October 13th, 2016. Thursday. 21:54pm. Feeling caffeinated.
Most people will talk about their insecurities to total strangers after, what, a couple of drinks or so? Something strong. Me? Well, all it takes is a coffee or two and I, my friends, am an open book. So here we have it:
Me, in all my hyperactive, balding glory!
I can hear it now: the gasps; the horror; the pure confusion. “That girl’s going bald at 16!”
You’re wrong! Ha, gotcha. Actually, I’ve been “going bald” since I was 6 years old, back when my hair was blonde and so long that it tickled my tailbone. Alas, those were the good ol’ days.
In 2006, my life pretty much flipped itself upside down. I remember waking up one morning, feeling weird. I had a slight headache, my eyes felt as though they had been sanded-down, and the skin around them was tingling irritably. It was as though, somehow, I had managed to develop pins-and-needles in my face. Is that even possible?! Well, whether it is or not, it doesn’t matter. My parents were the first to see me that day, and they immediately saw that something was off. I was off.
Imagine looking in a mirror, aged 6, and seeing yourself without eyelashes or eyebrows. It’s terrifying.
Not that you necessarily notice, at first. It, hilariously enough, took my parents and I a pretty huge chunk of time to even realize what was different about me. They thought I was ill. Diseased. As it happens, Alopecia Areata is a disease, though it took way too many years after my diagnosis to be told that for certain. You see, nobody really knows much about Alopecia. Scientists know that it’s a fault with the immune system, an autoimmune disease which mistakes hair follicles for foreign objects. It attacks the follicle, and your hair falls out. Poof! Vanished into a ball of stray-hair on your freshly hoovered carpet. Fantastic. But they don’t know why.
You know, it’s ironic but stray hairs really are my biggest pet peeve. They are the BANE of my existence! But alas, I digress. Where was I?
Ah yes. My undercut.
As any follower of this blog will surely find out within the next week or so, I am STRESSED. Not currently, oh no; coffee seems to possess this magical ability to zap all of the stress from my brain for a good few hours. Thanks babe! But no, stress seems to have become a permanent state for me, ingrained into the stone plaque of my being to be seen for centuries to come. As a student with PTSD, I have no choice but to spend 6 hours a day locked inside the physical embodiment of my triggers. I’ll probably talk about this in a later blog (perhaps when I’m actually drunk as opposed to caffeinated, because not even coffee can make me comfortable enough to talk about THAT part of my life), but my PTSD mainly comes from school-related trauma. Now I’m in Year 12, my first year of Sixth Form, and my post-traumatic-stress has gone from a 3 to a solid 20. On top of this, in May to June I had to sit my GCSE exams with what doctors “suspected” was appendicitis, which in all honestly now seems like child’s play in comparison to the quantity and intensity of my current workload. All this, and guess what one of the leading triggers of Alopecia is.
Stress. It’s stress.
So finally, what you’ve all been waiting for: the story behind this mysterious undercut. It all started a few weeks ago, when my back-to-school stress was at its peak and I really wasn’t having it. Another oddity about my Alopecia is that, contrary to most cases, it hurts. It’s as though life has come along and thwacked me around the head with a frying pan. I know when my hair is going to fall out, but trust me, I was not mentally prepared for it when it did. Usually when my Alopecia hits, the bald spot starts at the crown of my skull before spreading gradually outwards in all directions, like a rash. This time, however, it decided to abandon me from the patch of scalp surrounding my right ear. Within a couple of days, the bald patch was glaring, the baby hairs gone, and my self-esteem was destroyed. Everyday I’d call my friend, who also has the condition, and I’d rant at her for hours because, at that point, I could either rant or cry. Ranting just seemed more valiant.
It didn’t take long for people to notice. Without my baby hairs (my name for the little wispy hairs which, usually, lie in front of your ear and frame your face), I look incredibly lopsided. Only a few days after the balding began, a woman that I know took one look at me and said, with a grin: “Oh, you got an undercut! When did you do that?”
But that wasn’t the last from where that came from. A couple of weeks ago, the dreaded cancer rumours started. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly used to dismissing uneducated comments from people who seem to think that “OMG do you have cancer?!” is an appropriate question to ask, but this time was different. Around 75% of my dismissals last week were immediately followed by a statement of crude beauty:
“Really? It looks like it.”; “Oh, right. So you just got an undercut? Why?”; “Your hair looks awful.”. “Did you do that yourself then?” is a personal favourite of mine.
The truth is, Internet: Alopecia sucks. It really does. What makes it so much worse is that, when I was diagnosed, I had absolutely no idea what it was and there was nobody, nobody, to talk to about it. There were no easy-to-access forums, no anecdote-riddled blogs, no scientists giving me clear-cut answers to my hundreds of questions. And really, there were hundreds of them, because if you’re told that there’s something wrong with you your mind will run in all sorts of directions. Now that I’m a little older, I guess I’ve relaxed to the extent that the questions don’t trouble me as much, but they’re still there. The truth is, these questions will never stop bothering me, nor will they stop bothering the hundreds of thousands of people who, like me, have Alopecia.
So that’s why I’m here. I’m going to be blogging my experiences as a student with Alopecia Areata, keeping you updated on my progress and anything that I learn during this phase of my condition. You should know, of course, that all cases are different. My Alopecia hurts, but I know for a fact that lots of other people do not have this problem. I also find that my hair tends to get very weak and break close to the scalp before eventually falling out, a symptom which also isn’t common in everyone. What I mean to say is, we’re all different, and there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Own your individuality, because trust me, it’s going to get you somewhere someday.