“For me, alopecia has been a detrimental, eye-opening, beautiful, scary, and unpredictable journey all in one. It is an experience that has changed the way I view life and myself. I had to experience losing a part of me that I never thought I would. Hair carried a lot of importance for my self-worth and identity. Losing my hair was, and is, one of the most challenging things I have ever dealt with.
When I was a young girl, about 6 years old, I vaguely remember my mother putting an ointment on my scalp. I had no idea what it was for. Unaware I had even lost a patch of hair about the size of a quarter on the back of my head, I carried on with my life, not worrying about anything. I was a happy kid, and my hair meant very little to me. It was not until I was in my late teenage years I found out I had something called alopecia areata, and my life profoundly changed.
The next time I lost hair, I was 18 and this time, I was old enough to grasp the meaning behind this disease. I was home from university for the holidays when my mother pointed it out to me, this time bigger than the last. I didn’t believe her when she told me. I immediately stormed to the bathroom to investigate, and in fact, right there on the back of my head, a huge bald spot was staring back at me. I instantly panicked and my heart sank.
By this time, I knew what alopecia was and that made it a whole lot worse. I never knew why I lost my hair during this time. I thought it could have been from stress or maybe an imbalance of hormones. I had been trying a new birth control pill but my body never regulated while I was on it. So I soon stopped taking it and my hair started to grow back in. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence or related. I feel as though my hormones play a huge role in my alopecia.
The next few weeks after that discovery were tough. I had to tell my boyfriend at the time I was going bald, and that was heartbreaking for me. I tried my best to constantly hide it by doing certain hairstyles, hair extensions, and using any kind of hair growth product on the market. But nothing could change the way I thought about myself or my situation. I soon became unhappy, pessimistic, and heartbroken. I needed to do something, anything. So, I booked an appointment with a dermatologist. That was the first time I started using a topical steroid for hair growth, and to my surprise, it started working. My bald spot slowly began to grow back in. I thought that was the end of it. Oh boy, was I in for another surprise.
Have you ever had one of those life-altering experiences where you are on the edge of life or death? Thinking the world would be a better place without you or you are so unworthy of any kind of love there is no point in existing. That was me in early 2020. My alopecia really took a turn for the worse at the end of 2019. I had some major hormonal changes happening from my IUD, incredible amounts of stress from getting a new job, moving to a new city, and starting a new life after university. This time around was different. It was not just one spot anymore… it was more than half my head. The more I stressed about my hair falling out, the more I lost. I spent hours alone in the bathroom analyzing my head and thinking of ways to stop my hair loss. It was this vicious cycle I could not escape. It sucked me back in time and time again. I was truly drowning beneath this disease, searching for a break to catch my breath. But that never came.
My alopecia happened suddenly this time, I ended up losing most of my hair in a matter of months, along with every ounce of my confidence and self-worth. Over the few months, it took for my hair to fall out, I remember most of those nights I hysterically cried myself to sleep, just to wake up and go through the motions of my day. I felt like I was watching myself from the outside in, constantly lifting my head up and telling myself to ‘just get through today.’
I had seen many different doctors throughout these months, hoping one of them would have the magic pill to stop this autoimmune disease. None of them did, and I started to lose hope. I had countless blood tests done to try to find any imbalances or signs. It seemed like I tried everything on the market, from PRP therapy to topical steroid creams, to Kenalog injections into the scalp, to lowering my stress and changing my diet, to pills… you name it. I was mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. I just wanted everything to stop. The way I treated the people I loved changed, my energy to participate in the simplest of tasks was gone, my motivation dwindled, the person I used to be was gone.
So, during this time I hit my lowest. The moment that made me realize if I do not act now, something much worse than losing my hair would happen. This is the point in my story where I locked myself in the bathroom and shaved my head. My boyfriend (the biggest supporter in my life) was at work, and I always told him if it came to this point, he could be the one to shave my head. However, that is not how it happened. It was at a point where if I did not shave my head right then, I would chicken out and never do it. So that’s when I did it. With every stroke of the razor I cried, but I also felt a sense of freedom, and dare I say it, happiness.
I felt an enormous sense of liberation while shaving my head. It was as though each time I ran the razor through my hair, the stress went with it. However, the reality I was now bald had settled in. I could no longer run my fingers through my hair or hide behind it. There was nothing I could do to get my hair back. It was gone, and what was left of it was piled up in the sink. It took me a while to actually build up the courage to leave the safety and privacy of my bathroom, but eventually, I did.
The first person to see me bald was my friend who was living with me at the time. Next, my boyfriend’s mother came and saw me, then my boyfriend came home from work that night and saw me too. I was so incredibly overwhelmed at this point with every emotion you can think of. I was so proud of myself yet felt so embarrassed. One minute, I felt beautiful bald and the next,t I could not even look at myself in the mirror. I was happy, yet a part of me was still missing.
The next few months I had to adjust my life to being bald. I had to modify my work life as well as my social life. Working as a dental hygienist during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had many personal protective equipment changes. One of the new requirements was wearing scrub caps, so I now just wear the cap over my head without having to wear my wig. So overall the adjustment to work was quite easy, it was the social life changes that were challenging. I had to start purchasing wigs and headwraps and learning how to wear them properly. I learned to wear my wigs while playing sports, and in public. Being bald around my close friends and family was not too hard for me, however, being out in public was and still is.
I have struggled with body image for as long as I can remember, and now being a bald woman adds to that. It is something I work at every single day because I know someone’s beauty is not defined by their outward appearance. Once I started focusing on that life for me soon started turning around. I found I slowly started to like not having hair, I was happy to not have to worry about handfuls of hair falling out while brushing or washing it. I did not constantly check my head in the mirror for new bald spots anymore. I slowly started to obsess over it less and less. I began living my life again. I had found this new confidence I never had before.
Around November 2020, I noticed a substantial amount of regrowth. At this point, I was seeing my dermatologist monthly for Kenalog injections in my scalp. I felt hopeful to see so much regrowth at the time. It lasted until around February 2021. After a few months of regrowth, I began noticing my hair began falling out again… I remember going into my dermatologist’s office for another round of shots and he told me not to worry because seeing relapse in alopecia patients is quite common. I had mixed emotions during this time. I so desperately wanted my hair to grow back, but I was losing it just as fast as it was trying to grow. Along with that, I started feeling many side effects from the Kenalog. My body and mind started going downhill once again.
After a couple weeks of consideration, it came to a point where I shaved my head for the second time. Since then, my alopecia has been very unpredictable. Some areas are starting to regrow, while others are completely bald. At this point in my life, I currently keep my head shaved and am not doing any kinds of treatments. I found this way my body and mind feel the healthiest. My goal, for now, is to let my alopecia run its course. If I start getting regrowth, I will be happy, but if not, I will still be happy. I’m learning each day to love myself the way I am.
Over the past year, I have encountered some of the most challenging obstacles I have ever faced before. Alopecia took my life and flipped it completely upside down. It has taken me on a wild rollercoaster of emotions, making me discover the strength I never knew I had. Being a bald woman has given me this new appreciation for anyone else who has experienced a trial like this.
From finding my first bald spot to losing all my hair, to where I am now, I am thankful for the experience. It has taught me no matter how you look externally, who you are on the inside and how you treat others is what truly matters. The impact you have on other people’s lives and how you make them feel is what’s important. I’ve had to learn to feel beautiful in my own skin and to accept my uniqueness as that’s what makes me, me.
If you’ve made it this far, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to share my story with you. Thank you for taking the time to read this and know my door is always open for anyone who feels like they need to talk or wants to ask any questions about my experience.”
This story was submitted toLove What Mattersby Sarah Broadhead of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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