An agonizing secret: One woman's story of loss
The author before her hair loss began.
July 11th, 2011
07:29 AM ET

An agonizing secret: One woman's story of loss

Editor's note: Lisa O’Neill Hill is the co-owner of a writing, editing and consulting business in Southern California.

My long, thick red hair - the thing I liked most about my looks - began to fall out 5 years ago, when I was 37. I’d perpetually pick hair off my arms, my back, my car seat, my bathroom counter. My shower drain clogged easily. Running the vacuum meant enduring the smell of burning hair.

At first I thought the shedding was temporary and must be connected to a medical problem. I consulted eight doctors, endured dozens of blood tests and spent thousands of dollars. I secretly hoped I had a thyroid problem, a hormone imbalance, some kind of vitamin deficiency, even lupus. I needed an explanation. But all the tests came back negative.

A few years ago, I flew from California to New York to see an endocrinologist who specializes in female hair loss. He diagnosed me with genetic hair loss and prescribed a daily regimen of several medications, including Propecia, a hair loss drug that is only FDA-approved for men.

That doctor gave me hope, but that hope has long since faded. Although his regimen has worked for many, it didn’t for me. I suspect nothing will.

After exhausting my options, I’ve had to face the truth: nothing is going to stop my hair from falling. My father and brother have varying degrees of hair loss and my mother always had fine hair. My maternal aunt had very little hair on the top of her head, classic female pattern baldness.

I’ve never been thrilled with my appearance, but my hair was the one thing I was frequently complimented on. It was an integral part of my identity. When my hair began to shed, my already fragile self-esteem broke apart. I felt ugly, ashamed.

Watching my hair abandon me put me in a dark place. I went to therapy for a year and began taking antidepressants. I was in crisis. Those around me, even though they were there for me, didn’t quite understand why this was affecting me so brutally. I’d sob in my husband’s arms and talk about my hair constantly and obsessively.

My hair was the last thing I’d think about before I went to sleep. And it was the first thing on my mind when I woke up.

For a long time, my sanity was held together by a group of strangers, women across the country and around the world who, like me, are struggling to conceal their hair loss and handle the deep emotional toll it takes.

We met on the Women’s Hair Loss Project, an online support network where we traded information about treatment options, coping mechanisms, hair pieces, the numbers of hairs that fall out (yes, some of us count) and where we lauded considerate doctors and condemned dismissive ones.

Our stories had commonalities: Losing our hair made us feel unattractive, unworthy, less womanly. It robbed us of joy. We withdrew. “I want to die,” one woman wrote. In public, we studied other women, envious of the hair that they take for granted.

I had that hair once. I marvel at old photos. At the time, I didn’t realize or appreciate how much hair I actually had.

I do what I can to hide what is happening. I had my hair cut shorter to make it appear thicker. I part it a certain way. My hairdresser styles my hair frequently, blowing it out with a big brush. I am beyond grateful to her.

Still, I worry about others noticing my hair loss, about what my head will look like tomorrow, next week, next year. When I commit to a social engagement months away, one of the first things I think about is what my hair will look like by then.

For a long time, I’ve kept my secret close to me. But it’s been exhausting. I may not be at the point of my hair loss being that noticeable, but I know one day it will be. What then? I am afraid it will send me back into that dark place.

For women with genetic hair loss, the options are limited. We can use Rogaine (which works on some people but only for as long as it is applied), take medications that will suppress our levels of testosterone and increase our levels of estrogen, or look for something cosmetic like a hair piece. We are desperate for a solution.

I’ve lost faith in the medical establishment. I’ve been dismissed by cavalier doctors who undoubtedly looked at my head of hair and thought I was crazy. Everyone loses hair, they said. That’s true. But for most people, that hair grows back. I knew all along that my situation was different; my follicles were dead. I just wish I hadn’t been right.

I’m grateful I don’t have cancer or some other life-threatening illness. Yet this has cut me to the core. My 7-year-old daughter knows not to touch Mommy’s “delicate” hair and asks why I frequently wear baseball caps.

At the grocery store, at church, at the mall, I notice other women with genetic hair loss. We are a sorority of suffering sisters.

My hair is still falling out. In fact, lately it seems to have increased. It still makes me sad, but I know I have done everything in my power to remedy it. It’s time to stop fighting and to accept the cards I have been dealt.

I know I’m making progress. I have transitioned from hysteria to detachment. I no longer cry about my hair loss. I am loath to give this any more power. This is part of who I am. I shouldn’t be ashamed, but somehow what is happening makes me feel less than the person I used to be.

I am more than my hair. At least that’s what I constantly try to tell myself.

soundoff (824 Responses)
  1. alprostadil injection instructions

    buy alprostadil cream online https://alprostadildrugs.com/ where can i buy alprostadil suppositories

    April 16, 2021 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Pamela Lapilio

    Have you ever considered publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would enjoy your work. If you're even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.


    April 16, 2021 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. impotence

    are erectile dysfunction pills dangerous https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile creams walgreens

    April 17, 2021 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. tadalafil 40

    buy tadalafil https://elitadalafill.com/ 40 mg tadalafil

    April 17, 2021 at 03:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. buy zithromax 500mg

    zithromax directions https://zithromaxes.com/ citromax

    April 17, 2021 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. OoaHecjZLc

    against mandatory military service essay essay on hire purchase system can you do my homework please service animals research paper

    April 17, 2021 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Arron Staib

    Hola! I've been following your weblog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!


    April 17, 2021 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Angeline Heitman

    Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you're working with? I'm planning to start my own blog soon but I'm having a difficult time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something completely unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!


    April 18, 2021 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. wLJbZsupCv

    how does homework help us website to write essays why do students drop out of college really good excuses for not doing your homework

    April 18, 2021 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Rayna Simoneavd

    Great tips Adelina! I agree that air drying your hair really helps – plus it’s best to minimize heat to keep it healthy!


    April 19, 2021 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. cheap viagra from canada

    viagra canada pharmarcy https://canadaviagrastore.com/ viagra/canada

    April 20, 2021 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. WLNKthixCy

    pay someone to do your math homework essay website sample literary research paper best music to listen to while doing math homework

    April 20, 2021 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. canadian pills pharmacy

    canadian weight loss pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian pharmacies ed pills

    April 20, 2021 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. flying with cbd oil us

    Genuinely no matter if someone doesn't know after that its up to other viewers that they
    will assist, so here it happens.

    April 21, 2021 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mklTOTDlhf

    algebra 1 homework help essay on how i help my mother help creating a business plan writing custom nagios checks

    April 21, 2021 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MuTttBfTPU

    topics for presentations in english essay website essay on the proverb self help is the best help ap calculus ab homework help

    April 23, 2021 at 02:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. staxyn (vardenafil)

    vardenafil- vardenafil tablet, film coated https://vegavardenafil.com/ generic levitra vardenafil

    April 23, 2021 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Eduardo Sistrunk

    Even though the materials they are made from may seem very strong, they still have tiny pieces of metal and other material within them that can affect your hair's natural properties and cause damage over time. So, in the end, how harmful is a straightening brush?


    April 24, 2021 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. sildenafil dosage

    sildenafil us pharmacy https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ price of sildenafil 50 mg

    April 24, 2021 at 05:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Derrick Snaples

    When choosing a hair brush, you have to keep in mind that the better quality the better. A cheap hair brush may last for years but you won't be able to get the desired results because you won't be able to use it properly.


    April 24, 2021 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. buy sildenafil in mexico

    sildenafil citrate buy https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ where to buy generic sildenafil

    April 24, 2021 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Buy Proxies Bulk

    I am not rattling good with English but I find this very easy to interpret.


    April 25, 2021 at 00:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. cvs men's sexual health supplements

    erectile on demand reviews https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile bleeding

    April 25, 2021 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. tadalafil 60 mg for sale

    order tadalafil https://elitadalafill.com/ 40 mg tadalafil

    April 26, 2021 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. 200mg sildenafil soft gel capsule

    sildenafil 100mg from india https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ best online sildenafil

    April 26, 2021 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. cialis canadian pharmacy

    cialis, sale, canadian pharm. https://canadacialisstore.com/ is it safe to order cialis from canadian pharmacy

    April 26, 2021 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Proxies For Scraping

    keep up the good work, I read few content on this internet site and I conceive that your blog is rattling interesting and has sets of superb information.


    April 26, 2021 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. dapoxetine

    buy priligy canada dapoxetine hydrochloride

    April 26, 2021 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. avanafil

    avanafil 50mg buy avana canada

    April 27, 2021 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. fwpzGTeJxg

    essay research service a new world order selected essays writing service descriptions ex forces cv writing service

    April 27, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. canadian pharmacies ed pills

    canadian diet pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills

    April 27, 2021 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Zachary Halfmann

    While a normal hairbrush and a hairbrush may seem similar, the main difference between the two is in the quality of the bristles. The Diane Wave Brushing typically comes with boar bristle natural hairbrushes which are well known for their smooth, long and healthy hair.


    April 28, 2021 at 02:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Trey Mesias

    Once you have mastered how to brush these waves, you will want to continue to brush these types of waves until you have learned how to create different strokes with each brush. After you have learned how to do this, you will be ready to try it out in the ocean or in a calm setting to create the perfect stroke.


    April 28, 2021 at 05:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. priligy

    buy priligy uk dapoxetine hydrochloride 60

    April 28, 2021 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Dante

    Does anyone know what happened to Dimepiece Los Angeles celebrity streetwear brand? I cannot proceed to the checkout on Dimepiecela site. I have read in Vanity Fair that the brand was acquired by a UK hedge fund in excess of $50m. I have just bought the Dimepiece International Playa Duffel from Ebay and absolutely love it xox


    April 28, 2021 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. quinine

    is chloroquine available over the counter https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquine phosphate tablet

    April 28, 2021 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. WDvzywGGQQ

    science fair research paper help best buy case essay english coursework help doing homework high weed

    April 28, 2021 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. fluorescent-lamp-recyclin70257.educationalimpactblog.com

    Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything. But think of if you added some
    great graphics or videos to give your posts more, "pop"!
    Your content is excellent but with images and
    clips, this blog could definitely be one
    of the most beneficial in its field. Fantastic blog!

    April 29, 2021 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. chloroquine phosphate brand name

    chloroquinr https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloronique

    April 29, 2021 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills

    best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian customs pills vitamins

    April 29, 2021 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. ZtTHmYRwWA

    parent help for math homework do my english essay for me slader homework help precalculus homework doesnt help students learn

    April 30, 2021 at 05:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Caitlyn Retzlaff

    Trimmers that dry quickly will only work for you if you want quick, easy hair removal, but if you are looking for something that will give you a smooth, gradual trim, then consider an electronic model.


    April 30, 2021 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Tanner Reels

    No matter which type of probiotic is used to create a daily supplement, it should contain the appropriate amount of good bacteria. Many people think that the best probiotic strains are the ones that are highly perishable – and there certainly are many of those.


    May 1, 2021 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. organic viagra in canada

    is viagra the same in canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ what is the price of generic viagra in canada

    May 1, 2021 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Glenn Hoffstot

    There are a number of different ways to get the best probiotic supplements. Typically, the best source is a natural food store. These stores usually carry a wide range of different kinds of supplements, some of which are quite expensive.


    May 1, 2021 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. oXDcwRdcoK

    buy a thesis spatial order essay help with world history homework do you believe money can buy happiness essay

    May 1, 2021 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Rosemarie Engwer

    Good site you have here.. It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 2, 2021 at 03:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. cialis through canadian pharmacies

    is it safe to order cialis from canadian pharmacy https://canadacialisstore.com/ how can i order cialis from a canadian pharmacy

    May 2, 2021 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. buy viagra online from canada

    what is the brand name for the generic drug for viagra in canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ is it illegal to by viagra from canada

    May 2, 2021 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. KwTAqeOWAp

    what app can do my math homework poetry essay help good thesis statement for community service vb net writing windows service

    May 2, 2021 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.