Today, I’m not going to write about Southern Literature. Instead, I’m going to discuss alopecia areata, because I read Four Women Bond Over the Beauty in Their Baldness yesterday, and it had me thinking about my journey with alopecia.
Hello from Bald Lauren! I’ve had alopecia since I was five years old. I remember being at a parade with my mom and saying, “What’s this little itchy bump?” Then I suffered through the worst case of chicken pox (I still have a scar in between my eyes). And after it was all over, my hair felt out but only in patches. My parents dragged me to doctor after doctor, and those doctors didn’t know much. It’s an auto-immune disorder, my parents were told and most likely genetic. My immune system was attacking my hair follicles. I suffered through steroid shots in my head, UV treatments, creams, etc., but nothing worked. The hair came and went. I was bullied by a boy named Rondre at school, who thought being different was a bad thing (I recently looked this boy up, and I was disappointed to find he looks like a successful entrepreneur. I thought for sure he’d be in jail!).
Then after puberty, my hair grew back…mostly. And I came to terms with my alopecia. Before puberty, I was afraid for anyone to know I had bald spots. My mother used to cover them with barrettes, so I could relate to the girl in the article above who said she lied about wearing wigs. It’s hard as a child to be different. I didn’t want anyone to know I had alopecia, and for a long time this held me back. But then it always shaped me by making me more accepting of people who are different than I am.
When my beautiful daughter (above) was about one and I quit breastfeeding, my hair felt out again, but this time all of it fell out. At first, I didn’t feel like I was struggling with it, but for women hair and beauty tend to go hand and hand. I felt fat, bald, and ugly and I decided I had to do something about it. I started exercising, and I started telling myself, “I’m a beautiful woman, with or without hair.” Because I am. And hair and beauty don’t go together. That thought is silly and unproductive. I became accepting of myself. I became more confident, and I also started talking about alopecia. I found when I talked about alopecia my confidence in myself grew. People are afraid of what they don’t know, so informing sets them free, so to speak (I know–total cliche).
Having alopecia has certainly been a challenge for me, but without it I wouldn’t be the person I am. It shaped me into a writer. It made me overcome trials and tribulations, and it clued me into human nature. Most adults and children are accepting, if you explain it to them. I have a tag line, “I don’t have cancer. It’s alopecia.” I count myself lucky, because alopecia is not life threatening. It’s just something I have to live with, and heck it’s pretty nice not having to shave my legs.