Grey Hair Despair : The day I realised I was the Look of Anxiety
A few months ago I decided to go grey. I wasn’t talking about getting a trending new hair colour or going for some highlights – I meant “going grey gracefully” and embracing my natural grey hairs. It hasn’t been easy, since today I realised I wear the look of anxiety.
I’ve been dying my dark chestnut hair since I was a teen; of course back then it was only to be like my friends who were colouring, bleaching and doing all manor of crazy cheese balls to their otherwise perfect adolescent hair but as an adult it’s been a way of life I’ve enjoyed no different to applying make up. Changing up my hair colour is fun; seeing it in pink, purple, red or just another shade of brown makes me feel refreshed and different, in a good way. And then there’s the times I went black because I was depressed which, you can imagine, wasn’t so good. Like many other women, my hair – more so colour – says more about me and my mental health than perhaps anything else.
I’ve been getting those wiry white hairs that stand out like parched grass in a lush meadow since my early twenties. Back then I’d only get a few and I’d tweeze them out with disdain; horrified that the hair that dared grow without pigment was letting the youthful side down. And petrified going grey meant I was old.
So I’ve coloured my hair countless times over the years, occasionally professionally but mostly a good old box jobbie. Dying hair is costly business; a £4 “Country Colours” is enough to be rinsing down the plughole every two months.
Then I got fed up with it all. I couldn’t keep up, the silver strands were appearing faster than I could throw a mascara wand at them and even when I did dye my hair, I’d always somehow miss a patch. So I thought, sod it. And I resolved to embrace the grey, with a degree of begrudging.
But I also couldn’t be bothered; colouring hair is a massive faff. And besides, who even has the time to sit around on the edge of a bed for half an hour with a towel on their head? Isn’t that what you do when you’ve had your shower, not before it?
This thing called anxiety is really taking its toll. And if I’m at all honest, it’s that that’s calling time on my hair dying. I’m spending my time so hyped up on tension and tears that I don’t even feel capable of dying my hair. It’s too self indulgent, I don’t have the patience, and frankly I don’t think I’m worth it. Me-time is bloody hard. Caring about me-time is even harder.
Self care is high up there on any anti-anxiety leaflet. After all, if we don’t look after number one who will? But that’s easier said than done for anyone trying to get on in life with poorly functioning anxiety. I spend my time frazzled and flustered I feel guilty whatever I do, never mind plucking hairs, applying make up or colouring my hair. Heck, I can’t even wash my hair enough.
Growing grey gracefully seemed like the easiest way going forward. It sounded kind on me and I found it quite liberating to say, “I’m going grey and I don’t care because it’s me.” And it worked. I was empowered. I thought I was playing my part spurring on the grey is beautiful movement and giving the media’s concept of beauty the middle finger. I even thought I could look pretty good, I knew ladies who had grey hair who looked good so I figured I could too. And I was that down with the idea, I was fantasising about when the grey growth would properly grow in and how cool my hair would look then.
But throughout the day my emotions would shift. Crap things would happen and I’d feel crap. And the more I looked in the mirror I realised the more I saw grey, I saw grey. My greyness was my mood, illustrated. I was grey because I felt it. I did feel bloody old and I looked as worn out as I was. What I wanted to see as my liberating grey hair was just my anxiety’s byproduct.
It was okay for me to say “no more” to colouring. It was okay for me to accept the grey. And it was okay to admit that I was using my grey façade as an empowering act of defiance. I was just finding a way for me to be me, and still be in control.
But embracing my grey wasn’t making me happy – it isn’t. I don’t feel great and I don’t, in the slightest, feel in control. Being grey represents me being quite the opposite.
Looking in the bathroom mirror as I washed my face in the morning, I felt beaten. I was not liking my grey, brown and whatever other tint I still had going on, for hair, and I knew it wasn’t helping. I quit dying my hair because it was a vanity stress I didn’t need but it actually wasn’t. It was the sign I once cared about myself that was now telling me I’d lost the fight. What happened?
I am struggling terribly with my anxiety disorder, and I don’t feel in control. And if colouring my hair is the one thing I can be control of, then isn’t that what I should do?
But, that’s the problem; I just don’t think I can be bothered.
What’s your experience with going grey gracefully? Do you think it takes some mind over matter? Is anxiety killing your self confidence?
BorisDecember 12, 2020 at 11:34 am
Hi Becky I searched this on google that I was feeling bad about grey hair.
Yes it makes me feel terrible, luckily it’s something that has a workaround and you can colour it when you like. But it’s one thing that just changed so abrupty in your body which makes you feel terrible.
Yes every time I look in the mirror I feel exactly how you describe
I guess out of all things that can happen there is a workaround
Becky ConnollyFebruary 19, 2021 at 12:11 pm
It’s not a great feeling is it? But yes, at least hair can be dyed unlike my husband who began losing his hair when he was young due to stress. Hope you’re doing okay.
LaurenFebruary 13, 2021 at 2:29 am
I just googled this. I suddenly went grey during the pandemic, and it’s making me sad. I haven’t dyed my hair since 2003 because I actually really liked my hair color. I thought it was really pretty. It makes me very sad that something I like about my looks is starting to disappear and will never come back. Why can’t we have nice things? (So no, I do not see myself taking this gracefully. 🙂 )
Becky ConnollyFebruary 19, 2021 at 12:04 pm
Hi Lauren, oh it’s frustrating isn’t it! As if aging isn’t enough, stress tries to steal our looks too! Hope you’re doing okay despite this.
MarcusMay 24, 2021 at 4:19 pm
Thanks a lot for sharing this. I’ve recently starting seeing the wiry grey hairs you’re speaking of and I almost had a full blow panic attack when I looked in the mirror one day. I thought to myself that I was “losing” my youth. I really appreciate your transparency. Speaking kind to myself really helps with the transition.
RachelJuly 20, 2021 at 5:25 pm
Geee thanks for giving me anxiety that “going gray” and embracing it is letting yourself go. That’s ridiculous. The stupid stigma around hair color is disgusting. Men get to “go gray” but nope women are seen as letting themselves go by men and other women obviously. Congrats your blog left someone feeling more sad, miserable and hollow than before. Guess I’ll go color my hair like the good little slavey that I am……
Becky ConnollyJuly 20, 2021 at 10:08 pm
Hi Rachel, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry you feel my post has offended you. I can only write from my own perspective where for me dying my hair is my ‘normal’. The fact I’m not, means it’s a period of stress for me. I’m not saying everybody needs to or should cover their grey, but that’s my viewpoint.
SamFebruary 20, 2022 at 6:11 am
What a horrible and disempowering blog for women. Letting your hair go grey is letting yourself go?? Way to play into the patriarchy. Grey has nothing to do with anxiety, it is about genetics. If you associate grey with anxiety, you need therapy, not to post this drivel for younger women to read and internalize about their own grey hair.
Becky ConnollyFebruary 20, 2022 at 9:39 pm
Hi Sam, thanks for commenting.
If you read my post you’ll understand that to me the presence of my grey hair represents my self confidence and the level of my self love. The very fact I’m not having time/making time to deal with it means I’m not prioritising myself, hence my mental condition is taking precedence. So yes, the way I look is the picture of my anxiety disorder.
JoanneMarch 31, 2022 at 4:09 pm
I can sooo relate to you. I guess I’m vain and this transition is the hard for me. Maybe for some of us we view looks as important since that’s what my childhood was like. I’m trying my best to be strong but I’m human.