodies betray us... Here's how to work through that.

I remember when I found my first bald spot... It wasn't me who actually found it, it was my dad's wife. I bent over to fluff up my hair and she gasped, "Jessie?!?! What's that?" "What?" I replied and stood up to look at her." "Your head... it's... showing?" She walked over to me and reached through my long, thick hair, to touch it. "Oh my god!" she cried. I remember not freaking out initially, but then my hairline around my ears started receding, and I went to the doctor. The doctor wasn't too helpful. He told me he didn't want to diagnose alopecia areata, but he thought that might be the case. He filled a prescription for a topical cream, and referred me to a dermatologist. I went to a series of doctors, which lead me feeling more and more hopeless. Pretty soon, I resorted to chopping my hair off up to my ears so it would look, "Just as thick as it had been." and then slowly that turned to top buns and head scarfs. All of that I was pretty numb to. I had alopecia before when my parents were divorcing about a decade before. My hair thinned, but I never really worried because it grew back pretty fast.

But I'll never forget the day I started hating my body. The day I looked at it and said, "Why are you doing this to me?" The day I felt completely helpless and totally afraid. I was in the passenger's seat. My boyfriend at the time was driving through downtown. I flipped down the visor and pulled out a tube of mascara. I lean forward to paint my lashes when the whole top half comes crumbling off my eyelid. "Oh my God!" I shouted. "What?!?!" My boyfriend said, scared. "My eyelashes just came out." I turned to him in panic and he seemed to shrug. We were on our way somewhere fancy and I told him to take me home. "But I already said we were going." "You can go, but I don't want to see anyone." I spent the night ignoring my worries in a front row seat to Netflix with various trips to the mirror to examine my eye lashes and brows. Later I walked to the store and bought myself a half-gallon of coffee flavored ice cream and ate every last scoop. I knew that was the beginning of losing my identity as I knew it. I had started the grieving process. My alopecia had progressed to universalis and I didn't know if it would stop. For the next three years, I spent my days hiding in my apartment, and when I left, I would have two personas: barbie doll, with full caked makeup, wig, and drawn-on clown eyebrows; or punk chick, which consisted of a black, chunky, knit beanie that covered up my head to people wouldn't ask if I had hair or not. Being in Seattle, everyone thought it was a style choice, and I could avoid the awkward cancer sighs and freak-stares. I avoided mirrors and reflections, because eventually my eyebrows were gone too, and I didn't recognize myself anymore. I never thought the Disney princess I would end up relating to was Fiona from Shrek, (yes, I know not a Disney princess, that's the point).

This was the black, chunky, knit hat I wore

Losing my physical identity was tough. I was just getting comfortable with what I looked like. I was 21, was very confident, would go up to just about any man and ask him out and knew how to use my body to feel power. My beauty I associated with my power, and I lost that. But looking back, that was false power, my femininity was focused around others opinions and approval of my vanity. My confidence was false, and my true purpose in life would have never realized unless my hairless was to happen. For that, I am grateful for it. I don't believe my body was really betraying me, I believe it was saving me from a life where I believed in superficial validation.

Here's what I recommend when going through a transformational period like this. Go through it. There isn't anything that is not allowed. Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, you have to bite through the rind to get to the juice. Then you can add the sugar, and that's what I had to do. I had to go through it to get to the other side. And if I knew then what I know now, I'd be a bit more grateful for the experience. Here are a few tips on being mindful when you feel betrayed by your body:

1.) You find everything else your body is doing, and you thank it for that.

While for the most part I am out of the woods, there are still days I'll still stumble off path. On those days, when I wake up and find myself staring back at an alien in the mirror, I immediately put my hand over my heart and feel my heart working. I'll whisper thank you to it. I'll thank my eyes for filtering light, my stomach for digesting food, and my ears for hearing the bird outside. My body may not be growing hair, but it is keeping me breathing, and I am forever indebted to it in that regard.

2.) Remember that you are not the same body you were when you were an infant, so why should you still be the same body you were when you were 18, 21, 25?

This is a thought that brought me a lot of comfort... I heard it in a Wayne Dyer lecture, and he struggled with his hairless a bit. He admitted to being very egotistical about his hair, and when it started to thin he had a bit of a fit. Until one day, his daughter said, "You're just a few inches taller than your hair, dad. You don't need it." And him, being a philosopher and all was like, "Huh?!? I never thought of it like that... I've transcended my hair?!?!" Although I will argue until I'm blue in the face, a woman losing hair is so different than a man, I will openly admit I related to this man's experience.

When I put pressure on myself to "look like I used to look." or wish I had never gone through this experience before, I take a second to think, "But you're not an infant anymore and you don't expect that body, so why are you expecting you're 21 year old body back?" Trust me, it helps, and can bring you back to being content in the present.

3.) Realize I am more than a body, and this experience is serving the greater good.

I don't care what kind of diagnosis you have... cancer, bi-polar, lupus, it is serving you and the people around you. Losing my hair has taught me to embrace true femininity, not just femininity for the male gaze. It has taught me to release superficial judgments against other people that I learned through society. It taught me to now meddle in other people's life unless they initiate it, (PSA:It's not your business if someone has cancer or not and you do not need to know or tell them about the time your aunt beat it and you're gramps, not so lucky. I have had a huge wake-up call about social interactions and how casual conversations about someone's health is completely inappropriate unless prompted by the individual. Just don't comment. I'm sure living with a diagnosis is 100% harder than holding in whatever you want to say so badly. Just leave it be. Support that person by acting normal and being present with them). Becoming a better person through hardship makes the world better. Call it sacrifice, call it trial and error, whatever, you are expanding. Own it.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed getting to know my experience a bit more with body betrayal. If these tips helped you or you'd like to reach out, please, or follow out insta @ladyandlionco.

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