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. Dalton Jundt

    A lot of what you assert happens to be astonishingly precise and that makes me ponder the reason why I hadn't looked at this in this light previously. This piece truly did turn the light on for me as far as this specific subject matter goes. Nonetheless at this time there is actually one point I am not too cozy with so while I attempt to reconcile that with the actual core theme of your position, let me see what all the rest of the subscribers have to point out.Well done.


    June 7, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Darius Laurenceau

    There is noticeably a bundle to find out about this. I assume you made sure good points in features also.


    June 7, 2021 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. 먹튀커뮤니티

    The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won't fail me just as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, however I truly believed you would probably have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you can fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.


    June 7, 2021 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. aralen buy online

    what is hydroxychloroquine sulfate aralen buy online define chloro

    June 7, 2021 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. 부산출장안마

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Kudos!


    June 8, 2021 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ingrid Cheng

    I do agree with all the ideas you've presented in your post. They're really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very short for novices. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.


    June 8, 2021 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. 청주출장

    Aw, this was a very good post. Finding the time and actual effort to generate a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a whole lot and don't manage to get nearly anything done.


    June 8, 2021 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Caitlyn Gerster

    I found your blog site on google and verify just a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the superb operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Looking for forward to studying extra from you later on!…


    June 8, 2021 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. 청주출장후불

    This is a topic that is close to my heart... Best wishes! Where are your contact details though?


    June 8, 2021 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. 부산출장마사지

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and the rest of the site is extremely good.


    June 8, 2021 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Shaun Baldwin

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I've joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!


    June 8, 2021 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Christel Wei

    Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account helped me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept


    June 9, 2021 at 03:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. 청주출장안마후불

    This is a topic that is close to my heart... Take care! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    June 9, 2021 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Margo Kunc

    you could have a great blog here! would you like to make some invite posts on my blog?


    June 9, 2021 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Arden Torno

    Hi! Quick question that's entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4. I'm trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to fix this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share. Thank you!


    June 9, 2021 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Ted Freshour

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you're talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my web site =). We could have a link exchange agreement between us!


    June 10, 2021 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Otha Crissler

    That is very attention-grabbing, You're an excessively skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look ahead to seeking more of your fantastic post. Additionally, I have shared your website in my social networks!


    June 10, 2021 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Ed Widrick

    you are in point of fact a just right webmaster. The site loading speed is amazing. It sort of feels that you are doing any unique trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece. you've performed a excellent process on this matter!


    June 10, 2021 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. 울산출장안마

    I was extremely pleased to discover this great site. I need to to thank you for ones time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff on your web site.


    June 10, 2021 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. 울산 출장마사지

    Right here is the perfect web site for anybody who hopes to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject that's been written about for decades. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!


    June 10, 2021 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Reita Vanvalkenburg

    I am continuously looking online for tips that can aid me. Thank you!


    June 10, 2021 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. 울산출장마사지

    Right here is the perfect web site for anyone who really wants to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic that's been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!


    June 10, 2021 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Courtney Lofink

    Hello my friend! I wish to say that this post is amazing, great written and come with almost all significant infos. I would like to see extra posts like this .


    June 11, 2021 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. 울산출장마사지

    Everything is very open with a very clear description of the challenges. It was definitely informative. Your website is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    June 11, 2021 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Calvin Carouthers

    Excellent weblog right here! Also your site a lot up fast! What web host are you the usage of? Can I am getting your affiliate link on your host? I want my site loaded up as fast as yours lol


    June 11, 2021 at 04:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. 울산 출장

    I really love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you develop this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím trying to create my own personal blog and would like to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Kudos!


    June 11, 2021 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Christen Capestany

    I will immediately grab your rss as I can not find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.


    June 11, 2021 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. 전주 출장안마

    I could not resist commenting. Perfectly written!


    June 11, 2021 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. 먹튀 검증

    Hey there! I just wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for the great info you have right here on this post. I'll be coming back to your blog for more soon.


    June 12, 2021 at 03:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. 먹튀 검증

    At that charge, you can premiere as a article writer. I'm so touched. Now i'm joyful to meet you. Give thanks you.


    June 12, 2021 at 03:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Cletus Rehnberg

    I am no longer sure the place you are getting your information, but good topic. I must spend a while studying more or figuring out more. Thanks for fantastic information I used to be on the lookout for this info for my mission.


    June 12, 2021 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Rayford Sponsler

    Sometimes, blogging is a bit tiresome specially if you need to update more topics.,~;~~


    June 12, 2021 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Hal Macera

    The Citizen Nighthawk CA295-58E does not take pride in fancy technology, in addition to Eco-Drive modern technology. If you are brand-new to this, the watch records any kind of type of light and also converts it into energy.


    June 12, 2021 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. 전주 출장안마

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you need to write more on this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but usually folks don't discuss such issues. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 12, 2021 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. 인천출장

    That is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise infoÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 12, 2021 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Liberty Kraig

    Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all. Nevertheless think of if you added some great pictures or videos to give your posts more, "pop"! Your content is excellent but with pics and video clips, this site could definitely be one of the greatest in its niche. Fantastic blog!


    June 13, 2021 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 전주출장안마

    You're so awesome! I don't suppose I have read something like this before. So great to discover another person with a few original thoughts on this issue. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is required on the web, someone with some originality!


    June 13, 2021 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Quentin Gockel

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and in depth information you present. It's great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same outdated rehashed material. Excellent read! I've saved your site and I'm adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.


    June 13, 2021 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Alesha Nicewonger

    Your house is valueble for me. Thanks!…


    June 13, 2021 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Norris Cabebe

    Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!


    June 14, 2021 at 01:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Yessenia Kilgour

    Somebody essentially help to make seriously posts I would state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to make this particular publish extraordinary. Magnificent job!


    June 14, 2021 at 04:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Rebekah Olcus

    I have been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts in this sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this website. Reading this info So i am glad to convey that I've an incredibly good uncanny feeling I discovered just what I needed. I most definitely will make sure to do not disregard this web site and give it a look on a continuing basis.


    June 14, 2021 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mckinley Trogstad

    We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with valuable info to work on. You have done an impressive job and our whole community will be thankful to you.


    June 14, 2021 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. 파워볼사이트

    Everyone loves it when people come together and share opinions. Great site, keep it up!


    June 14, 2021 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. 파워볼 최상위 사이트

    Great post! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    June 15, 2021 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Len Breckel

    Somebody essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I amazed with the research you made to make this particular publish incredible. Great job!


    June 15, 2021 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Ardath Lazzaro

    Hello! This post couldn't be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


    June 15, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Celinda Vlashi

    Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I'd figured I'd ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa? My blog goes over a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you're interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Awesome blog by the way!


    June 16, 2021 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Man Glassett

    Hey very cool web site!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I'll bookmark your site and take the feeds also…I am happy to find so many useful information here in the post, we need work out more strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .


    June 16, 2021 at 06:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Darin Froehlich

    whoah this blog is wonderful i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, lots of people are looking around for this information, you can help them greatly.


    June 16, 2021 at 09:37 | 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.