Hair color means more to Iltzch than just a style
March 27, 2015
Coming back from a psychologist meeting with boxes of hair dye in front of her, Katt Iltzch, started a tradition that would last her the next three years. Every month she would dye her hair.
This started with the mixture of school bullying and family issues that lead Iltzch into a depression her sixth grade year. The depression lead her mother to start taking her to counseling for emotional distress.
Her mother noticed Iltzch distancing herself from others and beginning to self-harm. Out of fear that she would harm herself further Iltzch spent the next two weeks going to counseling.
Shortly after her last counseling meeting Iltzch made a decision: to dye her hair to express how she felt. She had just returned home from a psychologist meeting with hair dyes in front of her and could not decide what color she wanted to dye her hair.
She was thinking about the meeting she had just had when she thought to herself, “why not mix my feelings with the color of my hair and show my feelings through hair color?”
The tradition had started.
“From then on at the end of a month I would put all the emotions I felt during that month into a color then dye my hair that color,” explained Iltzch.
“Change in appearance or expressing yourself through appearance is a possible coping skill. Usually with teens, a change in style can make them feel good and better about themselves. It’s important though to know this is only a short term coping skill and you should address the deeper issue as well,” therapist Jenna from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said.*
To express the way Iltzch felt about her mom and step dad arguing she decided her first color would be red to express the anger she felt about it.
“When Katt first dyed her hair I thought, ‘why not, might as well let her do it and get it out of her system now while she’s figuring out who she is’,” said Amy Johnson, Iltzch’s mother.
Johnson supports her daughter and will continue to because she believes at this point it has become a part of who her daughter is. She sees nothing wrong in her daughter’s decision and feels it is important that she allows her daughter to express herself.
“It should be important to any parent for their child to express who they are. I believe it’s easier for a child to be themselves instead of dictating how they should be or who you want them to be. If she didn’t dye her hair then I would think there was something wrong,” said Johnson.
Although Iltzch’s tradition makes sense to her, not everyone understands. Iltzch has never told anyone the real reason she dyed her hair each month.
She felt she would get more criticism if they knew the truth- that she had a history with depression, self-harm, and had needed counseling. She would rather receive the criticism she does for being “different.”
“Still I would get angry hearing people say mean comments. I didn’t understand how someone could say stuff like that face to face or why can’t they keep their comments to themselves?” Iltzch said.
Iltzch received criticism from her peers and would walk the halls hearing comments like, “you look like trash” or “your hair is going to fall out.”
Even when she would go over to her friends’ houses she would receive criticism from her friends’ parents. They would tell her what she’s doing is not healthy and that she is just trying to go for a “rebel look.”
“It was disappointing that even older people weren’t understanding of how I looked and my decision of what I wanted to do,” said Iltzch.
Through all the comments that were intended to hurt her, Iltzch continues to dye her hair. She continues to not only help only help express herself but to show others that if they want to look a certain way but are afraid of being judged the criticism is not that bad.
Iltzch wants to break the stereotype of what is perceived as “normal” and show people they should not be afraid to stand out from the crowd. To do this she believes she should continue her tradition even though she is criticized to show it is possible to handle mean comments and still do what you want.
“Teens often feel they need to look a certain way because society tells us what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘pretty’ and that can put a lot of pressure on teens,” explained Jenna.
For now, Iltzch has no plans of stopping her tradition anytime soon and will continue to express herself and do what she believes is building the confidence of others to look how they want without fear.
(*therapists from the Nebraska Health and Human Services hotline do not give out their last name.)