Monday 12th March, 2018. Feeling overwhelmed.
Pre-warning: usually I try to censor myself on here, but some things need to be said with certain… diction. This one gets quite deep. Sorry.
As the bald patch continues to consume the crown of my head, I seem to have found myself trapped in an alternate dimension. Everything looks the same: the four walls I am currently sitting between are the same as they have always been, as solid and vibrantly yellow as the rest of this part of school. Nearly everybody is present, though the absence of certain people in this time of frustration has been duly noted. Still, something has shifted. The post-winter chill feels just a little bit colder. The stare of a thousand eyes feels just a touch more real. Usually I’d be staring back, making every effort to read their minds. Now, none of that is necessary.
It’s weird how you can lose a little hair and suddenly everybody thinks that they are within their rights to rip you apart. Not always in a cruel way, and not always from a place of ignorance; I get plenty of Alopecia-aware acquaintances and health aficionados reassuring me day in, day out that everything’s going to get better. It doesn’t look that bad. Just be patient, give it time to grow back. Blah, blah. Been there, done that.
Thank you, honestly. I do appreciate the support, and I always will. It’s just getting rather difficult to take seriously after I’ve been drowned in a swamp of stupidity. Now that my remaining hair can’t cover the glaring white splodge atop my skull, it’s rare that I’ll go a single day without hearing something.
Listen. I’m 17 years old. I’ve been surfing this cycle of hair loss and regrowth for eleven – nearly twelve – years. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve come to terms with the majority of it. I’m certainly not going to dropkick your local ignoramus for suggesting that I’m too young to be rocking the Friar Tuck look. In my time, I’ve heard it all. In fact, now that the cycle is repeating itself once again, I find myself reminiscing over my all time favourites.
Top 5 comments about my Alopecia.
(In no particular order…)
“Oh my God! I thought you’d had brain surgery or something!”
Let’s rewind to my days as a Christmas temp at everybody’s favourite overpriced food hall. It’s a sad but well-known fact that ‘dealing with assholes’ is on any sales assistant’s job description. My shifts at M&S tended to be 70% tills, 30% wandering the shop floor stalking out helpless customers, so that gave me plenty of time to chat with the general public. Needless to say, a 16-year-old half-bald girl is plenty to get the uninformed 1% reeling. At least a couple of the comments in this list came from Christmas shoppers at the Food Hall, so part of me likes to think that maybe they were just tired. Stressed? Probably. The first customer I ever served after ditching the wig turned a sickly shade of white when she saw me scanning her shopping with a semi-bald scalp. It must have been 9am on a Saturday morning, so when she asked if I’d been in a car accident I honestly had no idea how to react. Why would she think that? Did I look that tired? When I politely dismissed the question, she pointed out the circle of exposed skin on the top of my head and shouted loud enough for the customers in the fresh meat aisle to hear: “Oh my God! I thought you’d had brain surgery or something! Why else would they shave your hair off?”. Errr… they didn’t. But okay then, let the world know how strange I look to you.
“Do you have cancer?”
Every Alopecia patient that I have spoken to has, at some point since their diagnosis, had the cancer bomb dropped on them. Every. One. For me, variants of the question have included “I’m so sorry, when did you start chemo?”, “what kind do you have?” and “how long do you have left?”. I won’t lie, this kind of comment stopped bothering me fairly quickly; it’s so rarely meant as an insult that it’s best to just educate the speaker and move on. The reason these questions can be so upsetting for people with Alopecia – or, at least, for me – is because of how frequently they are asked. The first time the hair from my head fell out, I was a young girl struggling with the pressure of social groups and popularity. A rumour spread that I had cancer, and people felt sorry for me – but nobody asked if it was true. I didn’t realise this until weeks after the rumour sparked, by which point I had noticed the whispers and my paranoia had taken over. Then comes the surreal experience of reassuring 100 school kids that you don’t have a terminal illness. That’s not something anybody should be expected to do, and it really messed with my brain.
“Get the f* away from me, freak!”
“I don’t want your ugly disease.” Haha. Classy. After I had dismissed the cancer rumours in my first Secondary School, people’s concern for me became concern for themselves. My ex-best friend (who, by the way, had known about my Alopecia since the day we met, 4 years prior to this anecdote) decided that it would be a fun pastime to thrive off my declining popularity. She, alongside her brutish buddy whom I will name “Godzilla” for the sake of the story, cultivated a shiny new rumour, claiming that I had contracted a disgusting, highly contagious virus that made its victims’ hair fall out. Yeah, I’m not kidding – and to make matters worse, people actually believed her! And you wonder why I have trust issues. My friends scattered like rabbits, terrified of becoming the next post-breakdown Britney.
“Oh, did you do that to yourself?”
Then came the people thinking I was the next post-breakdown Britney.
Believe me, I love Britney. The woman screams individuality, strength, and female sexuality in a time when oppression is disguised by the illusion of equality. That being said, when I shave my head I do it to liberate myself. Anybody who thinks otherwise should probably put themselves in the shoes of someone like me. Alopecia stole my ability to blend in – a living nightmare for a school girl with low self-esteem and anxiety issues.
“Well at least nobody will want to rape you now.”
I received this comment less than a week ago. It comes in a time of increased stress and fear for me; for some reason, certain men and boys both in and out of my life have begun using #TimesUp and #MeToo as ammo against my dreams to take the entertainment industry by storm. “You know what happens to women like you?” Yes, I’ve heard. Thank you. Now, they’ve somehow bought my Alopecia into it. I don’t even know what they’re trying to say, to be honest. That they think I’m too ugly now? That rapists will feel sorry for me? This new instalment of insults is by far the worst I’ve had to deal with. It’s tearing me apart. But what can I do? It was just a joke. A passing comment. Right?
Comments like these don’t happen to everyone with Alopecia, and they are (for the most part) rare. Of course, as with any visible disease or medical condition, there will be people out there who don’t understand what is happening to you. They may think it’s cancer. They may think it is a hip new fashion trend. They may know all about Alopecia and its symptoms. You never know. Stories like these are just proof of the endless battle we have against ignorance in society, not just surrounding Alopecia but surrounding, well, pretty much everything. It is therefore so important that we unite in this mission to raise awareness of the things that matter, to join forces in creating a community where people can learn about the infinite diversity that the world has to offer.
Thanks to social media, we now have that opportunity. We all have a platform, big or small, that we can use to educate people, to stamp out the kind of ignorance that leads to people getting hurt or insulted. You have a voice; how you use it is up to you.
Stay woke, kids.
As always, thank you so much for reading!
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Want more? Read my previous instalment to the Alopecia Diaries: Alopecia Diaries | Vol. 1