As A Hairstylist, I Listen.

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“I was molested by a babysitter and have only told my mother one time. I had an abortion and could not tell anyone about it, so I did it alone. I thought I was safe with a friend at a bar in Chicago, but she left me by myself with men we had just met, the next morning I woke up with a strange guy, didn’t remember anything, but knew I had been raped and had to fly home that day. I found out my husband of 27 years and the father of my four children was cheating on me.  I remember holding my baby at the top of the stairs and he wouldn’t stop crying and for a moment I thought about throwing him down the stairs. My first husband was physically abusive.  I got jumped at a bar, by 2 girls and 5 guys and was knocked out cold by a guy. I got pregnant at 16 and had my daughter at 17 years old.  My son died in a car accident.  I have had a problem with taking pills. I drink a bottle of wine everyday. I got a DUI.  My dad used to beat my mother in front of us, he was mean up until the very day he died. I never told my dad that I am a lesbian before he died.  I’m scared that I will be the one to find my grandma dead at home.  My roommate and I had an intruder threaten us at gunpoint and I was the one who suffered the rape so that my roommate didn’t have to, I am HIV positive.  I was violently raped by a group of men that resulted in the loss of a pregnancy, and set a precedent for future court cases.  My oldest son is schizophrenic.  I have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. My husband has been abusive our entire marriage, I have developed chronic fatigue,  and my older son is a drug addict. My daughter dropped out of high school and is addicted to meth. My daughter told me that I am a terrible mother and wants nothing to do with me.  I am 43 years old, with 2 young daughters, I have rheumatoid arthritis so badly I only have 10% use of my hands.  I lost my job and have been out of work for a year.  I haven’t had sex with my husband in over six years. I called off my engagement. I am getting a divorce.”

These are the stories that keep me in my business. It is far more than giving a great haircut or great color. I am a safe person to share your stories. After 15 years in the business, I realize that I have a gift for listening. For laughing, for crying, all while creating beauty which can be extremely therapeutic. The traumas we experience are actually the things that can create a bond. Accomplishments are great, but what is a measure of a true accomplishment? Every person’s starting point is different and every person’s goals  are different. I think through our own experience with suffering and hard times we develop empathy for others. For myself, going through my worst experiences allowed me to sit with others and listen without judgement while my clients told me their stories. And in an environment where there is physical touch- shampoo, head massage, blow-dry, some level healing can take place. I am grateful for my own traumas because I have developed a thick skin and simultaneously real empathy for other’s suffering.

I worked hard on myself, I had a heroine addiction for 5 years, I was in a 8 year long relationship with a man who is a drug addict, and I overcame these things and ALL of the craziness that goes along with it.  I have been to hours of counseling, but I give a lot of credit to my business. My ability to be open with hundreds of clients through the years gave me a platform for honesty, a place to hold myself accountable, and a network of support that extended beyond my friends, family, and counselors. It literally takes a village. When the statistics for recovery are so low at 3% of addicts who recover and stay clean, I recognize that my circumstances are different than 97% of the population of addicts, and I give credit to the HUGE network of support.  I am now sitting here with 9 years clean time. I have no desire to go back there, addiction is a coping skill for things we cannot handle. I had a counselor that put it into perfect words “You did not have a drug problem, you had a drug solution.” People do not turn to drugs if the things in their life are managed and being handled in a healthy way. So now, if I can be a beacon for the people around me who are hurting, be an ear to listen to them, and tell them I believe them, so maybe they feel a little less alone, that’s who I will be and that is who I am.

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