Writing Prompt #16

Write about what you learned last winter . . .

I have alopecia areata. It kind of sucks. For those of you who don’t know what it is, alopecia is simply the medical term given to hair loss. Alopecia areata, totalis and universalis are autoimmune diseases where your own immune system attacks your hair follicles and makes the hair fall out. Scientists still are not sure why this happens and there is currently no cure for it. Alopecia areata appears as hairless circles across the scalp, totalis is when all of the hair on the head falls out and universalis is when there is no hair on the entire body.

I first got alopecia four years ago. When I first realised I was going bald, I sat in front of a mirror for hours, crying at the sight of my own reflection, whilst running my fingers through my hair watching strand after strand fall onto my dressing table. I spent the first few weeks researching as much as I possibly could about the disease and signing up to every clinical trial related to alopecia that I could.

Within a month, I had bald patches covering around 30% of my scalp and it had reached the point where I fully believed that I was going to lose all of my hair. I felt defeated and went to bed each night hoping I would still have the remaining hair left in the morning. I stopped working, I stopped dating and I became a regular at the doctors, harassing them for any kind of treatment that may help stop or slow down the hair loss and after trying lotions that burned my skin and steroid injections around my head (I am literally a sted-head), my hair eventually began to grow back. Even though I was starting to feel more like myself again, it took several months for alopecia not to be the first thing on my mind when I woke up. I knew that alopecia had a tendency to come back and it could return as a milder or a more severe form of the disease, nobody can tell. After a year, I could stop painting my scalp the same colour as my hair and I could start to wear my hair down again. But I still worried that one day it would return.

Then last winter, I found a new bald patch as I was getting ready for a date. However, I didn’t react the same as I did the first time, I just looked in the mirror and without thinking, my mind just went, “oh well, I am sure you’ll survive” and I continued to get ready, squawk along to Whitney Houston and go on the date. I had gotten through alopecia once before and I knew that whatever happened this time, I would be fine. The date may not have gone well, but that day was awesome. That day I learned that although my life would be much easier without alopecia, I had finally reached a point where I am comfortable to live with it. It has taught me about what is really important in life and it has shown me how strong I can be when I need to be.

My alopecia is currently saying hi for the third time and this time it has come along with minimal self-loathing. My thoughts on alopecia are now; just do your thing, get it over and done with, then piss off and whilst you are doing that, I will continue living my life. Thanks. Bye.

If anyone else is learning to live with something that they perceive as a disfigurement, it can seem as if it will always be the bane of your life, but it does get easier. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for how resilient we can be and how we can learn to adapt to changes. The most important thing to remember is that there are so many more layers to you than your appearance, in fact, I honestly believe that the way we look is the least important thing about ourselves – we all end up old and ugly one day, so let’s all just try to be nice people . . . and that Chad guy that thinks bald patches are gross or that eczema is arm herpes, well by the time he is thirty, his hairline will probably look like the McDonald’s logo and he will be hiding his head with a shit selection of arrogantly coloured snapbacks and you will be bossing life because you learned how to love yourself over a decade ago. But since we are nice people, we are here if you need to talk, Chad.

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