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.