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My alopecia journey started like most, I had an abundance of thick dark brown hair. Then one day a spot appears, then another, and another…..it’s like a game of whack a mole - only on your head.
I spent the better part of ten years with a dermatologist who persevered with me as I wouldn’t allow her to tell me there was no hope. It went like this: countless appointments, rounds of injections, months of burning solutions, pointless creams, and anti anxiety medication. It would grow back only to fall out again. Initially I could hide it, but my condition continued to worsen and my hair became a texture I didn’t even recognize. Wind was my enemy. After a nine years, my dermatologist knew I was emotionally spent. She referred me to an alopecia “specialist” who offered nothing but confusion and little hope. As a last resort, an oral drug was brought to my attention that had not been FDA approved for treatment of alopecia, but was having positive results with hair growth. I appealed to my insurance company as a special case and I got it! However, this particular drug came with a long list of serious health risks. Was my health more important than my hair? I seriously considered it. In the end, I couldn’t do it.
While all this was all happening, I was also going through a major transition in my career. Most days I woke up and had no idea how to face the day. Grateful that my place of work had a unique dress code and located in a cold climate, I covered what was left of my hair with a winter hat (pompom included) and worked. No one asked. The only outcome I ever accepted was that if I tried hard enough, my hair would eventually grow back. My confidence level was at an all time low. At night, I cried myself to sleep and began to withdraw from friends and family. I thought I would lose everything (including myself) along with my hair.
Having drained Western medicine, I turned to acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. My acupuncturist held my hands and told she would make me a whole person again. I spent six months drinking Chinese herbs twice a day, applying Chinese tinctures, following the Auto Immune Protocol Diet, and receiving acupuncture for my anxiety and depression. And yet, now healthier than I had been in a long time, the rest of my hair fell out - every single strand, eyebrow, eyelash, and more. My acupuncturist continued to treat me (and still does) — not necessarily to grow my hair back anymore, but to bring ME back.
I have a husband, too. And if you are as lucky as I am, you have a partner who says “I just want you to get to the other side of this, because this part is the darkest”. I spent years projecting what my life would be like with no hair. Yet, in hindsight, I’ve learned that the most difficult aspect of alopecia is in the losing process — the shower drain, the brushes, the combs, the pillow, the disappointments at the doctor’s office, and mostly, the mirror.
Then there is my twenty year old daughter. So I gathered up all the grace I could muster to set an an example for her.
Therapy is necessary component of this process. And nature.
And I did something I never thought I would have to do, I purchased a wig; a custom wig made of real hair, cut to my style, a wig that doesn’t look like a wig, and a wig that feels like me. I did this with the guidance of an inspiring woman who established her own business assisting women and men with hair loss. At the age of twenty, she had lost all of her hair as well. Now she was making me smile (and sometimes laugh about alopecia) and bringing me one giant step closer to getting my life back on track.
Alopecia can be a lonely condition. And it can feel very surreal at times. I have spent hours on the internet searching for hope and inspiration. Most of these people I will never meet, but they have had a lasting effect on my recovery. I am grateful to all the brave women who share their stories of resilience.
These days, I am whole. I am happy. I don’t cry about my hair. I have my family, friends, and a career that I love. Most people don't even know and that works for me right now. The people I care most about do. Alopecia is a part of my every day, but it doesn’t define me. If I could give any advice, I would tell you there is a light and a life at the end of this dark tunnel if you want it. You just have to be brave enough to walk through the darkness to reach it.