Editor’s Letter: Spring 2016

A few years ago, my hair started falling out. It’s not glamorous, I know, but I won’t apologize for sharing it, and I’ll tell you why.

The hair loss was in addition to a handful of reproductive issues, chronic headaches, and all sorts of other unpleasant symptoms I could, but won’t, list here. My body was in a constant battle with itself. Each morning, I would wake and inspect my pillowcase to count the night’s fallen strands. It looked like a hair graveyard. My head of once-thick curls was slowly thinning. The few people I told pointed in different directions: my family doctor blamed stress; my hairdresser pointed to the bleach-blonde dye; and my second-opinion doctor decided it was age.

I’ve always followed doctor’s orders. That’s what we were taught, right? If I’m prescribed a pill, I take it. If I’m told to change my diet, I do it. But getting a diagnosis from a medical practitioner—family doctor, gynecologist, whomever—for my seemingly never-ending laundry list of ailments, was an uphill battle.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. While these are two relatively common reproductive conditions that affect millions of women worldwide, no one talks about them—and on that rare occasion that we do, it’s a whisper between friends.

Women’s health issues have always been taboo. We hide scars from surgeries we never speak of, cover up stretch marks from weight gained, and load up on hair extensions when our own locks go limp. (In the photo on this page, I’m wearing clip-in hair to add volume.) We’re constantly and silently apologetic about the appearance of our bodies. And for what? Because we fear the marks and scars define us? That they make us less worthy, less feminine?

We’re taught to be tight little packages of perfect youth, and, if you can’t be young and perfect, then just be quiet. At least, that used to be the case.

Celebrities are beginning to use public platforms to openly discuss their health. Writer Lena Dunham made headlines after a stint in the hospital for her endometriosis. And just last month, TV anchor Aliya-Jasmine Sovani uploaded a powerful video to YouTube revealing her port-wine-stain birthmark and large scars that mark her body—which are often covered up when she’s on air. Together, along with a growing grassroots movement I’m proud to be a part of, we’re slowly normalizing these formerly unmentionable topics.

While bouncing between medical tests and various specialist appointments, a copy of our cover star Cameron Diaz’s new book, The Longevity Book, came across my desk. Her message in this paperback is exactly what I’m talking about here: we, as women, need to have an open dialogue about our health.

One passage in particular struck home with me: “I want to offer a perspective that is healthier and more scientifically accurate than the fear- and shame-based conversation that permeates our culture,” she writes. Because the reality is, we age. We get sick. We are not perfect and that’s okay.

For the longest time, I was tight-lipped about my health. I didn’t want to be a burden, or annoying, but mostly I was embarrassed. Embarrassed because my body wasn’t “normal.”

But I discovered that the more I talked about my symptoms and how I was feeling, the more I learned that I wasn’t alone. In fact, a whole lot of women in close circles of mine were silently suffering from similar symptoms.

It’s taken time to come to grips with my health struggles—even writing about them here didn’t come without hesitation—but I’m certain that the only way we move forward as women and as a culture is through open and honest dialogue.

So, I’m owning my body and all its ailments, and I’m encouraging everyone to do the same.

Because being silent and alone is no way to heal…and it certainly won’t make my hair grow back.