Monday, November 27, 2006

my book made me bald

going telogen

a few days after the release of Pale Immortal i started losing my hair and the fallout hasn't let up.

i don't know if any of you remember the shower problem i had at bouchercon in madison. the drain didn't work. apparently every room in the hotel had its own variation of plumbing nightmares, and moving wouldn't have helped. by day 2 or 3 i broke down and actually used the shower. ick, ick, ick!! which meant the tub then contained a foot of water -- along with about a pound of hair. it looked like some poor shih tzu had been murdered.

when the hair loss didn't slow down, i went in for thyroid tests which came out fine. my doctor asked if i'd been under a lot of stress lately. (HELL YES!!!) i demurely said i had, and that the stress was work related. i didn't even bother trying to explain the whole writing thing because most outsiders tend to think of writing as a life of luxury and i knew such thoughts would immediately lead him in the wrong direction. but even skipping hints of cozy cardigans and afternoon strolls on the moor, my doctor didn't think work-related stress would be enough to make my hair fall out.

people who know about hair have asked me the same question: have you experienced an unusual amount of stress in the past few months? and my answer is i've never been so continuously stressed out over a book and its release in my life. the anxiety has been unrelenting. i think because so much was on my shoulders and i had to prove myself for reasons i won't go into here.

so let's examine the life of a hair.

A single hair follicle grows its hair strand over a period of four to six years (the anagen phase). It then rests for two to four months (the telogen phase), after which it loses the "old" hair as a new hair shaft grows and pushes out its predecessor. When the new hair grows in, it does so at a rate of approximately half an inch per month. At any time, 10 percent of your hair is in the telogen phase and 90 percent is in the anagen phase.

If lots of hair begins to fall out throughout the scalp, it's obviously due to a change in the normal hair cycle: either a short anagen phase or an increase in the number of follicles that enter the telogen phase. When the majority of hair follicles "go telogen" it's called telogen effluvium or stress alopecia. A shock to the body's system, which stresses the hair follicles, is often to blame for this change in cyclical hair events. Two to three months after the stressor hits, up to 70 percent of hairs can enter the telogen phase and commence a massive fallout.

stress isn't the only path to hair loss. other suspects are chemical changes in the body, a new prescription, or even an over-the-counter drug. some say hair dye can cause fallout, but in haircolor cases most experts say the hair will break off, not fall out by the roots. in the majority of massive hair loss, the trigger is never determined. but i'm sure i'll always remember pale immortal as the book that made me bald.


angie said...

This somehow seems both horrible and hilarious. Something about the technical, scientific terminology combined with "the book that made me bald." Does that make me a bad person?!

Here's wishing you happier, more relaxed follicles, STAT!!

anne frasier said...

angie, you are bad, bad, bad!

happy follicles! :D

i was going for humor, so laugh all you want. on the bright side i do have new growth, so i'm hoping for a head of beautiful hair in another 6 months or so.

Helen Brenna said...

Why is it that bald looks sexy on men, but a little scary on women?

After both my kids were born, my hair fell out like crazy.

Kelly Parra said...

OMG! Recently my mom retired, then all the sudden her hair starts falling out. I didn't think it was any biggie, because I have all this hair, and my hair has always fallen out. I find it on the bathroom, in the shower, on the floor. But now I can tell her Anne Frasier says you've had a new stresser in your life and that's why you're going bald. =D

Anonymous said...

My hairdresser continues reminds me that we must start considering styles that require less thickness. Hence, the still unopened vial of paxil on my dresser.

Tami said...

Man oh man, sad to admit but I've had the same problem. When I'm really stressed about something, my hair starts to fall out. (My contract on my job is about to run out in 2 weeks so I'm looking for a new job or I have to take a three month break to be able to come back to this one. Lovely California laws.) I'm going through the hair loss thing right now. My boyfriend is so sick of having my hair all over everything. I get out of the shower and brush it and HUGE clumps come out. I can't believe I'm not already bald! We were just joking about it yesterday. Luckily, mine has started to come back as well. The funny thing is, now when i part my hair where I usually do i have little hairs that stick up and make my look like i'm 3 years old. No matter how much gel i use, they stick up like little antanas. I hope it stops soon for the both of us!

Heather Harper said...

I shed something awful.

I pull out clumps of hair everytime I wash my hair in the shower. Or brush my hair. Or sneeze. It ends up in nasty knots in the washer and dryer, sticking to all things fleece. Which scares the crap out of my kids (and sometimes me because I have ADD and my memory is spit) because the knots look like demented spiders.

It's always been this way, (I can remember my grandfather brushing my stray hairs off of the Monopoly board) but I'm just recently noticing that my hair appears thinner. I noticed this right about the same time I began reading Pale Immortal.


emeraldcite said...

at least it's growing back.

if i start losing my hair, i know it will never grow back...

i fear the worst.

anne frasier said...

helen, isn't that the truth? i guess we're not used to seeing bald women.

kelly, i'll bet it is the stress of a lifestyle change.

anonymous, after my earlier antidepressant rant i'm now wondering if that's what i need. :D seriously.

and what's really stressing me out is my bald post stuck at the top of crimespot express. damn!!! :D

anne frasier said...

tami, that would stress the hell out of me too. i'm going to be without a contract soon, and it's not a pleasant feeling. i'm not actually bald yet either, but it seems like i should be. my hair is just extremely thin. i have been looking at wigs!

heather, LOL! so pale immortal is doing it to everybody? OMG. i know exactly what you're talking about when you mention hair knots. oh, those are gross!

emeraldcite, yes, that's true. i've thought a lot about all kinds of hair loss lately, especially about guys who lose their hair for good, many of them really young. i think it would be a tough thing for a guy to deal with, sexy or not.

Daniel Hatadi said...

I think it's all the cigarettes you're smoking. You know, babies aren't supposed to smoke.

Bald Man Dan

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm seriously sorry to hear the stress has had such a negative physical impact on you, Anne.

The only consolation I can offer is that I once met a girl in high school (I was new) and thought she had perfect hair. I loved her hair. Turned out it was a wig. She died a few years later (cancer). It was one of those ironic lessons for me - there I was envying her hair and I didn't know she was dying.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Ya see...this is why I hang out here. I never know WHAT I'll find.

anne frasier said...

daniel, next you'll be telling me crack's bad for babies.

wow, sandra. that story really packs an emotional punch.

mindy, i'm hoping pictures of my bald head aren't in your future, but if i lose it all i won't be able to keep from posting photos. it's all about sharing. ;)

right now i'm at the troll stage.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Crack's bad for babies? Well there goes that idea.

Hair's overrated, you realize. That's why we invented hats and wigs and those Cheese Head wedge things that they wear at football games.

Hang in there. Things will stabilize soon. Or you'll erupt in a fiery ball of stress bunny energy, hopping across the landscape in gouts of flame.

And then you won't care about the hair. See? It all works out.

Dee said...

Sharing your stress has caused my roots to turn gray...AGAIN!! Oh, well, maybe they were going to do that anyway!

Jer said...

Sorry to hear that you're follicly challenged. But they say that god only created so many perfect heads. They rest--she covered with hair.

Good luck! Jer

Bernita said...

And you have such pretty hair!
They say massaging the scalp helps.

Bill Cameron said...

Goodness, but this was the wake-up post of the week!

Here's my dilemma. I want my hair to fall out. All of it. I want to be Yul Brenner.

During the 90's, I had really long hair. Halfway down my back. It was fun, but after a while the maintenance got to be more than I wanted to deal with, and in a fit of craziness I cut it all off. And when I say all, I mean right to the scalp. Went through two razor cartridges on my first pass.

And I loved it. Okay, sure, it was bone white, but I could fix that with a little foundation until the sun did it's thing. But the look, the feel, the ease. Man, it was great.

But everyone around me hated it. I hung in there for a few weeks, shaving each morning in the shower, but no one was on board with me. At last, my sad daughter begged me to start growing it out again. I felt so bad I agreed. But, golly, did I love my bald head.

So if it would only all fall out, I could get what I want and, hey, what could I do? It fell out.

But it never will, I think. I haven't even seen any hairline recession down the years. Damn.

Anonymous said...

I see the potential for a vicious cycle here. If you experience a "go telogen" moment, the effects won't show until some time later. Then, when the hairs do fall out, you start combing the drain to keep a few as reminders. More stress. More telogen.

Rinse, repeat.

Break the cycle, Anne. Just say no to telogen.

anne frasier said...

"Crack's bad for babies? Well there goes that idea."
yeah, who would have guessed?

good thing i like hats and have a bunch of them. i wear a hat half the time anyway.

dee, that happens to you, too? :D

jer: LOL! i'm hoping my head isn't flat on one side. or really bumpy.

anne frasier said...

bernita: i wondered about that. i was thinking tea tree oil.

bill: that's funny as hell. :D they say everybody should shave his/her head at least once. i've always been curious about that. i imagine it kind of feels eurphoric, maybe similar to getting a tattoo. but i think shaving it every day would be a pain in the ass.

jason; yeah, the hair loss itself causes stress!! LOL! anybody remember wacky wall walkers? that's what i think of when hair clumps travel down my back.

Elizabeth said...

Written as only a mystery writer could!

M. G. Tarquini said...

Elizabeth! You breathe!

anne frasier said...

and she speaks!! so nice to see you, elizabeth!

Hulles said...

Bald men are sexy? Someone said bald men are sexy? God, I hope it was a woman.

I have always thought bald women were sexy myself, and for once I'm not joking. I keep thinking of how beautiful Sinead looks on the cover of whatever album she's bald on the cover of. Something about no hair where one expects hair... *sigh*.

And does this mean I should quit selling crack on the kindergarten playground? Great, just when I find meaningul work....

Thanks for an interesting, informative and funny post, Anne.

anne frasier said...

hulles, sinead is just beautiful period. and i agree that she was especially breathtaking with that bald head.

yeah, looks like that crack job isn't going to work out. damn!

Michele said...

of course, the average person loses 70-100 hair strands per day. Sounds like a lot, but...

I can run my fingers through my hair at any time of day, and come out with dozens of strands. It always freaks me, and I leave a trail everywhere I go, but it still seems to be pretty thick on my head. What's with that?

I'd love to go bald, but you really need a nice shaped skull for that. Some women just can't do bald well. Sigh...

anne frasier said...

michele, shape is extremely important. i'm afraid once my hair is gone i'll find a fetus growing out the side of my head.