Liz Jones: In which I lose my crowning glory

I’m not a vain person. I might write a column about my life, but I don’t really care about myself or what is in my head.

But then. I went almost bald. And suddenly I did care.

It happened one night. It wasn’t gradual. It was sudden. It was a shock. I had washed my hair before a trip to London for work the next day. While it was still wet, I walked my dogs. I got back. My hair was one big, matted lump. Dreadlocks. What the hell? It wasn’t that windy, was it? What was going on?

Abbey Lossing at handsomefrank.com

When I lived in London – oh, happy days! – I washed my hair every morning. Due to the pollution, the water would run black. It was my ritual. But in the countryside, with cleaner air, I only wash it when I’m about to go out for dinner, say, or on a date (rare) or am in town for work.

I started to untangle my hair using my fingers, and as I did so, I was shocked to find great big hanks in my hands. At first, I thought this was because I hadn’t brushed it. This is normal, surely. Nothing to worry about. Calm, Lizzie. Calm. I collected the hair and put it on the fire, where it fizzed, like a firework.

The next day, I broke the habit of a lifetime: I looked in the mirror. Never a good idea. My head looked smaller – tiny, like a pea. I could see scalp. I gathered my hair in my fist: it was no longer thick. It felt flimsy. Insubstantial.

Fear set in. I didn’t want to confront it. I didn’t want to put my hair in a top knot for a bath, as surely the elastic hair tie would confirm my deepest fears. I didn’t want to wash my hair, because of the fear of what I would find in the plughole: evidence. I didn’t want to go out.

I didn’t want to book my usual roots tint, as I was afraid the hairdresser would recoil and confirm my suspicions. A friend suggested a dog walk: I asked her if she had a spare beanie. In a strong wind, I would put my hand to my scalp, just to check I wasn’t completely bald.

My hair has always been my thing. I have always had long, dark, thick hair. It is my armour, my protection. My hair has been a constant. I hide behind it. I play with it. I swish it. Men love it. As you hover over them, naked, you tickle them with it. I was always glad, relieved, that my hair covered my breasts, the horrible scars, the abnormal nipples.

I kept thinking I was wrong. That it was normal. That it was a passing thing, to do with spring.

It was like grief, losing my hair. These things aren’t supposed to happen. Products are supposed to help. As a child I had split ends: I bought Protein 21 in Boots; I could only afford the sachet.

During puberty, my scalp was greasy. I bought products: Wella Balsam, Breck. When I started to go grey, I bought products. But this! This!

I went to the Harley Street Hair Clinic. Of course, I did. The lovely doctor told me his wife has thinning hair: children, career decisions, stress. I don’t care about your wife! I only care about me! He prescribed vitamins. He said something must have happened about seven months ago to cause this sudden hair loss.

I look at my calendar. At that time, I was ill, suffering from vertigo and vomiting. Was that it? Or was it the medication, which I’ve now stopped. I don’t want to be bald. I’d rather throw up and still have hair. We can fix skin problems with make-up. Wrinkles with surgery. I don’t want to wear a wig. I have enough problems. Why is this happening to me?

It’s like the final straw. First cuckolded. Then penury. Illness. And now light bounces off my scalp. I can be enjoying my morning porridge and find I’m eating hair. The washing machine is protesting. My pillow is blighted. The hair loss is like a symbol of my fallibility.

It never occurred to me that this would happen. Why didn’t Vogue warn me? Why can no one do anything other than laugh and stare?

Read more of Liz’s diaries here