Updated: Aug 27, 2019
If you follow my blog or podcast, you know I’m all about being real. I don’t hide a lot. So, I’m happy to share this part of me with you. Alopecia. This is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack the hair follicles. There are different kinds, some people lose hair over their entire body, some in just patches on their head and others lose all of the hair on their head and the rest of their body seems unaware that this is happening. Me? Well, I have this crazy mutated type where I have lost the hair on my arms, parts of my eyebrows, much of my eyelashes and patches all over my head. Being unique is not all it’s cracked up to be sometimes!
I describe the challenges of alopecia differently than the medical books. It’s an emotional beast of an autoimmune disease. Always lurking. Always waiting to strike. If you connect with others who have this disease, you’ll find that the symptoms are far beyond just hair and can include exhaustion, ripples and dimpling in your fingernails, skin issues, itching and soreness in the areas where a flare up is occurring and often depression and anxiety present themselves. In a society that values appearances, especially in women, losing hair is like losing part of your identity. And women of color….dang, ya’ll can rock bald like nothing else! I’m a little jealous of that! I’ve envisioned myself bald and even altered pictures to see what it would be like if I ever did lose all of my hair! It...is...not...pretty!
I was dx in June of 2016. I woke up one morning at 5:00, like I always did. I started to brush my hair, looked in the mirror and did a double take. Sure enough, it was like my hairline receded by an inch, at least, over night. I was DEVASTATED! I had a prominent position at my job and felt like everyone was going to be judging me. I took that day off and got an emergency appointment at the doctor and was dx. No reason given except it was probably due to stress...excellent. My journey was a long one, but through the ups and downs, I learned a lot from this and for that I’m grateful. Whether you have alopecia or some other disease, you may not be to the point of gratitude for that journey, but I think we all get there at some point. Here are some of the many life lessons alopecia has taught me.
1. Your beauty comes from the inside. Truly, I know what you’re thinking because if one more person says “it’s just hair”, girl, I may just blow. The truth is, it really is just hair, but I don’t want anyone else saying it! My happiness, strength and attitude define my beauty. I don’t know if I realized that until someone told me that they were proud of how I was handling it because I just seemed like myself and was still smiling and happy. They were right. I was still happy. My hair didn’t make me happy and lack of my hair didn’t ruin me. I was and still am me and my beauty radiates from that happiness, from inside.
2. My happiness is based on my perspective. I know that upon the onset, it may not seem like it. It may seem like no man (or woman) will ever find you attractive. It may feel like people are judging you everywhere you go. And, that second part may be true. But we all carry our own burdens. I’m a mom to two beautiful babies (fine, they are not babies anymore but they’ll always be my babies!), both with their own set of gifts and challenges. I’m healthy. I have a beautiful relationship. I still have my mom in my life. I have food on the table, clothes on my back and a roof over my head. If my dad was alive, he’d tell me that this is just a speed bump in life. And, ya know what? He’d be right. Keep your perspective. This sucks, no doubt, but it could be so much worse! Try to focus on what you are grateful for in your life. Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t really helped me keep it together.
3. It’s okay to cry. Stop holding it in! I’ve cried enough for all of us, I’m sure. I always say, it’s okay to have a pity party, but the party has to end sometime! Cry your little eyes out, but, honey, ya gotta move on. Actually, I think the tears helped with the process. I cry every time I get a flare up, then my support team tells me I’m beautiful and they love me no matter what my hair does, I do a little shopping therapy and get on with life. It’s okay to let those emotions flow, just find a way to lift yourself back up.
4. There is no right way to deal with disappointments in life. If you need to become wig obsessed (eh hem), like yours truly, that’s fantastic. If you choose to go bald, more power to ya, sister! If you choose just to rock what ya got and go with it, then call yourself a winner. No one gets to choose your path except you! I became wig obsessed. Truly, they are fantastic, maybe a little annoying, but overall not a big deal. My hair is always perfect. Humidity don’t bother me none (I should turn that into a little blues diddy). I’m out the door in like 7 minutes. I can be blonde today, brunette tomorrow and pink for a party. It’s my life, my head and frankly, my pocketbook. One of my favorite stories involves a friend of mine who’s African American. I was wearing this cute little asymmetrical bob that was a brown to purple ombre. I loved it. It was in July 2016 and I had just been diagnosed in June...so this was still a fresh wound. She told me repeatedly that she loved my hair. At that point, I still felt like I was lying to people, being something I wasn’t. So, I whispered, shamefully, that I was wearing a wig and why. She said, and I quote, “Honey, black women have been wearing wigs for decades, you white women are just figuring it out. You rock that hair and you need to own it.” I’m not sure if many things people have said to me, about this condition, have been as impactful as what she said that day!
5. Be you! Deal with this the way you need to...as long as it’s legal! I cut off a colleague from my circle because she told me this was my fault! What? Come on! No negativity in my circle! Do what you need to do to get through this process and come out stronger. There is no right or wrong way to deal. If you are dealing with any issue that is impactful to you, I encourage you to find your own path and be confident in your choices. I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that there is no shame in seeking professional help. I made it through this without that support, but, honestly, I pondered it a few times. This goes right back to doing what YOU need to do. Stay strong. Stay positive. Stay faithful.
I believe in a few guiding cliches:
-If the good Lord brings me to it, He’ll, sure enough, see me through it
-Everything happens for a reason
-Life is what you make it
As cliche as they are, these statements help me to keep my faith and try to see purpose in problems. Go out, spread your own special sparkle and live the life of which you were blessed.
Sending positive vibes...