Here’s a Weird Anxiety Treatment: Dye Your Hair Pink
Everyone ALWAYS asks me about my hair, so let's clear some things up (just not my hair).
There’s kind of a lot going on in the picture above.
To start off, my hair is pink, but we’ll talk more about that in a moment. I’m also wearing a bronze medal from the 2021 IBJJF No-Gi Pans (I lost a heartbreaker in the semifinals), and I have a huge gash on my eye.
In my first match of the tournament, I got kicked in the face (I think — it’s all a blur at this point) and I spent the rest of the tournament bleeding profusely all over the mats, my opponents, and my clothes for the rest of the weekend. It was a mess, and so was I.
However, in the end, all of these things were incredibly temporary. I got over the loss and got right back to training on Monday. My pink hair faded. The scab healed up and became a scar. I got stitches for the first time.
All that’s survived from that weekend are a medal that now lives in my medal shoebox in my room, a scar right above my eyeball, and a few pictures where I look like a kid who’s trying way too hard to impersonate a Dragon Ball character at his Jiu-Jitsu tournament.
All that’s survived is the medal, those pictures, and an important life lesson I learned from competing in one of my biggest events of the year while having pink hair.
Hi, I’m… Super Anxious All the Time
Depending on the context that you meet me in, this is either incredibly obvious or (I’m assuming) a bit surprising. Either way, it’s very, very true. I’m very anxious. It’s kind of my thing.
I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve been depressed, I’ve experienced derealization for months and months at a time, and I take antidepressants every single day. I have for years now.
A few weeks ago, I was driving and I had to pull over to have a panic attack on the side of the road. I still don’t know what caused it. I just know that I get anxious.
The thing that causes me the most anxiety is decision-making. If you met me at Jiu-Jitsu, you’d probably meet what seems like a completely different person. At Jiu-Jitsu, I’m a go-getter, a hard worker, and I’m actually (kind of) extroverted. I make decisions every day, and I make them quickly. For the rest of my life, however, I am anxious, awkward, and petrified to make decisions.
That’s where the pink hair comes into play.
Pink Hair Exposure Therapy
Like I said, one of my biggest fears is lasting decision-making. I prefer to bounce from activity to activity, never actually committing to one because once I commit to one thing, it makes it real.
I’ve done this with hobbies, women, colleges, and jobs. Right now, I’m a contract worker for 7 different companies. I’m fully employed by no one but partially employed by 7 people. I’m committed to nothing, and it would be really easy for me to just say “fuck it” and leave my jobs whenever I feel like it. Self-destruction is really easy when everything is temporary.
I’m also pretty aware of this fear, so I decided to do some mild “exposure therapy” to address my fear of commitment and force myself to deal with the consequences of committing to something.
That’s why I dyed my hair pink. Once I dyed my hair, I was stuck with it for 2 weeks (at least). I typically avoid lasting commitment, so I forced myself into a situation where my options were to either stick it out (live with pink hair for several weeks and risk judgment) or shave my head. I viewed shaving my head as self-destruction, and I wanted to avoid self-destruction at all costs.
Because I made myself view the pink hair as a symbol of the thing that I was most afraid of, dying my hair became a micro-experiment where I was forced to deal with my fear at a small but manageable level.
Exposure therapy works, and the more severe your fear or phobia, the more necessary it is for you to develop safe conditions to confront that fear. Obviously, dying my hair pink didn’t cure me of all of my fears, but in the weeks that followed, I’ve noticed myself feeling more confident, a bit less anxious, and better equipped to deal with anxiety when it does appear in my life (it appears every day).
Closing Thoughts: You Should Also Have Pink Hair
A year and a half ago, I had dark brown hair, a lot more anxiety, and a crippling fear of expressing myself in any way. I wanted to stand out so bad that I instead chose to hide. That might make no sense to you, but to my anxious brain, hiding was a logical reaction to the desire to be expressive.
I recently had my one-year “bleach-a-versary”, and I’m still not perfect, but I’ve definitely come an insanely long way in a much shorter time than I ever would have expected. The hair is just hair, but it’s also more than that for me. It’s a symbol of my transformation and my commitment to the process of improving myself, confronting my fears, and showing my anxiety that it’s an obnoxious liar that can’t run my life. My hair is a way of shedding the skin of who I used to be.
Maybe one day I’ll go back to my natural, dark hair. But when I do, I’m going to have to find a new way to confront my anxiety square on. Until then, I’ll keep bleaching and doing my best to look like the Jiu-Jitsu incarnation of Naruto.
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