Bad Hair Life, Part 4

You can read Parts One, Two and Three by going here, here, and here.

…Around this time, I started getting into trouble at my job — for what must be obvious reasons. Vast swaths of my hair were magically going missing. I was more or less “secretly” drunk all the time, as a way of managing the stress of my life. In fact, I had begun secretly sleeping in a sleeping bag in my office, because I couldn’t bear leaving the place. I couldn’t bear the trauma of other people seeing me. In my current travail. I didn’t want anyone else to see me. Which is pretty much how I decided to kill myself.


I’d been having a bad day. And then this poem got stuck in my head. This is the other other thing that happens — you hear a voice in your head. This voice is not the voice of a stranger, nor of a foreigner — it is your own. Lie down and sleep, your voice says. Or, Kill yourself, you’ll be sorry if you don’t. And then this poem got stuck in my head. The voice said:

We ar but dust,
And dy we must.
It is generall
To be mortall:
I haue well espyde
No man may hym hyde
From Deth holow eyed…

Then it started to cycle and repeat.

No man may hym hyde
From Deth holow eyed…
No man may hym… hyde…
From Deth… holow eyed…

I couldn’t help but feel a little pleased. “Only you,” I said to myself, “would have a nervous breakdown while recalling an obscure early 15th century English poem.” I said this to myself, recognizing the self-congratulation behind the thought, and the self-congratulation behind the thought behind the thought. But as the poem was cycling in my head, I heard the sound of a distant foghorn. Our office was on the bay; the foghorn made a low desperate sound: …Whaaaa-whoooooh. Keening like a dying whale. It was the saddest thing that I had ever heard. And I couldn’t ever remember hearing anything that had ever made me feel more alone. So then I decided to kill myself. Which was a good news/bad news sort of thing. The bad news was, I had decided to kill myself. The good news was, deciding this meant I could stop the weeks of agonizing over whether to kill myself or not. The other good news was, my Trichotilliomania saved me; it actually stepped in and stopped me from killing myself.

But first, I actually tried to kill myself. Who, what, when, where, how, I thought. …What occurred to me then was to go out and buy a gun. And then I was like, “Fuck, a gun?!” I’m a liberal Democrat. I’d never even seen a gun. Except once. At a party, once, where drugs were being consumed, a guy, a guy with a turned-around baseball hat and a neck chain — the putative host of the party — popped out of nowhere, and said in a voice that was much too close to my ear: “HEY YOU GUYS WANNA SEE MY GUN?” “No!” I screamed. And that was the closest that I ever got to seeing a gun in real life. And since I was never going to find that party, or that guy on drugs again, that meant that I would have to go to Wal-Mart to get the gun, as far as I could tell. But then, sh-t, I’d be standing in line with fat people and redneck people and their crying babies. When I’m already depressed; depressed unto death. What could be worse? And then, sh-t, you just know that I’m going to forget my driver’s license or my passport or whatever. And then I’d have to drive back, depressed, and then drive back to Wal-Mart, depressed again. And then I’ll still have to wait two weeks to get the gun, and, ugh, forget it…


But this was just a diversionary ploy. This was just mere diversionary tactics on the part of my brain. The sad fact was, the Wal-Mart sh-t didn’t matter, because I couldn’t leave my office in the first place. My office, which was currently serving as my house. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t bear people seeing me in my ugly-hair state. And I quickly realized that all of the ways of killing myself pretty much involved leaving the house at some point. Even if only for supplies. Rope; nope, you’ve got to go out and get that. Knife, ditto. Poison, ditto, ditto. Jumping off a bridge, throwing yourself under a car; you have to leave for all of these.

I put my head in my hands and wept. There at the end of the world, by the sea with its boats and foghorns, off of Exit 81, at the ass-end of Florida. I wept for everything. I couldn’t go anywhere. I had failed. I had failed even at being able to kill myself. And my hair… my terrible horrible no-good hair day, my terrible horrible no-good hair life — this was actually the thing that saved me. Because I couldn’t leave; I couldn’t leave.


I quit my job a few days later. The whole time that I lived in Florida, in addition to all my other problems, I had felt subliminally sort of upside-down. It was weird. I’m from the North. In South Florida, there are no real seasons, no real trees — just palm trees. There are no real people, only the very young and the very old. With no real trees to block out the sun and sky, and the sea a reverse mirror of the sky, I felt disoriented, lost. Without bearings but more than that — upside-down, like I said; like I had entered a room where the tables and chairs were nailed to the ceiling. I can’t totally explain it.

And so, I remember a lot of things, but mostly I remember the day that I left. Riding in my convertible with the top pinned down, with my horrible scarred hair fluttering in the wind. A lot of bad things happened while I was in Florida, but I learned something, also. Here’s what I learned, if you like… The artist; the writer — if that’s what I now am — seeks to refine his own image, to perfect it. While the insane person — which is what I was — merely strips himself away, until he is nothing. …That’s the difference. Imagine a hillbilly whittling away at a stick, designing it, crafting it. If you whittle the right amount away, you get art. If you whittle too much away, you get nothing. You don’t even have a stick left, even. That’s the only difference.

I did a lot of bad things after I left Florida. After I left, I got crazier; I got worse before I got better. I did bad things. I threw chairs, started fights, broke windows, screamed, crashed cars. But what I remember most is that moment, on the highway, driving north in my convertible. I was driving north of Jacksonville, which is when real trees started reappearing, and I was so happy. I remember that moment, and I forgive myself for everything else that I did. I remember that moment — the palm trees shading into real trees — and I was so happy, because I was leaving.


—— FINIS ——

     _____  TC mark

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image – Gray945


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  • Kaitlyn

    Florida kills.

  • cyan

    actually thought of something that could have prevented others from seeing your state of hair.. but decided against posting it. dun wanna encourage a step towards suiciding.

    • Oliver Miller

      Heh.  Preventing “suiciding” is a good call.  But this was five years ago and I pull out my hair way less now.  I take Neurontin, which is a fine med that works really well.  TTMers, if you’re reading this and having hair troubles, I recommend Neurontin, or find some other medicine that works for you, please.

      • S. Kay

        Side effects? I thought I finally had it under control until I went home and saw the guy I’ve wanted for years. Now I think I’ve reversed my progress.

      • Oliver Miller

        I have not had any side-effects on Neurontin, and I’ve been taking it for nine months or so.  Not even, like, dry-mouth or anything lame like that.

      • Alex James2

         I suffered from TTM for about 3 years. It started when I was in my final year at high school. I remember a classmate remarking “you’re going bald, Alex”. A complicated mirror arrangement later and I realised I’d pulled so many hairs from my crown you could seen skin. It abated after that and despite several bouts during exam periods in my first two years at college you wouldn’t have known I had a problem. Ironically I’m starting to show signs of male pattern baldness, with a receding hairline, but at least it’s not of my own doing. It was a hard thing to beat, although my case was no where near as severe as yours. I still catch myself subconsciously rifling through my hair and have to make a concerted effort not to pull.

        Personal anecdote aside (sorry for waffling on there, it’s just I’ve never told anyone about that side of me before) I thought your pieces were very well written and look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  • Guest

    Dudes, are we forgetting that Hogwarts is in Florida?

    • Oliver Miller

      It wasn’t there yet when this took place.  Maybe that b-tch Hermoine could have helped me though.  I dunno; I’ve seen exactly one-and-a-half “Harry Potter” movies.  All I know is that Snape kills Dumbledore.

      • Hermione Granger

        Psh, that ‘b-tch’ could have cast a Hair-Thickening Charm and you’d be good to go.

      • Oliver Miller

        Sorry, I deleted my jokey comment ’cause it seemed weird to put jokes in the comments after the mega-sad ending.

  • Joycenancy

    What a perfect ending. Or a beginning of an ending of a beginning of an ending…[infinity]

    How strange our minds can be. I’m glad yours paralyzed you from hurting yourself, but was then able to propel you forward.

  • Danaynay

    Reading every part of this series made  me very squeamish and uncomfortable. I’m kind of glad it’s over, but enjoyed it nevertheless. Very effective writing! *shivers**resists touching hair*

  • Raymond Thimmes

    I will buy your novel when it is done. btw

    • Nika

      I’ll see your “buy your novel” and raise you a “marry you, Oliver Miller”

      • Oliver Miller

        Email me.  You’ll probably end up living in Japan or Canada though.  All my marriage proposals always do.

  • Nwairah


  • Tiffany

    You are being way too easy on Florida

    • Oliver Miller

      Well, I never had to live in Tallahassee like you.

  • Frida

    This was great. Like going on the journey with you in a way.

  • Anonymous

    i underestimated the complications of committing suicide. 
    thanks for pointing that out- you are right. the thought of standing in line at wal-mart is pretty horrific. 
    thanks for the awesome reads. oh my what will you write next?? A BOOOK!?

    • Oliver Miller

      Yeah, you think you’ll be like, “Oh, I’ll just kill myself — easy.”  Sigh.  Everything’s complicated.  “You might as well live,” etc.

  • Madi Caruso

    Oliver, you’re amazing. I’ll buy all your books. 

  • Peter H.

    Woah, cut Florida some slack! You can’t blame suicide one state…

  • Deedeekaufman

    I love how I can relate to this story, I don’t feel so crazy. (I play with my hair a lot)

  • Kate

    Thanks Oliver. I suffer from the same disorder, which waxes and wanes for me. It was interesting to read a male’s perspective on how much anxiety trichotillomania can cause. For me the shame has been greatly decreased by sharing information about my f-ed up behaviour with loved ones. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by great family and friends who haven’t shown me any judgmental reactions. Maybe, in private, they think it’s weird but I don’t really care anymore. Funny how not caring as much how others feel about it has helped me control the behaviour. At least I’m not boring:) BTW, even if your “marriage proposal girl” lives in Canada, you shouldn’t write her off. She may be far away, but if she’s a fabulous, beautiful Canadian woman like myself, you can’t go wrong. :)

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