As a recent graduate navigating through the maze of the “real world”, stress has become my middle name. So when my hair started falling out an alarming amount, I figured losing my hair was a product of all the stress in my life. I was shedding more then my Labrador (quite an impressive feat), clogging up the sink every morning and feeling like my hair was made of tissue paper. As a last ditch effort, I visited my dermatologist to see what this hair loss was really all about. After checking my thyroid, eating more protein (a great excuse to eat more bacon?) and taking more vitamins than a human should consume, I was given a scalp biopsy and diagnosed with Alopecia Totalis.
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. It can come in three major forms: Alopecia Areata (when hair falls out in small patches on the scalp), Totalis (which all the hair on the head falls out), or Universalis (when body hair all over falls out). When I found out I had Alopecia I selfishly thought that the world as I had known it was falling apart. I had always had beautiful long blonde hair and had a difficult time imagining a life without it. As a woman, I had attached so much significance to my hair, and viewed my luscious locks as a large part of my outward identity. During the first week of being diagnosed, I secluded myself from friends and family, afraid at how they would take the news. I delusionally thought my boyfriend of 5 years would love me less, my friends wouldn’t know how to react to my inevitable baldness, and that my dreams of becoming a business big shot one day would be squandered.
The next few weeks were tumultuously filled with assorted reactions: one moment I would be consumed with the overwhelming question of “why me?”, while at other times I was thankful to be living an otherwise healthy life. On Valentines Day, I decided to pull the trigger and finally let go. My hair, which I had once believed was the source of my beauty, was now causing me to feel self conscious and unattractive, so it was time to say goodbye to what was holding me back. I stopped into a salon I had never been to before with a picture of Michelle Williams in tow, crossing my fingers for the best. That night, I posted a new picture of my hair on Facebook and gave a brief description of the transition I would be going through in the next few months. I wanted my close friends to know to avoid the inevitable questioning in the future, so I thought that being open and honest would help in the long run.
What I wasn’t expecting from my openness was the unbelievable response I received. My Facebook was flooded with an outpour of kind words and well wishes from friends from high school and college, messages from other women struggling with hair issues from trichotillomania to hormone disorders, and more genuine support than I could have ever imagined. I had never felt so loved, incredibly fortunate and above all, beautiful. I may be losing all my hair, but I know that I have become more attractive now than with a full head of hair. Although it took Alopecia to realize it, I now truly understand and believe that my beauty and self worth are more than my hair. Everyone has something and I feel grateful that my disease is only hair deep. Whatever you have, it’s important to rock what you’ve got because we’re all beautiful…with or without our hair.
You can read more from Maya McDonald on her blog.