Posted by Friday, January 20, 2017

AN OPEN DIARY ABOUT ALOPECIA


As a beauty blogger, I love talking about beauty products, the latest in makeup, skincare, and hair. While I love this little community, I also want to make this a place for being open and being supportive of each other (although the Beauty Blogging community is super badass and is already so welcoming and supportive of everyone). So as you can tell, this blog post is a little bit different... In some ways it's informative, but it's also an open diary about my struggle with alopecia areata. I've never really talked about my condition before, but I'm now at a place where I'm 100% fine with it, and am completely open to talk about it.

WHAT IS ALOPECIA AREATA?
For those who aren't familiar with alopecia areata, it is basically an autoimmune disease in which your body doesn't recognize its own cells, and because of it, your body eventually attacks its own tissues and destroys it. In the case of alopecia areata, your body doesn't recognize its hair cells and destroys the tissues, resulting in hair loss. Often times it occurs in circular patches, and it can range from several patches to complete hair loss throughout the entire body. I wish I had kept my pictures of my bald patches because I feel like this blog post is all words and no images but believe me when I say they were there, and they were noticeable.

MY STORY
In early September 2015, I started noticing a spot of baldness around my hair part. With each day, I noticed the spot getting larger and larger. Throughout the days, I would run my fingers through my hair and would notice several strands would end up coming out of my head. One night I ran my fingers through my head and felt a patch of baldness around 2-3 inches wide at the back of my head. This had gone unnoticed to me because all of my other hair had covered it. Naturally, I started to freak out. Now let's rewind for a second: This was not new to me. I have a cousin who actually has alopecia areata universalis (this cousin has no hair across their entire body). A few months prior to me finding out I was losing hair, my younger brother had lost over 95% of the hair on his head as well as a few eyebrow hairs, but in his case, all of his hair has grown back and is continuing to grow to this day. Because I had seen two extremes of the condition, I basically had the worst meltdown I've ever had. Keep in mind at this time, I was entering my last year of fashion school, and was working on my graduate collection.

It's strange for me to sit here now and be so calm about it, typing away my memories of that time when I found out when all I know is that I was a complete and total mess at the time. The one word I can use to describe myself at that time was just scared. At the core of it, I felt like this was ripping away my femininity. I also knew there could be worse things happening to me, but in my head at the time, I thought, "I'm going to be ugly, no one is going to like me, people are going to always look at me weirdly". Without getting too much into gender expectations, hair is a big social stigma for women. As much as we want to say looks aren't everything, I basically had a breakdown about losing my hair and my mental health was at an all time low.

STEROID INJECTIONS
So after a week of being inside my head and panic crying every day, I went to the doctor, who then explained to me what I already knew about alopecia areata. He then referred me to a dermatologist, as they are much more equipped for these types of cases. My dermatology clinic is AvantDerm, located in Toronto's Distillery District. After reviewing my alopecia areata, my doctor informed me that we had two options for treatment. I should also say that at the moment, there is absolutely no cure for alopecia areata. There are only treatment options. So I could a) get steroid injections into the bald patches or b) have a prescribed steroid cream (pictured above) that I would apply directly to the bald patches. I decided to receive the steroid injections, because they reacted much quicker than the cream. I never thought that I would get steroid injections but there you go... What steroid injections do is that they notify the body that the hair cells are actually good, and that it should be attacking the steroids instead of the hair cells. 

I was then instructed to go get blood tests done to see if there was any underlying factor as to why I was losing my hair. Despite being low on iron, nothing really seemed out of the ordinary for me to be having alopecia areata. I wasn't having thyroid problems, I wasn't stressed out (until I found out I had this condition and there was no cure), and nothing was wrong with my body. After the injections, I was still losing hair, although I do think I was actively looking for it too whenever I brushed my hair. I was due back at the clinic for my six week check up and another round of injections, but this is where things changed. My doctor examined my two patches and told me that he could see little sprouts of hair growing. In all honestly, I had been actively looking for regrowth but I couldn't see it. My doctor assured me the hair was growing back, injected my scalp with more steroids, and off I went again. 

REGROWTH & RECURRING HAIR LOSS
My doctor said I wouldn't need to visit the clinic again because the hair was growing. It took a few weeks for me to personally notice my hair regrowing again in the bald patches. In the meantime, I was parting my hair the opposite direction which is a whole other story itself because I've had my hair part since I was 12 or so. The hair at the back of my head grew unnoticeably since it was covered by the rest of my hair, but the hair that grew around my hair part looked... strange. By the time it got long enough, it was sticking up and out like a little patch of grass. It was actually quite funny and as much as it annoyed me, I was thrilled to see my hair growing back. It took from September to perhaps January for my hair to grow back and look blended in with the rest of my hair. 

A couple of months ago, I noticed a small patch of baldness around my hair part again, but this time I caught it very early. It wasn't in the same spot, but very close to where hair loss had occurred before. By now I had accepted alopecia areata, and knew exactly what to do however, I was also prescribed the topical cream and used that in addition to one steroid injection from my doctor. This time around, it only took a few weeks for me to notice hair growth again. 

ACCEPTANCE & BEING HAPPY
I consider myself generally a pretty positive and happy person, but during the first few months of dealing with alopecia areata, I was just a miserable human being. I don't think you wake up one day and suddenly you're okay with losing your hair and always being scared that you may lose a shit ton of hair. I feel like it was a slow and very gradual road to being okay with my hair loss condition. Now I can easily talk about my hair loss, and sometimes I even joke about it because what's the point of dwelling on something you literally have no control over?  I would rather just live my life, and accept that I have alopecia areata.

Being from the west, I actually have no family in Toronto with me, but I have an amazing support group that includes my friends here in the city in addition to friends and family who are just a phone call away. Even though none of them could relate to what I was going through, they just listened and were there for me, and I think if anyone is going through a hard time, the best thing you can do is talk to someone about it. What I also did was research. I think what also scared me was the idea of not knowing or understanding what alopecia areata was exactly and how it affects people differently. I found Youtube videos on the topic, I found blog posts written by people who had alopecia areata. In a sad sort of twisted way, I found comfort in these posts and videos, knowing that I wasn't alone in this. 

So where I am now in the present day is that I currently have no bald patches, although I can pinpoint where my bald patches used to be because those areas have much shorter hair than the rest of my head. I often wish I had my thick hair back, but now I have flat, limpy hair which is not a massive deal. I do notice overall that I tend to shed hair more often, but again, it's not something to be alarmed over. I'm now at a point where I'm honestly satisfied with my hair. I know I may get bald patches again, but it's okay

So that is my alopecia areata story. I feel like I said all I wanted to in this blog post, and I hope that if anyone is going through something difficult in their life, remember that you are not alone and all you have to do is talk to someone. Even though it will take time in the end, everything works out somehow.

I would love to hear your comments or if you have any questions regarding me and my alopecia areata, please don't hesitate to email me or write me a comment down below.

xoxo,
Nancy


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