Confessions of a 'Bad' Alopecian

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 / 6:00 AM

The thing about losing most of your hair before you become a teenager is that nobody tells you what to expect. There are a lot of conversations about how to stop it from continuing to fall out, how to make it grow back, how to hide it and go on "living normally," but I can't remember ever talking about my feelings. To be fair, I can't remember wanting to talk about it because – well, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to be feeling.

Those words: "supposed to." I was always waiting for someone to tell me the "right" way to respond to my hair falling out, but because no one ever did, I was convinced that however I felt was incorrect anyways. And because I never figured out how I was supposed to feel about having alopecia growing up, I never really figured out how to exist in the world as someone with alopecia. It wasn't just that I was insecure about my hair loss. I was insecure about my insecurities because I didn't necessarily feel "bold, bald and brave."

There's not a lot of pop culture/media representation out there for people with alopecia. What does exist often comes in the form of positive, empowering messages – and there's nothing wrong with that! I'm part of that "positive, empowering" ship with my alopecia-focused Instagram account. I've found a lot of inspiration from friends and fellow alopecians that I've met and interacted with through social media. But I'll admit that sometimes seeing those things have made me feel worse. Hearing someone tell you that "bald is beautiful" isn't necessarily enough to make you feel the same way. On the days I feel depressed about my alopecia, I then immediately feel guilty because I'm not thinking positively or acting empowered enough. 

I guess there's a part of me that's always felt like a "bad" alopecian. I wear wigs when I'm out in the world (though, lately, I've just been throwing on a beanie because I can't be bothered during quarantine – and it's been really hot). There are times I feel ashamed or embarrassed about how I looked. I used to lie about why my hair was falling out. I don't always see my alopecia as a "blessing."

Since I began publishing essays about my alopecia in 2018, I've heard from friends and strangers who've experienced alopecia in some form with questions and insecurities. 

"I wish I had your confidence," someone once said. 

I quickly corrected them. "I'm not that confident," I admitted, following up with all of the things that I wasn't doing "right" as an alopecian.

But that's when I realized: there can't just be one way to have alopecia. Alopecia comes in so many forms and it affects people in different ways, both physically and mentally. If the condition itself wasn't confined to one definition, why should anyone's feelings about it be confined to one emotion? 

There will be good days, and there will be bad ones. It's impossible to be positive about anything all the time, but that doesn't necessarily make me (or you) a negative person or "bad" in any way. It just makes me human – and that's all part of the journey.

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