Life, Personal Essays

The Hair Brush

This short story was written for my Writing Commons class for the Summer 2018 semester.

It was a calm, cool Wednesday evening when I found myself gazing at my vanity absentmindedly as I brushed my hair post-shower. The top shelf is made of glass, which holds my perfumes and aesthetically pleasing eyeshadow palettes. To the side, I keep my makeup brushes neatly in two maroon containers, the brushes dirty from each use, powder dusting into the air each time I swept my fingers over them. Underneath the glass shelf is a smooth wooden shelf, the sides hidden from view. There, I keep the routine things, such as skin care and pill bottles. The ding from my phone brings me out of my haze, and I look to see my daily reminder: “Pill.” I set down my hair brush and grab for my pill bottle. I gaze at it for a moment, turning it in my hand, listening to the rattle of the very thing that keeps me going.

I look back over to my brush, a brush that has been with me since I was a child. It was a beat up old Revlon brush, my replacement one from when my sister broke my pink Scooby Doo brush when I was seven. Some bristles were missing, but it still worked just fine.

I think back to when I was just 10 years old, living with my mom and sister in our new townhouse in a different suburb of Denver. My parents had just divorced, and I was going to a new school where I most definitely did not fit in. The kids that went there were wealthy and snobby, wearing their brand name clothing, and I stood out like a sore thumb in my Happy Bunny t-shirts. My forehead might as well have had the word “POOR” written on it, because that was how people treated me. We were by no means poor; but to the kids at that school, I might as well have been poor.

Winter break finally came around, and I was already tired of the loner school kid/child of divorce life. Keeping a low profile at school turned out to be really exhausting, and really lonely. I eventually found solace within the “losers,” but nobody wants to be a loser. My mom, previously a stay at home mom, was back to working, and my sister and I always got into petty fights. She was in 7th grade, so she didn’t want too much to do with me. She also had a better understanding of what was going on with the divorce and got frustrated with me about things I couldn’t understand.

During winter break, I decided to stop brushing my hair. Well, it wasn’t so much a decision not to do it so much as I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I didn’t feel like it. Each day, the knots wrapped around themselves even more, so usually I decided just to throw it back into a pony tail. Christmas Day came, and it was unlike any other year: my parents sat on the same couch, not too close, taking turns giving us presents that they picked out separately, something they used to do together. They remained civil for the most part, but the awkwardness hung in the air like humidity: uncomfortable and hard to ignore.

Since there wasn’t really anywhere to go, I just laid around the house, watching cartoons or playing with my barbies, anything to fill the time. Since I usually had my hair in a pony tail, I didn’t pay much attention to it. And since I wasn’t doing anything, I didn’t bother to brush it – not like I really felt like it anyway. Honestly, it didn’t really bother me. I didn’t pay much attention to it.

The night before school started back up, my mom finally told me that I can’t go back to school with that rat’s nest going on in my hair. She ran to the grocery store to buy a bottle of hair detangler. I sat in her bed for three hours while she combed out every knot in my hair, starting at the very bottom of each clump and working her way to the root.  I couldn’t understand how I let my hair get that bad, and I felt so ashamed of myself. How come I couldn’t get myself to do it? She tugged and tugged, my head being pulled backwards, my neck aching. She asked how my hair got so bad, and I couldn’t explain it. She didn’t press me much, and we just sat there as she ran the comb through, the silence not too deafening.

Back then, I didn’t really understand why I didn’t brush my hair and what caused me to stop. Looking between my used-and-abused hair brush and the orange pill bottle rattling in my hand, it makes sense. I was depressed. That was the first time I ever experienced true depression.

And it was the start of a pattern. First it was my hair. Then it was my teeth. Then I stopped showering regularly. On top of that, I was diagnosed with hyperhidrosis, which is excessive sweating for no reason at all. I was pretty gross there for a while. But I just couldn’t get myself to do the most mundane of tasks. Self-care was not my specialty, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

Years went by. I never would have thought that all of that occurred because I was depressed. I always thought of depression as being “extremely sad,” and I didn’t think that depression could impact the body the way it does the mind. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old and started seeing a school therapist that I realized I needed medical attention. Once I started my antidepressants, I felt functional again. Each day, these simple tasks got easier.

After popping one in my mouth, I set the pill bottle on the glass shelf, right next to my perfumes and eyeshadow palettes, and of course, my brush. I didn’t need to hide it anymore. It might not be as pretty as the perfumes and eyeshadows, but I didn’t need it to be. It’s a part of who I am now.


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