Hi, I’m Rhiannon! I am 24 years old and I’m a mature Psychology student at Northumbria University. I was first diagnosed with Alopecia Areata as a consequence of a thyroid condition, about 3 months ago and it turned my world upside down. My hair has always been my pride and joy, I’ve enjoyed exploring different styles and colours over the years and I used it as an extension of myself to express how I was feeling during that period of my life. My hair is quite dark, thick and curly (or was) and when I showered or bathed, I started to notice I was losing quite a lot of hair when washing. However, I put this down to the fact that my hair was so thick and that it was just natural loss. The night I noticed my first spot, I had washed it as normal and sat down to brush through it, when my eyes were immediately drawn to a small bald patch on the front of my head. Naturally, panic struck and I burst into tears. My mum tried her best to console me, my boyfriend told me how beautiful I was always going to be to him, but nothing was enough for me that first night. I think I cried all night that night and prayed that it wouldn’t get any worse.
The next few days brought a new me into play, I decided that this was not going to beat me. I have faced a lot of adversity in my life, I have conquered those battles head on and WON and I was going to win this one too. I researched furiously but all anybody wanted to do was take advantage of how emotional this can be for a young woman by trying to sell you ‘cures’ and ‘tricks’. The truth is, Alopecia has a mind of it’s own and it’s going to behave how it wants to whether you like it or not, a bit like a naughty toddler. Accepting this fact isn’t easy, especially as the cause of my Alopecia is an underlying health issue. This does highlight though, that acceptance is a huge part of this condition. You are you and you are BEAUTIFUL. As a modern woman, femininity is defined by hair in our society and yes, hair is beautiful, but it is not the ‘be all and end all’ of me as a person. The more I talked and shared my experiences with people, both in person and on social media, the more I realized how common this condition is and how everyone deals with it differently.
My patch became larger, to the point where I couldn’t hide it anymore because of where it was on my head and I made the decision to shave it off. This isn’t an easy one for those who suffer with Alopecia, but it does allow you to take back control of your life and rid yourself of the fear. For weeks I had been obsessing, pulling at the hair around the patch, checking my pillow and my hairbrush and frightened to wash or even touch my hair and I’d had enough. I was constantly worrying that people could see the bald spots, that I needed to adjust my headscarf (plus they’re incredibly hot when you’re working) and to be completely honest, I felt the ugliest I think I’ve ever felt in my entire life. My family were understandably dubious and tried to talk me out of it as they thought it was an ‘irrational’ decision, I was told that I should wait as it “might grow back”. These are valuable points and I understand their point of view. However, this was my body, my life and my condition and I knew that this was the right thing for me. The day I shaved my hair off was a day of absolute freedom for me and I felt beautiful again for the first time in months. I have no doubts that I made the right choice. I’m still losing hair but I am no longer frightened and I am in control.
Being a bald woman in 2018 is a bold statement. It stands against the universal ‘standard’ of beauty, it stands for feminism, individuality and expression of self and I am unbelievably proud to be a part of that. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my hair sometimes. I’m a young woman, who wouldn’t? But, there are a million ways for me to express myself, to feel beautiful and to feel feminine without it. I have considered wigs; they have come such a long way in producing some beautiful pieces that are an art form in themselves! The beauty of a wig is that you can change them with your mood, you can be who you want to be on that day. Who knows, maybe one day!
Thank you for your time.