Tuesday, September 5, 2017

alopecia storytime.

I was 7 years old when my hair started falling out. It was a really hot day and my school was this 100 year old building that didn’t have central A/C. So we were having this quiet reading time and I reached back to tie up my hair into a ponytail.

A few minutes later, I started hearing this whispering behind me...and then it started getting closer and closer, and it turned into laughter. A girl tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my head.

“Maybe you shouldn’t tie your hair up,” she said.

I wasn’t really sure what to say. And then she said, “You’ve got a bald spot.”

I quickly pulled the hair tie off my head and sunk back into my book, mortified. When I got home that day, I asked my mom about it and she said that it’s normal for people’s hair to fall out. But it’ll grow back. That’s just how it is.

Except...it didn’t grow back. It actually kept falling out. I started wrapping my head in scarves and tried to disappear as quickly as my eyebrows and eyelashes did from my face. I spent recesses on the bench reading, and at lunch, the librarian would let me spend the period inside the library instead of having to be outside with the rest of the kids.

I begged my teachers to let me sit in the back of the classroom so the others wouldn’t stare – I wasn’t really successful in that – and I wanted to draw as little attention to myself as possible, even though it felt like everyone was looking. All the time.

We went to a lot of doctors and specialists before someone told us what was going on. “Alopecia,” the doctor said. There was no "cure."

My hair kept falling out. If you look at the school photos lined up somewhere in my parents’ house, you’ll see the change. The last photo of me in a yearbook with a somewhat full head of my own hair was fourth grade.

I got my first wig in sixth grade. I got my second wig at the start of high school, and then the third wig before my junior year. And all that time, I still had these strands and chunks of hair growing out of my head, but more than 80% of it was gone. It felt like I was clutching onto this hope that even though it had been years since I had a full head of hair, maybe one day my body would decide it was done fighting itself. But thinking like that also made me sad, because I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

When I went to get my fourth wig after my first year in college – that was the first time I shaved my head. And after I did it, I felt free. It’s kind of hard to explain, but you know when you finally throw out that box of mementos you keep in your closet of stuff from the past that kind of hurts you? You know, stuff from ex-boyfriends, things like that? It’s kind of a silly comparison, but that’s what this felt like. I was accepting reality.

I started taking this medication a couple years ago. It made my hair and eyebrows suddenly start growing back, but the doctor warned me it was just temporary. When I stopped the medication, it would all just fall out again.

I stopped taking the medication a few months ago. My eyebrows disappeared, and my hair – I didn’t remember how fast it could fall out, but it’s almost nearly all gone now. Every morning I’ll wake up and more wisps of hair will be on my pillow and falling onto the bathroom counter. The strands stick to my clothes and get caught up in the vacuum, and I’ve just found myself getting tired of it.

So, I think it’s time to accept reality again.

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