Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Alopecia Areata - How I feel about losing my hair

Image via Women's Hair Loss Project at www.womenshairlossproject.com


Alopecia Areata.  It's an auto-immune disease (which, briefly, means that my immune system gets a little whacky sometimes and attacks my own body.).  This auto-immune disease, in particular, attacks my hair. 

Over the past few months, I've noticed numerous strands of my brown/auburn hair falling out with just a comb of my fingers through my hair.  An unusual amount. So much so that I now have a good sized bald spot on the left side of my head.

And enough to shed a few tears over it in some moments.

This isn't the first time.

It began falling out when I was in early elementary school and by the time I was in 5th grade I was almost completely bald.  I wore hats to school.  And kids were mean.

And once, the way my little 10 year old mind stored it in my memory, my teacher took me out into the hallway and asked impatiently, "Sandra, why don't you just get a wig or something?  It would be better for you if you did."  Oh, I still cringe when I think of how embarrassed I was!   Of course, it didn't help that I was going through that an awkward time where I had huge buck teeth and was tall and scraggly looking! 

Thankfully, by 8th grade, my hair had grown back and stayed there... until I was 22 years old when I had my first baby.    Then grew back.   Then coincidentally - or not - I lost it all again after I had my second baby... then my third... I'm sensing a pattern.

That experience growing up had a deep impact on me on several levels.  I became self-conscious and had a low self esteem.  I learned how important appearance can be for some people.  And I've carried some of that heavy load into adulthood.

But what I've also carried with me is an empathy for others that suffer under the hand of physical issues due to our sometimes wacky bodies and immune systems. 

I'm thankful for the ability to connect on a different level with others who have experienced the same and who have felt the pain of being "different".  And amazingly, I met a girl in college who was also suffering from alopecia - and she was such a beautiful person.  I connected first with her because of that fact and then our friendship grew over our love of music and Jesus.  It's something I think Jesus used to comfort each of us in some ways. 

So here I am again losing my hair... and it kind of stinks.  Besides being an adult and having braces (which is another uncomfortable medical story for another day!), I'm now losing my hair.

I hold handfulls of hair every morning as I wash my hair in the shower.  Sometimes it's a hard reality as I hold those handfulls as society places so much emphasis on our hair and beauty.   And sometimes it doesn't bother me much and I'm so, so thankful that I'm not suffering at the hands of a more painful and dreadful disease.   Things could be much, much worse.

I do have to figure out every day how I'm going to hide the bald spots (if you ever find yourself in this situation, and hopefully you don't, putting dark eyeshadow on the spot helps it to blend in with the thin hair that hangs over it!).

A plus?  I don't have to shave my legs!  That's a big Woo Hoo for any girl!  Also, I have a husband who encourages me and tells me I'm beautiful every day, despite losing my hair.

I was recently at a Priscilla Shirer simulcast and she talked  about the "interruptions" in our lives.  They can be painful or hard or annoying or overwhelming things that have announced themselves in our lives, but given the chance, God could be using it for good.  It could be where He's placed me for a time to grow and a chance to love on and connect with others.

Right now, I'm choosing to believe that God is using this to place beauty in my life where most of the world would find anything but beauty.

Some days it's harder to choose that truth than others, but I'm a work in progress!

If you or anyone else you know suffers from Alopecia, I'd love to hear your story.  I've not met many others with the disease and I'd love to connect with you and hear your tricks and methods to treat and deal with it or just to hear your story and know that we're not alone!

P.S.  If you want to know more about Alopecia Areata you can go to www.naaf.org , the National Alopecia Areata Foundation to learn more about the disease.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.


Sandra, you are one of the most beautiful women that I know.
J~

Shell said...

My heart breaks for the 5th grader you were, who had to listen to those kids and that teacher.

But, you have a wonderful outlook now. I'm so bummed that I missed Priscilla's simulcast- though I did just finish her Life Interrupted Bible Study.

MrsJenB said...

Poor little you, enduring that sort of pain as a child. I can't imagine why a teacher would be so cold.

I've never been diagnosed with a disease like yours, but I do go through cycles of loss and regrowth. At the moment, praise God, it's a regrowth cycle. There is nothing in the world like the sort of self-consciousness involved with knowing your hair is too thin, and trying to hide thinner patches. And the helpless feeling that comes along with it doesn't help matters. I've cried and cried over this in the past.

Big ((HUG)) to you! You have a great outlook and you're right - I'm sure there are very sick people in the world who wish their problem was hair loss.

Gary and Donna said...

Wow, Sandra. I had no idea and hair is a big deal. I'm glad that God is working it for good in your life.

The Enslingers said...

Sandra - beautiful words! Ever since I have met you, you have never ceased to amaze me, inspire me, and touch my heart! You are beautiful and amazing! Just want you to know! Thanks for sharing.

Heather

shellycoulter said...

Love you, dear friend! Always praying for you! I'm inspired & glad you are choosing to give God the credit & know that He will use this as part of your story & journey of His faithfulness in your life!

See ya tomorrow~ :)

Craptastic Mommy said...

Ugh, just thinking about that teacher saying that to you has me so frustrated. Missed opportunity big time.
I think you have such strength eminating from your words and while it obviously is quite painful for you still, your attitude is inspiring. Thank you for sharing. You have a gorgeous family - and they have one amazing and beautiful mama!

Kimberly said...

My heart breaks for the 5th grade you. You've shown great strength and courage, and for that you should be proud. You're very inspiring. ((Hugs)) to you!

Stopping by from PYHO, and so glad I did!

Nathalie said...

thank you for sharing this Sandra. I read it when you posted it and have meant to comment and tell you how much I appreciate you being so vulnerable.
you are an amazing lady...

Jac said...

I'm in tears right now, thanking God for bringing your blog into my life today! I am losing my hair for the first time - I've lost a little over 50% of my hair in the past two months or so. I'm gearing myself up to shave off the rest of it, but MAN is it hard. I'm so comforted and inspired by your story. I'm sure once I can afford a wig this will be a little easier, but in the mean time I will cling to the hope that God really can use this to *place* beauty in my life. Thank you for sharing yourself so vulnerably.

LouBoo said...

Hi - again - I commented on another post and felt compelled to come back to this. You see my brother had Alopecia. Suddenly - about four months after he had meningitis (from which he recovered thankfully) his hair started dropping out. Different for men I guess as he was in his thirties and may well have started to loose his hair anyway. For a year or more he had no hair at all. Then very gradually it came back. Of course then he had started to recede and so he took the decision to just shave his head and now that is what he does all the time. He has patches and you can see on days when there is some stubble that the growth is not complete across all his head. I guess the point is - I sense that society's pursuit of beauty makes it hard to be openly distressed about loosing one's hair as some could consider that vain. However it is not! He was not vain, he just didn't want to have to deal with having no hair. It was a very real and very painful time for him - utterly helpless and with no real understanding of why it was happening. Clearly the body goes through stress (illness, or even pregnancy) and it reacts. All of us react - it's just that in some cases it has a bigger reaction. So - I just wanted to say...for what it's worth you don't sound vain (in case you were worried you did); you sound brave and real and womanly. Lou x

Dara said...

Hair does not define a person, and people who don't see that are insane! A persons looks doesn't define who they are, it's the person inside that counts....true beauty comes from within! :) You have an amazing family and amazing husband who's by your side no matter what! And you ARE beautiful inside and out, in my opinion. :) I found you through Kelle Hampton, so I'll be hanging around reading your blog :)

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