Three years ago my depression dove deep beneath the familiar choppy waves I had been pushing and pulling against for more than a decade and showed me a darker hidden swirling place with only the occasional shaft of light and currents that I was powerless against.
It was, to say the least, pretty blinking awful among the weeds.
It took a few years to find my way out again and a sort of fearful gloom swept into corners of life I’d never expect it to.
Take my hair, for instance. I had once enjoyed having it cut or shampooed or swept up or swept across or straightened out. But during this time, I could only shuffle it onto the top of my head, securing it in place with a black hair tie that was almost as tired as I was.
I had no desire to wash it, to style it, to brush it. I did do all of these things, of course, but the intervals between the combing through and rinsing out and drying and the styling grew longer and longer. My hair grew longer and longer too, until it became clear that I’d need to cut it because it was getting too long to squish into a bun.
To the hairdresser, a normal person might think. But no. Not I. Instead I’d section it into two long ponytails, pulling them under my chin and then chopping them as evenly as I could with the kitchen scissors. The snippings fell into the sink and lay there looking like little animals until I scooped them up and pushed them into the bin, running the water over any stray bits until they disappeared down the drain.
And then up it went, the jagged ends secured back into the bun which an old friend kindly noted was ‘bouffant’ which it was if bouffant could sometimes mean ‘scraggly old bird’s nest’.
One day while chatting on FaceTime my mother stared over her glasses at me and said she’d like to make an appointment for me at the hairdresser.
I protested and the subject was quickly changed.
I thought about what she’d said and noted that all signs were indeed pointing to a proper haircut. I was feeling a lot better these days, with helpful medication and helpful habits sweeping much of the gloominess away. But there was still anxiety to contend with.
I’ll have to wash it, I thought.
I’ll have to comb it, too.
I’ll have to dry it neatly, even.
I’ll have to front up to the hairdresser. Face the small talk. Try and explain what I want it to look like. Find the money in my tight budget to pay for it.
I’ll have to choose an outfit that fits the style of the haircut I want, I thought.
I’l have to sit in front of a mirror for at least 30 minutes while a stranger touches me and snips away.
It’s likely I’ll even need to have my hair washed when I get there too.
I decided to try anyway.
I washed it. I combed it. I brushed it.
I made an appointment and fronted up.
I refused a cup of tea. Allowed a kind young gent to wash my hair, comb it, take his scissors to it.
I chatted as he did all this, trying to keep the swirling thoughts I was having at bay.
Do they think I’m weird? Does this look awful? Can they tell I’m a bit of a mess? Can they read my thoughts? What if they can? Uggggh.
I worked hard not to stare at myself and tried to say encouraging things to the gent so he would not realise that I was thinking about him reading my mind.
This went on. And on. And on. As he blowdried my hair, straightened some bits, curled others, made others still go a bit flicky.
Eventually he was happy with his work, tilting a mirror behind me so I could see a row of mermaid twirls where the pulled up tired-bun bits had been.
“Beautiful!” he said quietly and then offered me a bottle of shampoo and one of conditioner which I politely declined.
I paid for my cut as quickly as possible, wished the hairdressers well and fled.
It was raining when I pushed the door open and ran for my car, my head feeling a little lighter while my brain continued to spin in overdrive, wondering who the mind-readers were amongst us and whether - after three birds-nesty years - I might finally be ready to brush my own hair daily again.
Maybe. Probably? Will I? I think so. Or no?
I glanced at my new fringe, felt pleased, started the engine and got ready to pull out into the traffic again.