Bald at 26 and building a new kind of normal.
Bald at 26. God’s ultimate cruel joke. It’s something that people to tell you just to “get over” or “wear a wig”, but it’s not remotely that simple. Women take pride in their looks. They spend hundreds of dollars on regular haircuts and colors, makeup, and mani-pedis just so they can outdo one another and turn the heads of every guy that crosses their path.
Imagine yourself for a moment: you’re taking your daily shower and washing your hair. You feel some hair twined around your fingers, expecting them to fall with the rest of your freshly rinsed locks, except this time it doesn’t fall. It stays in your palm. It’s too much. This isn’t normal. Your hair is coming out in softball sized clumps and it won’t stop. In a panic you have your boyfriend check your scalp to find the reason, and all you see is his eyes widen. Fear? Uncertainty? Concern? You can’t tell. All you know is it keeps getting worse and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
In February of 2016, I found a small bald spot on my head; about the size of a half dollar. Upon further investigation and only getting halfway through the door in my dermatologist’s office, I had been diagnosed with Alopecia Areota. An autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks your hair follicles, alopecia is one of the most common disorders in the US. Some people have a small flare-up of a small patch and never have an issue again, and then there are the people like me who win the lottery and lost all of their hair.
When you have alopecia in any form, there is almost nothing you can do. It’s not curable, but treatments can help. I sucked it up, tried what I could, and it all failed me. So after many rounds of steroid shots to the scalp, immunosuppressants, oral and topical steroids, Rogaine, and stacking medical bills, I gave up.
I gave up caring about myself. I gave up talking to my family and friends. I wanted to give up talking to anyone altogether if I hadn’t had a boyfriend I lived with at the time. It broke me; I didn’t want anyone to pick up the pieces. I just wanted to be broken.
Balding and losing your hair at the age of 24 is not something a normal female should have to go through. It’s even more traumatic than people can even imagine.
The looks. The stares. The snarky comments. The looks of pity because people think you have cancer. Overwhelming is an understatement. The worst part is not letting yourself spiral into the pit of depression you feel when you can’t just be like every other girl your age. The flicked hair, the perfect wax, the perfect highlights…I have none of that. I don’t know that I will have any of that ever again. All of the sudden instead of trying to fit in, you stand out for all of the wrong reasons.
How do you learn to love yourself when your life drastically changes in the span of eight months?
You take time.
You learn to deal with it.
You tell the people that give you the funny looks where they can shove their snarky comments and walk away.
You lean on those friends that say they will be there and actually mean it.
You learn to love yourself again.
The best advice I can provide is from the things that I’ve learned from myself:
1. Learn to laugh again. Like REALLY laugh. One of my closest friends and I came up with this game where we try to come up with a new bald nickname every time I see her. Some days I’ll be Mr. Clean, others I’ll be Vin Diesel, but most days I’m Pitbull.
2. Learn to embrace the problem. Being bald has really cut down on my getting ready time in the morning. You just need to learn a new routine instead of styling your hair in the morning. I can be out of my house in less than ten minutes whereas before it would take a minimum of 30.
3. Find your new version of yourself. Your old version of yourself loved to try out new hairstyles and painted all the time. Your new self might like to go hiking and get tattoos (sorry mom).
4. Refocus your energy into something else. All the time you might spend depressed or upset about whatever may be going on in your life can be refocused into something that you never thought you could accomplish. Any time I feel sad or sorry for myself, I do yoga or go to the gym. I don’t eat things that could make me feel worse and I create a new lifestyle.
5. Don’t be afraid of what’s next. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this one out. After being in the same relationship for five years and now being single, it’s hard not to be afraid of how men might look at me and how they might take the news. They might run away screaming or they might be cool with it. The rejection isn’t what I’m afraid of, it’s the uncertainty.
Where do I go from here? Newly single and not having much of a game plan for my next steps, trying to figure out what do next is a bit of a challenge. How will people take it? Will I ever find that person that is okay with me being bald and embracing the uncertainty of what’s to come? Who knows. The only thing you can know for certain are the things you can control right now.