What is your perspective on how others view you?
I believe others view me as confident or even overly confident. Although true, my confidence was a strength that I had to spend many years building due to my secret underlying health condition. The confidence that people may
witnessed when I was younger was more so a defense tactic of trying to portray that I was ok when in reality, I was crumbling inside.
Tell us something that you experienced that either no one or very few people know about?
To my horrific shock, in 2012, I woke up with quarter-sized bald patches throughout my scalp. That year I was diagnosed with Alopecia areata, an uncurable autoimmune inflammatory disorder in which one's body mistakenly attacks its hair follicles, creating sudden hair loss. Hair may grow back but falls out elsewhere and could potentially lead to total hair loss.
This diagnosis marked the beginning of what has been a decade of cyclical hair loss and initially left me feeling ugly, devastated, embarrassed, helpless and it took an overall toll on my mental health. Society's perception of beauty is heavily placed on hair; therefore, Alopecia led me to reevaluate my meaning of beauty. For so long, my long hair was a staple to my style. This disorder has forced me to cast out my prior skewed self-image distortion and accept myself on a deeper level, far beyond my long hair. Perhaps one day, Alopecia will result in total hair loss for me, or maybe it will not. Regardless I have learned that hair is not an extension of my person or identity; it is simply an accessory.
Do you find it hard to share this experience with others? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Alopecia areata has led to an array of mixed inner feelings which resulted in me thinking, "they don't understand." Plus, people can be overly cruel and judgmental. I have only shared my diagnosis with a handful of people because of this.
What steps have you taken to heal?
Alopecia helped strengthen my relationship with God. Hair loss triggered such severe anxiety and helplessness within me. I was desperate for emotional comfort. Growing in my faith provided just that. Now when I discover new bald patches, I immediately turn to prayer, and it releases my anxiety and builds my confidence in God's will in that although I may not understand it, this is His purpose for me.
Why is it important for you to share your story with others?
I need to go beyond my comfort zone to share my story to create awareness about Alopecia areata. There is an overall stigma or ignorance in that baldness, or patchy hair loss equates with sickness or is simply unattractive. Imagine the impact these views, comments, or stares can have on someone who is already emotionally rattled and overall vulnerable. Most importantly, I want people to know that Alopecia areata is not the end of the world. There is so much to live for far beyond the outer appearance.
What advice do you have today that you would give your past self?
Do not be so critical of yourself. People love you as you are.