As actress and advocate Selma Blair adapts to her life following a diagnosis of aggressive multiple sclerosis (MS), she announced via social media her decision to shave her head. It's a small, significant act to help make her daily life more manageable - and one which took a lot of courage writes Jennifer McShane
When you have been diagnosed with an illness or condition which impacts your day-to-day, it's akin to a process of mourning. You are the same, but not quite the same; things are different. You view life with a new set of eyes. You can't go back to who you were before and this means embracing a fresh set of challenges while also saying farewell to what has been and gone. It's difficult to imagine, for example, that one day you might no longer have the strength or energy to wash, dry and style your hair as you once did.
Related: Selma Blair praises Sarah Michelle Gellar for helping her live life post-MS diagnosis
This task is necessary for us to feel good; our hair is such a valued part of our identity. Tied to our emotions, a moment in time. The bob you hastily got (and quickly regretted) after a sudden breakup, the gleaming brunette locks which signified a fresh beginning in a new city or the pins which hurt your scalp but were worth the pain for that perfect wedding day updo. Many of us make an active choice to change our hair, as we so wish. Some of us don't have the same freedom.
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Cancer, as an example, means that the hair will fall out, so we cut and shave. It wasn't our choice but it's still a choice made - your choice, done with strength. It's so hard, but you know that it's still easier than, say, watching the locks fall to the floor, growing thinner before your eyes.
A courageous act
It takes courage to pick up the scissors. The seemingly small act of cutting your hair carries such weight. It is never done lightly. You know the reflection will be changed. Will it change you? Will it empower and give you confidence? Or will it leave a different sort of mark? You never quite know, even after the choice has been made.
Actress Selma Blair has made a similar choice. Her MS means that her body is different. It obeys in some ways but betrays in others. She has said she is prone to dropping more, falling more (here's your sister, Selma!) so by that omission alone, what should be simple activities take more effort.
Related: 'I was in denial; I was in pain': Selma Blair gives first interview since revealing MS diagnosis
This weekend, she enlisted the help of her seven-year-old son, Arthur, to achieve her new, low-maintenance pixie crop. It's shorter - it's perfect for summer. But it also means her daily life will be a bit easier, too.
“Back to my roots,” the actress declared on Instagram alongside a photo of her son attentively tending to her locks with a pair of clippers.
View this post on Instagram
It makes sense that this would be tied to her MS. In October 2018, Blair revealed that she originally cut her hair into a shoulder-length bob because it was difficult to lift her arms to brush her hair when it was longer. With this cutting of her hair, it is symbolic; another indication she has accepted and embraced her new way of life - even with its difficulties.
I remember her words earlier this year:
"I am not giving up on having some recovery. Or at least getting stabilised. I am oddly grateful for the new insight I have into a chronically unpredictable body."
Since her diagnosis, the Cruel Intentions star has been candid about the struggles she experiences with her chronic illness and how she fights to be present for Arthur despite the disease. She is strong for him, for those around her.
Related: Selma Blair reveals she has multiple sclerosis in emotional Instagram post
“Here’s a truth. I feel sick as all hell,” Blair revealed on Instagram in May. “I am vomiting and all the things which are not polite to speak of. My son ran away. From me. I have to get him to school. The medical treatments take their toll. I am going to get through this. We do. This will pass.”
The act of letting her son cut her hair was done for him as much as it was Selma. She'll have more energy, more time for him this way.
She allowed the scissors to be picked up for them both.
She is brave, beautiful and short hair, long hair or none at all - a woman who deserves our admiration.
Main photograph: @Mashable
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