wellness

'After 5 years, I've accepted my alopecia. But the grieving process never stops.'

When I was first diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, it started as a small patch at the crown of my head, no bigger than a 20 cent piece.

The dermatologist was kind as she looked at me with a sympathetic smile, telling me it was Alopecia, an autoimmune condition that we still know little about. Most people, she told me, just have patches like mine that come and go throughout their life. Some people, though, can lose all the hair on their head, or all over their body. I remember refusing to believe that complete hair loss would ever happen to me.

I had steroids injected into the bald patch on my scalp and would withstand the pain that would leave me with tears in my eyes, just to have a chance of regrowth. I was desperate for people to stop asking me, "what happened to your head?"

One patch turned to two, two into three, and so on over the following months. I turned up to the dermatologists' office every few months for the same painful injections, always ignoring that little voice in the back of my head reminding me I could lose it all.

Watch: Gianessa Wride has Alopecia, but that doesn't mean she can't win Crazy Hair Day. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

I lost every hair on my body when I was 23. I remember being in the shower, trying to rinse out the shampoo from my hair, and loose clumps kept falling in between my fingers. I lost enough hair in that one shower to fill a Peter's ice-cream tub. My hair kept falling out for days after that, and I knew I had to shave it off after not being able to cope with seeing it fall out anymore.

My eyebrows and eyelashes were gone within two weeks of losing my scalp hair. My nose hairs made their absence known by my inability to feel my nose dripping in cold weather. My body hair left quickly, almost without a trace.

I suffered debilitating self-image issues when I lost all my hair because of the sudden drastic change in my appearance. I was too afraid to leave the house without wearing a wig and was subsequently diagnosed with depression.

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In the three years since being diagnosed with Alopecia Universalis, I have bought more pairs of false eyelashes than I can count, trying to find some that will stay on with no lashes underneath to support them. I have gone through brand after brand of lash glue, because the traditional ones melt into my eyes and cause them to burn and sting.

I've spent thousands of dollars buying a wig that is made from real human hair, which won't last for more than two years. After all, the hair that wigs lose from being worn can't be regrown.

None of the expenses associated with buying medical hair prosthetics are subsidised by Medicare, even for people with medical hair loss conditions. It's 100 per cent out of pocket, with thousands of dollars spent just to 'fit in'.

I've had strangers approach me and tell me they wish me well for my chemo treatment, or that they will pray for me to get my hair back. I have had people stare, point, and whisper behind my back. I have had people call me ugly to my face, and tell me they think I would look better with a wig on.

Even the occasional well-meaning compliment (the most common one being that I 'have a nice-shaped head') only remind me that the appearance that I've had no choice but to accept, is such an oddity that people feel compelled to make a remark about it.

I have had my potential dating pool of heterosexual men reduced significantly, because of what I look like. I have been ghosted, stood up, and even had guys tell me on dates that their friends mocked them for 'going out with a bald chick.'

There have been several studies that show that people with Alopecia have a higher rate of depression and anxiety, and that people with hair loss are likely to be stigmatised for being 'sick' and 'not attractive'. I have first-hand experience that this stigma is real, and it is completely devastating.

I want you to know that people can be bald for many reasons, and it is not just chemotherapy that causes hair loss. Alopecia is one of many conditions that can cause people to lose their hair.

I want you to know that just because I am bald, does not mean that you need to comment on my appearance. If what I look like makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should reflect on why we as a society are so uncomfortable with the appearance of a bald woman.

I want you to know that the grieving process of losing your hair never stops, no matter what level of acceptance you have reached. I go out without a wig daily; I have photos of myself without a wig on all my social media profiles, all my friends and family know I have Alopecia, and I talk about it freely with clients, strangers and acquaintances. This doesn't mean that I don't still have days where I wish I could just have my hair back and feel carefree in my appearance again.

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Lastly, I want you to know that having Alopecia doesn't define me.

Image: Supplied.

Nobody in my life cares about my hair loss. I have a wonderful partner who has only ever known me completely bald, and while he thinks I'm beautiful, there are a million other things that he loves about me which are far more important than my appearance.

Listen to The Quicky where the hosts speak to three women who have lost their hair for different reasons. Post continues below.


I go out bald every day because I have accepted myself the way I am, and I want to challenge the society that I am in to be exposed to diversity in appearance. I want to demonstrate to the little kids with Alopecia that it is okay to look different and to be proud of who you are no matter what you look like. 

Diversity is beautiful, and we should celebrate it across all walks of life.

Alex practices as a veterinarian in Western Australia’s Margaret River Wine region. She is also a Support Ambassador for the Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation (AAAF). She can be reached directly at [email protected]

Feature Image: Supplied.

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