|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.