Read it, repeat it, remember it – because 2% of the entire population is at risk of developing it. Now, I know that number seems small, but if you put in into perspective that’s approximately 152,000,000 people. And, if you’re still thinking that it will never effect you, then think again. My name is Emily, I’m 17 years old, and I have Alopecia Areata.
It’s funny: when I was diagnosed at the age of 6, I thought that would be it for me and my hair. I’d Googled the pictures, seen the hairless scalps of a thousand people like myself. I had Alopecia. I was going to go bald. That was that.
But I never did.
I guess that’s the first glaring misconception surrounding Alopecia. Yes, it makes your hair fall out, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a person’s hair to fall out, and then grow back within a few months or so. Everybody is different, and so is their Alopecia. It’s an autoimmune disease that is, in the simplest terms, completely unpredictable.
And that, my friends, is why we need to start raising awareness for it.
I feel like there’s such a negative stigma surrounding Alopecia, and that stems from a general lack of understanding from those lucky people it doesn’t affect. I want to put it out there, right here, right now, that having Alopecia Areata is not a bad thing. Of course, I went through a phase of being absolutely terrified of it. At one point, I hated everything about the disease, and even more so the way I looked. That hatred was, quite simply, a fear of the unknown, and as I learned more about my condition over time I eventually stopped caring, to an extent. At the end of the day, Alopecia Areata is a part of me, so why hide it?
Unfortunately, not everybody shares that viewpoint. When my hair fell out most recently in 2017, I was met with the same ignorant remarks that I’d been receiving since I was 6. People who thought I was contagious. People who thought I was faking it. People who thought I had cancer.
After hearing these crude comments on a stuck record for 62% of my life, I have rather desensitized myself from the whole thing. For younger people with Alopecia, however, those things hurt. Perhaps the worst experience for me was when I was 11 years old. As anybody would know, the stress of moving schools can be overwhelming, and for me it was enough to trigger another outbreak of hair loss. As per usual, my beautiful brown hair fell out in chunks, until there was nothing more than an unkempt, patchy mop sprouting from my skull. First came the cancer rumours, which of course I shut down instantly. Then came the isolation. At the time, I had no idea what was going on. Where had all my friends gone? Had I done something wrong? It wasn’t until much later on that I realised what had happened. A rumour had sparked, as rumours always do, claiming that my hair loss was contagious and that I should be avoided at all costs. Unsurprisingly, that seemed to scare my classmates away; heck, nobody wants to lose their hair at the age of 11. I certainly didn’t.
I’ve told that story a number of times on my blog, but it didn’t used to be so easy. The physical and emotional bullying which resulted from that rumour was enough to leave me struggling with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. It was only towards the end of 2017 that I was really able to break free from this struggle, and whilst I still find myself with fluctuating levels of anxiety, I feel free for the first time in forever. Looking back, I realise how much people’s ignorance surrounding Alopecia has damaged me, and for the most part through no fault of their own. That is why I believe it is so important that we work together to raise awareness for Alopecia Areata. Recently I have been so inspired by content from online influencers who dedicate their lives to promoting the cause, and I hope that I can add to that beautiful, existing community in my own unique way.
Over the next few months, I will be writing a fairytale story inspired by the beautiful Princess Malia. If you haven’t yet had the honour of being introduced to her, I strongly recommend that you check our her family’s YouTube channel. The Hayes family have been a huge inspiration to me over the past 8 months or so, and I hope that I can somehow contribute to the incredible work that they put in to make the world a more magical place for people with Alopecia Areata.
I did eventually shave off my hair completely, in the hopes that it would grow back without the patchy unevenness that I have grown so used to. (Spoiler alert: it did!) If you want see the journey that my hair and I have taken, I’ll be documenting it in pictures for the first time ever in my next blog. Until then, I wish you all the best.
Stay woke, kids.
As always, thank you so much for reading!
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Read my last Life blog, Let’s raise awareness!