6 Ways My Vivid Hair Color Reflects My Life With Chronic Pain

Dying my hair as a university student was an act of rebellion. It was a way of saying to my abusive father that he wasn’t in control and I could do whatever the hell I wanted. But in reality, even though I started dying my hair a little before that, I never actually went to the bright shades I would have loved. I didn’t feel safe doing it, and then going into the working world, the brightest I ever went was a deep red that stood out with my complexion, or a plum.

But now I’m not able to work in a mainstream field because of my multiple chronic pain conditions and  C-PTSD, so I’ve made the decision to take the step forward and dye my hair in the colors I never dared to before. It’s a multi-edged sword that is allowing me to shout from the rooftops about things people don’t ordinarily get. Even though coloring my hair takes a few more spoons than I would like, it’s worth it. Because it means I’m able to call attention to these things I’ve listed below:

I am more than my wheelchair – People tend to look at a wheelchair user, even a part time wheelchair user like myself and just see the chair. They assume the quality of life we have is less than others because of the chair. If my hair is a bright and vivid color, it gives them pause for thought, because it meansam the one who chose the color, and that means I have the capacity to make decisions for myself. It creates a conversation about why people need wheelchairs, and how they, and other mobility aids, help people.

I won’t be controlled – It took me years to accept that I was still living my life as if I was controlled by my father’s view of the world, even though I was no longer under his roof. I kept the three B’s (boobs, belly, and butt), hidden from the view of others, my clothes remained more feminine than not, my hair was fairly modest in color and never as short as it is now, or if it was short, it was in a very feminine style. He was still controlling me. Not any more. I choose what I wear, how I wear it, and what I do with my appearance.

Mental health is something we should all take care of – You stopped to talk to me about my hair color, so I’m going to tell you about my mental health. How the bright color, even though it’s currently blue, makes me smile and feel better about myself. You see, with C-PTSD, I often want to tear at my skin and hurt myself (although I haven’t gone through with those impulses for a few years now), and I often feel like I’m dirty and unworthy. When I treat myself to something vivid like a new hair color, I feel bright and happy, and it lifts my mood. I can be having the worst day, but when I look in the mirror, the color makes me grin. It breaks through the surface and changes my day.

Individuality – Not everyone with a particular condition is the same, but we as disabled people hear the phrase “Oh I know so and so and they have…” a lot. And by a lot, I mean it comes up in nearly every conversation with someone new when they find out about my medical conditions. The colored hair helps me make a point with some humor. “Oh cool, do they have blue hair too? No? Oh so I guess they didn’t get that part of…” I’ll say it with a wicked grin which shows I’m joking, but it does make people stop and think and ask how things are for me rather than pretending they know every in and out.

Chronic pain makes me blue – My current hair color is a reflection of the way my chronic pain can serve to make the depression and anxiety worse. And the depression and anxiety also make the chronic pain worse. It’s a cycle I get stuck in. If someone asks “why that color?” I can tell them that to me, when “I’m feeling blue” it brings to mind not only my mental health, but the toll of my physical health. Especially as the weather starts to get colder. The blue we associate with cold means my pain is becoming more aggravated, which increases insomnia and therefore depression and anxiety, more C-PTSD flashbacks, and then more pain because of lack of sleep. Blue is a cycle that I can’t break, but I can talk about.

I choose to use my hair color as a way to advocate. It allows me to have conversations about physical and mental health. I use it to draw focus away from the fact I use a mobility aid or three, and onto the things that cause the need for those mobility aids. But I also do it for the most simplest reason of all, one that takes priority. It fits with my personality. I am just that kind of person.

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