I’m an Everygirl, and… I’m Losing My Hair

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. I adored my curls — in non-humid weather — and I loved how thick and luxurious it could look and feel when I put in a little effort to tame that frizzy, Hermione Granger-esque mane. On the other hand, my ethnic background means that I’m on the more hirsute side of the spectrum, and that has been the bane of my existence ever since an eleven year-old boy with an expression of utmost disgust asked me in front of the entire classroom why I didn’t shave.

Needless to say, that very evening, I stole my dad’s unopened razor and shaved every inch of my body until I was rid of every single “unsightly” follicle of black hair. My teenage years were very much filled with raw, just-waxed, and epilated skin. I prayed for years for God to make all the hair on my body disappear.

It’s ironic, then, that at twenty-five years old, my hairdresser discovered two round bald patches on my head.

Through my own panicked self-examination over the next few weeks, I discovered six more bald patches, a total of eight smooth circles of scalp with not a single follicle growing.

Cue the devastation and panic. I went to my nephrologist and asked whether it was a lupus flare-up — because if it’s lupus, at least I know there’s chance of it all growing back. But he very quickly said no and referred me to a skin specialist, who promptly said two words: alopecia areata. An autoimmune condition where your body attacks the hair follicles, usually on the head, but it can affect the entire body.

She immediately started me on Shincort injections — which can be pretty painful, by the way, and did some awful things to my menstrual cycle.

I was hopeful, though. She informed me that all her patients responded very well to treatment and would see re-growth within two to three monthly sessions. But as three sessions became four became five became six, I’d listen with increasing depression as she told me there was little to no improvement. Additionally, the injections were taking a toll on me, resulting in a period every two weeks and my scalp sinking in at the injection sites. And I simply couldn’t afford to spend that much every month anymore.

It felt like a cruel joke; that all my years of pedantic prayer for my body hair to disappear — and I had very specific prayers — and one day I’m losing my hair, just not where I wanted to. In the end, I was praying for my hair to come back. To grow as thick and lovely as it used to. To be able to style my hair prettily rather than just leaving it down, for fear that people would see, that people would point out my bald patches, that I’d be the girl losing her hair in her twenties.

I decided to stop the injections and use more natural remedies. Castor oil, tea tree oil, gluten free diets, bone broth, and meditation. It hasn’t helped. Or if it has, it’s practically unnoticeable. I still suffer from bouts of depression when I think about my hair, and I spend hours scouring the internet for new treatments and looking at pictures of bald women, trying to make myself feel better.

 

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I can readily admit that it hurts. It’s a constant source of despair and anxiety for me, which I know doesn’t help at all, since there’s a link between alopecia and stress. I’m constantly afraid that I really will go bald. I’m afraid of what people will say. Will they laugh? Will they curl their lips in disgust? Will they pity me or patronize me? Will they think I’m ugly?

And I’m entitled to those feelings, to all that fear. Because while it’s easy to say that it’s just hair, for people suffering from alopecia it’s never just hair. It’s so much more than that. It’s what you see when you look in the mirror. It’s one of the first things people notice when they first meet you. It’s the subconscious gesture of running your fingers through your hair, of brushing out tangles before bed, of being able to toss it over your shoulder or throw it up in a bun. It’s self-esteem and your identity in so many ways.

So imagine waking up one day and discovering that it’s just not there. That it might never grow back. That you may never have hair again.

It’s scary. It’s grief and loss because it is something precious that has been stolen from you and you are powerless to it. It’s crying out that this should not be happening, you’re only twenty-five, why is this happening to me?

For anyone out there who is dealing with this, I am sorry for the pain and the fear you’re going through. I’m sorry for every time your heart breaks when you wash your hair and come away with clumps of hair between your fingers. I’m sorry for the nights spent crying, for the obsessive checking to see if anything has grown back only to discover that it hasn’t. I’m sorry for every time you try to stay strong and tell yourself that it’s just hair when inside you’re saying, but it was mine.

  • Jen

    It’s not just hair, babe. It’s a part of your identity, your appearance, your confidence, your femininity, your culture. It’s a piece of you, and it feels like it’s slipping away. You feel all the feelings you need to feel without other people commenting on it *hugs*

  • Abigail Marie

    This is such a beautiful and emotional piece. Thank you for sharing such raw emotion and constructing it so beautifully from a writer’s standpoint. This was honestly so relatable as a woman in my twenties just getting over ovarian cancer. My doctor told me I would get to keep my hair but within two weeks of treatment, I lost it all. It was just as physically painful as it was emotionally. I was a 21 year old who lost my beautiful, long, thick hair that strangers always commented on first and it brought me so much joy without the compliments too. Seeing all these college girls on campus with cute styles, and thinking to myself… these are the years when looking my best is at the forefront and that was stolen from me. It truly is part of our identity and as feminine women, we love playing with it and styling it and just having it… It has been three months now since the end of chemo. I have the hair as short as a typical boy-style. But i’m learning to love it, honestly and thank God because the stress of not loving it would probably make it worse and grow slower. With patience for it to grow has came patience in learning to love it too. It’s possible and just because long hair was so familiar to us and so widely accepted by society doesn’t mean bald can’t be beautiful too. Rock your hair, love yourself, and give yourself the tender care you need right now. I can’t imagine the personal pain you’re going through but I’m so sorry it ended up coming to this point and I’ll pray for your continued security and content-ness. After all, what makes you beautiful really isn’t the topical things in life.

  • Mia

    Thanks for writing this. My mom is going through the same thing. Honestly reading your post sounded exactly like what she has been saying to me for months. Same fears, anxiety, concerns, angst, & depression. I hope it somewhat helps to know that you’re not alone.
    There is hope. Sometimes our bodies go through stressful periods of time & it simply needs to run its course. Nothing more, nothing less. I know you will get better.

  • I had super thick hair growing up, almost unmanageably thick. It wasn’t curly or out of control, just THICK. A few years ago a hairdresser called my hair “thin” and recommended extensions (tape in) and they wreaked havoc on my hair, I stood in the bathroom removing them and crying some months later…I felt bald. Slowly but surely my hair was growing longer and “thicker” until one day I was leaning forward at the table and my boyfriend mentioned a “bald patch” on my hair. I thought it might have just been where my hair sits a bit flat on my crown, but nope, it was a 20c size 100% bald patch: Alopecia Areata.

    I haven’t developed any more patches and the hair is FINALLY growing back on my one spot which is thankfully covered by the rest of my hair. I tried hair growth shampoo, frequent brushing and have not pulled my hair tightly back since I found it, instead i mostly wear a very loose top knot leaving the bottom of my hair out.

    It’s taken more than a year and the hair growth on the patch is only about 2cm long, it’s still very thin but its growing. Know that there can be nothing for months and months and months and then maybe it will appear, I think if i had stressed LESS about it, I would have seen it sooner, but i feel your tears… I cried them too.

  • Aimee Jennings

    This happened to me too. I was diagnosed in October 2016. One large bald patch in the back of my head. I got the shots but it was still growing larger. My original male specialist wanted to,”Punch a hole in the area”, to officially diagnose the areata. It would be a tiny hole that would remove a small chunk to biopsy. Thankfully he was unavailable for the next appointment and I saw a female doctor that said that was unnecessary and she would try increasing the dosage of the shots first. It took 6 months, an increase in dosage, rogaine, prescribed spray, and steroid pills to see any real follicles. Now I get shots every 2 months and do the pills every 6 months because while the original patch has grown back, the alopecia has spread to other parts of the back of my head. I still use the rogaine and the other spray on a daily basis as well. I understand how you feel. Our bodies have betrayed us and we can’t control it. It’s scary and frustrating. For women, it is a major identifier. Sharing your story is a move towards control and empowerment and I you should be proud of that. I am making a solo essay film about women and fear and I will be sharing my story of alopecia hair loss. It’s important to talk about it. Big hugs.