How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Speak When Spoken To?
I’m really no good at setting up a scene. A scene as in, you know, literarily, on a page or screen to detail a certain time and space. Sure I went to school for this stuff, and have written enough 15-to-20-page personal essays that have been marked and inked-up with reminders to “show, not tell” and “set the scene” to have better technique by now. But somehow I always seem to have a problem getting the certain specifics in place, like the wallpaper shade and pattern, or which fruit was in the bowl on the dining room table, or if the coffee cup was on a saucer or actually in my hand. And maybe those details don’t matter anyway.
Take for example, yesterday: a nothing-special kind of afternoon with a whole bunch of peace and quiet and an appointment for a haircut. A haircut. Simple right? Easy enough. No reason it shouldn’t be something other than relaxing. I can’t say I’ll be able to set up the whole scene, but I’ll tell you the important parts: me, a helpless me, at the mercy of a crazed, thyroid-hating, spiky-haired, purple-highlighted Debbie Downer. The entire 45-minute session, she wasn’t able to conjure up one nice thing to say about the state of my hair, or even a measly bit of obligatory chitchat: “Wow. Your hair is so dry” “It’s very thin at the ends” “What kind of shampoo do you use, again?” “Your hair is drying up on me… and I just wet it!” “You dye your hair at home, don’t you? I can guess from the color. Oh you don’t? Oh, well, the color is just beautiful! Very pretty…
I left the chair feeling violated. This woman has effectively rubbed my disease right in my face without even realizing. Sure, maybe she just wanted to sell me some conditioning cream. However, for me, it seems inexcusable and it left me with too many questions. Should I have spoken up and defended my disease?, Do I even want to defend this ugly disease?, Should I have said to her (in the politest, syrupy sweet manner of course), “Excuse me, surely you have no possible way to know this, only because we’ve never met and the few words we have exchanged have been rather impersonal and demoralizing, but you see, I have this thing called hypothyroidism (specifically the autoimmune kind where your own body attacks itself. Yeah for a writer, it’s a pretty sad scene; a bit too much metaphor for my taste). In fact, my whole life has been spent with really dry hair and dry skin. You’re not the first hairdresser who’s noticed it. , , Anyway, the point is, I have a DISEASE and so, I’d prefer if you not judge my hair management skills because, trust me, I eat a shit load of good fats (you know, oils, nuts and seeds, fish — things that are supposed to be really good for hair, and also let it air-dry 9 out of 10 times). The unfortunate and annoying thing about this disease is that I am constantly dehydrated. Like, thirsty all the time. But not just “thirsty” thirsty as in 2.5 gallons a day. Yeah, talk about potential kidney failure. Oh also, my thyroid gave my hair this bright orangey glow; you never know what’ll happen when your hormones are going all crazy. You can’t make that shit up. So maybe, instead of telling me what a shame it is that I really let myself go, and that I need to buy some of your endocrine-disrupting products that are probably chock-full of parabens and gluten that will only exasperate my condition, have a little empathy. Or, at least, think before you fucking speak?
If you’re a weekly follower of this here column, you probably read last week’s “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: When In Rome??, Part II“ (I’d love you if you did). If so, you get that this is a running theme: people unwittingly rubbing my disease in my face, if you will. Last week it was people asking why I was so uptight and wouldn’t have a beer, or why I wasn’t interested in the wheaty/buttery deliciousness of the hors d’oeuvres at my cousin’s wedding. This week, it’s hair. A few months ago it was, “Why don’t you ever remember anything I tell you?Ã¢â‚¬ So here’s my question: speak when spoken to?, Is part of the healing process explaining our disease to people (possibly, strangers) who are, clearly, very ignorant and insulting? ( “Healing process” as in, whatever that may be for each individual, since “healing can mean many different things on this path to being more well despite illness). Or is it better to not fight back? What do you do when people insult your disease?
In the end, I said nothing and still tipped her twenty percent. I don’t know if part of me was scared to divulge the details of my disease because it seemed inappropriate and out of place in the middle of a salon, or if part of me felt she wasn’t privileged enough to hear something so personal. Part of it was also that I felt for her because she had no clue and no way of guessing just from looking at me that yes, my body is sick and doing a whole bunch of shit I can’t control. I couldn’t return the insult with an insult. But maybe that’s just my cowardice showing. Just like this particular hairstylist, other people generally mean well but have no fucking clue that what’s coming out of their mouth in situations like these is so insulting. Is it okay to speak when spoken to?, Is it necessary? Is it a rite of passage in this club we call disease? And if we do speak, is it healing?
Until Next Week,
Have a question, comment, story, love letter, or rant/rave to send me?: Liz@DearThyroid.com
Tags: hashimoto's disease, How To Kick Your Thyroid's Ass, hypothyroidism, Liz Schau Writer, thyroid disease, thyroid patients speaking out, thyroid patients venting, thyroid patients writing about their disease