By frankie, Alopecia, United Kingdom, February 11, 2019
Alopecia is something that I did not expect to get in my life. It is a condition that I knew others had, but as with any illness, we just don’t ever see ourselves contracting it. I was in a state of shock when my hair fell out, and it affected me terribly as I continued to lose it across my entire body (although it certainly cut down the cost of shampoo and razors!). I’m here to share my story because I want others to learn more about this uncommon condition, what it is, and the emotional impact it can have.
What is Alopecia?
It’s a really common question, and one that is not answered properly because so many people think that it’s just when your hair falls out. Alopecia is actually an autoimmune condition, and it is even further classified as a chronic inflammatory disease. What this means is that your immune system sees your hair follicles as dangerous, and so it attacks and kills them, which leads to your hair falling out.
There are also three main types of alopecia that you could be affected by. Mine is the most severe type, and it’s called alopecia universalis. This is where I lose all of the hair on my body – including my eyelashes and eyebrows. It took a long time to get used to not having them, especially since a lot of debris and dust gets in your eyes. Honestly, don’t take your lashes and brows for granted, it’s amazing how much they do for you.
Alopecia totalis refers to the total loss of your hair on your head, but nowhere else on your body, while alopecia areata is patchy baldness that is solely on your head. No form of alopecia hurts, but the bald areas can become sore and irritated, leaving red patches. It can affect men and women, and there are cases where it has gone into remission and hair has grown back.
What Causes Alopecia?
I’ve heard some bizarre reasons for alopecia. Some say it’s from a poor diet, some because of lack of exercise, and there have even been some odd articles about certain lotions and hair products causing it. While there isn’t an exact answer for it, there are a couple of pretty solid explanations:
Your environment (severe stress and mental health issues)
Your medication (some medications for conditions like epilepsy can cause it)
The Emotional Impact and Overcoming Alopecia
One of the hardest things about alopecia for me was my eyebrows. The baldness was one thing, but going out in public without any brows? I didn’t even feel like I looked human anymore. Alopecia changes your whole appearance, and it can feel bizarre seeing yourself in the mirror like that – not to mention all the stares from strangers.
I felt more depressed than normal in the beginning, and going outside without a hoodie covering practically my whole face was not something I even considered. I had counselling, and support, but most of me overcoming it was through my own determination to do so. I have enough health issues to worry about without panicking over my strange new appearance.
My friends called me Professor-X because of my bald head, and that actually helped a lot when trying to repair my confidence and self-esteem. I ended up getting my sister to draw some new eyebrows for me, and I was able to get by without the lashes worrying me too much when I was out and about. It took a good four months for me to reach that stage, but I ended up feeling way happier than I was before.
It’s normal to lose confidence, self-esteem, and even fear going outside when you lose your hair. After all, it’s a pretty life-changing experience, and people are always going to stare. Just remember that you are still your own person, amazing in your own right, and that it doesn’t matter if it takes time; things are going to go back to normal again.
I hope that this has helped you learn more about what it is like to have alopecia, and that it has shown you this condition is more than just hair loss; it goes a lot deeper than that. If this is a topic that you have found interesting and would like to learn more about, I have an even more extensive guide to alopecia that you are free to read through any time.