Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks its own hair follicles. Its cause is unknown, and there is no cure or effective treatment for those affected. It affects over 6.6 million people in the United States. Alopecia areata affects me.
“During my junior high experience, I have been faced with many challenges. In sixth grade, I experienced alopecia. However, I did not let this stop me from doing what I want to do. I continued to get good grades, be with my friends, and play sports.”
I recently found this excerpt from a report I wrote in eighth grade, and it got me thinking. I have had more of an issue now at age twenty than I did at fourteen with accepting a big part of who I am. At that time, I did not even try to hide the fact that I had bald patches, and, eventually, an entirely bald head. I continued to go to school every day and graduated eighth grade with a scholarship to attend the private high school in my town. I participated in soccer, basketball, volleyball, cross country, and track. I qualified for the state track meet in three events sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. I spent nearly every weekend at my best friend’s house, a friend who never made me feel like I needed to be self-conscious about my appearance. I was happy.
Something changed when I got to high school. I wanted so badly to fit in and be liked, and I saw my appearance as an important factor in clicking with the social scene. I did not want to be the bald girl anymore. My hair had partially grown back, but never completely. I started trying different things to cover up the bald spots, but I was constantly worried that someone would notice. Eventually, I purchased my first wig, and I was no longer the girl with bald spots. I was the girl who wears a wig.
Even though I liked the way I looked again, my new obsession became never letting anyone know that I wear artificial hair on my head. I would glance in every mirror I passed, making sure that every piece of hair was in place. Since it was no longer outwardly obvious that I had alopecia, I was much more hesitant to talk to people about it. Hiding it, pretending the baldness did not exist, seemed like the easier thing to do.
Now I have realized, as with every problem I have faced, hiding it from myself and from the people I love and from the world does not make it better. It does not give me my hair back, and it does not give me my confidence back. Accepting that this autoimmune disorder is a part of my life is the only way I can truly be confident and happy. Moving out of my teenage years and into my twenties, I want to be someone who is comfortable in her skin, whether it is covered with hair or not.