Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chronically Shannon's Salon- cheap, non toxic hair lightening treatment!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not modest when it comes to my hair. Since the tender age of 13, I've had all different kinds of extreme cuts, styles, and colors. It's been short, long, curly, straight, shaved and asymetrical. It's been every color of the rainbow in both solids and combinations. Every time I change my hair I feel like a new person for a few days. It's one of the ways that I express my moods, tastes, and opinions.

I did always have what I call my "default color"- the color that I always seem to return to and that color is Blue Black. I always love the way I look with black hair no matter what, but the creative inside me gets bored with it and decides to go for something else every few months. I can still remember vividly the look of sheer terror on my hair stylist's face when I would walk into the salon with blue black hair and tell them that I want Gwen Stefani blonde, or hand them an assortment of colored tubes and say that I want highlights that cover every shade of pink in its color family. It got to the point that they would automatically block off about 4 hours for me when I would call for an appointment LOL.

Since I came down with Shannon's disease many many things have changed in my life, one being my hair. I've always had really healthy, thick hair but last year it began to thin and fall out. At one point it was falling out by the clumps, and I would have to do a full sweep of the bathroom floor after brushing it. When I saw my first bald spot, I cried for days. The illness had taken so much away from me, and now it was taking my hair. At this point it was long to the middle of my back, and I made the decision to get a version of the pixie cut. This way I could strategically style the hair to hide the bald spots.

But the good news is that after a couple of months on the WAP/GAPS/ATS (my own combination of the Weston A Price, Gut & Psychology, and Atkins diet) my hair grew back and is no longer falling out. In fact, it is healthier than its ever been.

I did grow to love the pixie cut. I love that I can throw some wax into it and spike it a bit, or I can blow it out and put a bit of shine into it for a softer look. Washing and styling it is a snap, and in this Florida heat its nice to not have a mess of hair to deal with. I wear all sorts of headbands, clips, and head scarves. I'm even wearing more hats now. This cut satisfies both the rebel and the conservative in me, plus it gives me the variety that I need. I just love it!

When I first cut it, it was blue black. One of the added bonuses to cutting it off was that it cut off all that black, and now I had a fresh clean palette! I could have any color I wanted and it would be an easy process for once! But there was just one problem with all of this....Shannon's disease comes chock full of weird sensitivities and allergies. Being allergic to almost every chemical on earth doesn't make hair coloring a simple process!

So I reluctantly accepted the fact that I was just going to have to live with the color that God gave me. I hadn't actually seen my true real color in over a decade, so I thought it might be fun to let it go and see what comes out. Turns out, I have a very drab and boring ash brown color. Much different from the sandy blonde I was as a kid.

Naturally I did not take this lying down. I was determined to find a way to have Shannon hair again. I found a few companies who make plant based hair dye, but they didn't offer too many options. I thought of going back to black, but really didn't want to considering I have a clean palette for once. What a waste! I discovered that Manic Panic is actually very low in toxins, is vegan, and does not have parabens. I could do that! But then I remembered the days of getting totally chewed out by my mom for turning the bathtub multiple colors. Manic Panic is not permanent, unfortunately. Back to the drawing board.

Just when I was about to give up I found that the company Herbatint makes a few shades of vivid red and purple. Yes PURPLE!! And it's permanent! So I ordered a box of Herbatint in Violet. Hooray for purple hair!

Now came the tricky part. I was going to have to figure out how to lighten up this drab brown hair to a blonde that's light enough to display the vivid violet color. I'm going for grape, not mud-berry. Bleaching is such a harsh treatment, even for those who don't have chemical sensitivities. After a few more days of research, I figured out a way to lighten it to the shade I need using only hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.

I gave it a try and it worked! It lightened my hair substantially enough to make the purple pop, and it did so much less damage than the stuff they use in the salons. Best part of all it was cheap! a box of baking soda cost me $1 and a bottle of H2O2 was $2. I did have to get one of those hood attachments that fit on the end of the blow dryer so that I could apply heat. That was the most expensive thing, costing me $10. So in total I spent $13..a far cry from the normal minimum $100 I would drop in the salon! So here's the recipe:

Shannon's non-toxic hair bleach

Please note that I am not a professional hair stylist! Results can vary from person to person.

What you need:

  • A bowl with a hair coloring brush (you can get these at a beauty supply really cheap)
  • Gloves- plastic or latex (depending if you have an allergy)
  • Heat hood hair dryer attachment (This is the one I got from Sally beauty supply)
  • An old t-shirt to wear that you don't care about
  • 6 Tablespoons of baking soda (aluminum free of course!)
  • 4 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 tablespoons or so of your own conditioner (this makes the mixture easier to spread. I used Aubrey organics honeysuckle conditioner)

Stir the ingredients up in a bowl. Note: do not try to make this mixture in a covered bottle or container. it will explode! Mixture should be creamy and spreadable, not watery. Then apply to your hair with the coloring brush, sectioning it so that you distribute the mixture evenly. Once the mixture is in your hair, sit down in a comfortable place and use the heat hood. You'll need to check it every 15 minutes or so depending on how light you want your hair. I wanted mine as light as possible so I checked it at 30 min and then left it on for an additional 30 min. I would not recommend leaving it on your hair longer than an hour without washing it out.

This is how it looked when I started:

Here I am having a little fun with the dryer. I feel like a space alien with this thing on LOL!

My hair is pretty strong so I decided to do two processes in one day. I applied, processed for an hour, rinsed and then did it again. This is how it came out:

To give my hair a break, I waited 3 days before processing again. Here it is after a total of 4 processes (note: the tips are still dark because I still had a bit of the old black left over):

This was light enough for me, as I was not going to be leaving it this color.
I did this with virgin, non-dyed hair so it was pretty easy to get the results I wanted. I imagine that with colored hair it would be a little more difficult, but will still lighten. Just not as drastically. I'm planning to give my mom some highlights on her colored hair so I will post those results. Also I did a coconut oil treatment to afterwards to add back moisture.

I would not recommend doing this without heat. If you are going for highlights, just section it off with foils like they would in the salon.

Have fun with this! It's a great and gentle way to lighten your hair without subjecting yourself to harmful chemicals. Who says that people with multiple chemical sensitivities can't have cool hair too?!!! Now I'm off to see how this purple Herbatint comes out! :) :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Questioning Your Thoughts

Lately I have been studying the work of Byron Katie, a psychologist with a very different approach to overcoming fears, anxieties, anger, and other negative thoughts. In her method called "The Work", she advocates self inquiry as a means to reduce the effect that these negative thoughts have on our minds and bodies. The reason I was drawn to her in the first place was because of her own personal past. Byron Katie worked in a very stressful job, was unhappy in her marriage, and allowed her negative thoughts to rule her life for many years. Eventually, she fell into such deep depression and chronic fatigue that she spent an entire year in bed.

There is no doubt in my mind that stress and years of negative thoughts and fears is what led to the initial break down of my body. As I progress further in my journey of feeling, I realize more and more how strong the mental component of this illness really is. We don't think about it much at the time, but emotions and thoughts really do effect the body. Just think of how your body feels when you are mad, sad, or afraid. Everything tenses up as the body gears itself up to fight the threat or run away from it. If this becomes a chronic happening, eventually the body just can't take it anymore and something is bound to break down.

The thing I love about Byron Katie's approach is that it is not clinical at all, and doesn't involve numerous steps to remember. I've tried several different types of negative emotion reducing techniques and none of them have really stuck. Most of them have way too many steps to remember, or they are just not practical enough to employ in a spur of the moment situation. EFT worked to a degree, but it was still too many steps to remember. And also if the anxiety hits you in public you look like even more of a loon as you tap different parts of your body, mumbling various phrases to yourself that end with the words "I love and accept myself completely". Not saying that EFT doesn't do any good, but it's really not practical at all times.

So "The Work"'s really just 3 easy steps to remember.

1. Question your thoughts. Ask yourself " Do you believe that thought?""Can you absolutely know it's true?"

First thing to do is identify the negative thought that is upsetting you. Then question it. Do you really believe that thought? Do you absolutely know for a fact that it's true? I'll give an example of something that personally happened to me recently:

The other day I got a call from my vet. He told me that my beloved cat Maslow was having kidney issues. After hanging up the phone I immediately panicked. I jumped right on the emotional roller coaster of anxiety (fear), sadness, and anger. My body tensed and trembled, my chest tightened, and the tears flowed like an uncontrollable flood. I immediately began to visualize false memories that had not even happened- watching Maslow suffer, seeing him being euthanized at the vets office, waking up in the morning to find him dead. Meanwhile in reality, he's on the floor in front of me playfully batting around his favorite catnip toy, care free and happy as can be. 

I watched him for a minute and stopped to think about the initial thoughts that were upsetting me. First thought was "Maslow is going to die soon. I am going to lose him." Then I questioned myself. Do I really  believe that? Not really. Here he is in front of me, playing with his favorite toy. 7 months ago I thought I was going to die too and I'm still here. Next thought- "His condition is incurable." Do I really believe that? NO! They told me that my RSWS was incurable too, yet here I am 2 weeks without any salt water or medication and doing fine! 

Next I asked myself, "Do I absolutely know that Maslow is incurable and going to die soon? Do I know for a fact that it's true?" No I really don't know if that's true. I can't predict the future. I have no crystal ball. I can think those things to be possibilities, but I can't absolutely know if its a true fact. So I'm worrying about something that I don't even know for a fact is really going to happen. 

2. How do you live with or without that thought?

Next thing is to notice what the thought does to you. How does it make you feel? What does it do to your body? The thoughts about Maslow being incurable and dying made me feel afraid. They made me feel sad and hopeless. I felt angry at the idea that there is nothing I can do to cure him. My body was tense and my head felt heavy. My chest felt tight and it was hard to breathe. My eyes burned from the tears and every muscle hurt. I thought about how I feel with this thought both physically and mentally. No part of it was good at all! 

Next, think about how you would feel without that thought. If it had never crossed your mind. This part is not about whether or not its true, its about noticing what the thought really does to you. If I hadn't have had those negative thoughts about Maslow, I would still be going on with my evening and getting myself ready to see a friend. I would have kept laughing at my silly kitty entertaining himself with his toy. I would have continued to feel the warm, loving feeling that I have while watching him play. I would have stayed relaxed and happy. 

3. Turn the thought inside out and around

Finally, take the thought and turn it inside out. Turn it around in as many ways as you can. This helps to see all the different angles to the situation. It makes the original negative thought seem much less untrue, which in turn makes it much less threatening and in many cases will even make you realize how silly and unreasonable it is. Take my original negative thoughts for example:

"Maslow is going to die soon. This incurable disease is killing him."


1."Maslow is NOT going to die soon. The disease is NOT killing him." (He's still alive, right here right now. He's playing and happy. Maybe the vet misdiagnosed him. You already know how doctors are notorious for that! He's not in any pain, and he's not acting any different than normal.)

2. "Maslow is killing the disease". (With the proper care and diet, many cats live a long and happy life with kidney disease. Some even over come it. Maslow is young and healthy overall. His body is still strong and he can heal. Maybe we caught it early enough.)

3. "Maslow's disease is killing me" (If I drive myself crazy with worry, panic, and negative feelings I am only going to make my own health worse. I will undo all the work I have done so far in my recovery, because the root of my health problems is stress.)

4." I am killing Maslow's disease" (I will take the best care of him as possible so that he can heal.)

There are probably more turnarounds, but even these few make the original thought seem much less believable. I have shown myself that there are many possibilities to this situation, lots of them very positive. My mind is now much more at ease, and I don't feel as afraid anymore. 

Some turnarounds can even make you see the positive in a thought that started out to be very negative. For instance, take the thought "I am going to lose my job." This thought is very common, and no doubt has crossed our minds at least once. At first its really bad and scary. But then a few turnarounds can actually make it seem like a good thing (believe it or not!) If you lost your job, that gives you the freedom to look for a job that's more fulfilling. A place where you're treated better and appreciated more. Or maybe losing that job will motivate you to get into a career that you've always wanted. Now that you're not stuck in that office anymore you can pursue your dream of helping special needs children. Perhaps now that you don't have to spend 9 hours a day at your former job, you can now have a job that requires you to be there less. Now you can spend more time with your family.

Those are just a few examples, but you get the picture. Negative thoughts can really put a chokehold on our lives!  They affect our health, relationships, productivity and emotional well being. They cause us to miss out on so many wonderful things that life has to offer!

I spent years swimming in a sea of negative thoughts. I walked around afraid, angry, and depressed. It got so bad that it became complete habit for me to automatically jump to negative conclusions. It was only when I learned to question my thoughts, notice what they do to me, and then turn them around that I started to realize how completely irrational and even down right ridiculous most of my thoughts and perceptions were. Like any factor of true healing, it has not been an overnight success. Old habits die hard, and its taking a good amount of effort to sort out years of a bad wiring job. But I can honestly say that having the courage to stand up to these "monsters" and question them in their face has brought me new found peace of mind that I have not felt in years. 

If you want to read more about "The Work" of Byron Katie, I highly recommend her book "Loving What Is". You can find it on used for as little as $1.00- a worthwhile investment if you ask me! 

The simple method can be applied to any negative thought in any situation. I encourage you to give it a try and I hope that it brings you as much peace as it has brought me :)

Peace and Love,