To end September being Alopecia Awareness month, our Digital Marketer Kate-Leigh writes about her experience being a child with alopecia universailles.
My Alopecia Story
15 years ago I was getting ready for my 7th birthday. I remember the weeks leading up to it being so excited to celebrate with my friends. At that age, you have a better grasp of the world, and you start to remember things more clearly.
I never knew I had a bald spot until I was in my GP’s surgery. I remember being very confused to have an appointment, as I didn’t feel sick. But I was being treated as a patient. In that appointment I heard the word ‘alopecia’ being mentioned for the first time ever.
Months prior to this, I had suffered a loss as my grandmother passed away. I lived with her, and she was a massive figure in my life. I struggled to come to terms with that grief and many people in my life believe my hair loss was as a result of stress.
After that doctor’s appointment, it became obvious to me that my hair was falling out. My mother did her absolute best to control the loss. We tried every lotion and potion in the book, old wives tales, supplements, treatments, everything. When I woke up in the morning there would be clumps of hair on my pillow, and handfuls of tufts floating down the drain in the shower. They were the times where I noticed it the most.
The rate of time that my hair fell out was drastic. They estimate that 90% was gone 2 weeks after that initial appointment with my GP, long before I had been referred to a dermatologist. I don’t remember much from that time, other than wearing a bandana for my 7th birthday. My parents had to find a quick solution to cover my scalp and give me a bit of modesty, so they decided I would wear bandanas. I had eczema on my neck and I needed something light and breathable as a head covering.
I remember being brought to a few different dermatologists to try and get opinions on my condition. The trichologist’s (specialist in hair) appointment was the worst experience of them all. As a child, I found those doctors to be very cold and heartless. My parents got an impression they were all very dismissive, with no medical advise or explanation to offer. It felt as if they didn’t want to see me as a patient at all. We found no solutions or answers in those appointments. I have to stress this was 15 years ago, and I hope those consultants are friendlier now, or have resources to point people in the right direction.
My First Wig
I wore my first wig for my Holy Communion, around a year after losing my hair. I’m from the West of Ireland in a rural area, and 15 years ago online wig shops didn’t exist that we knew of. Kids wigs weren’t available. My first wig was a synthetic Rene of Paris petite wig, and a hairdresser cut in a side fringe to cover up the fact I had no eyebrows. The synthetic hair agitated my eczema, and I probably only wore that wig for an hour or two until I tore it off in pure aggravation.
Dealing With Being Teased
Kids can be cruel to differences. Some out of innocence, but others are more nasty. I don’t like to dwell on this part of my childhood. I was teased over something I couldn’t control, and to be honest I’ve blocked a lot of it out. My parents, and all of my family members, did their absolute best to make me feel more secure. Every time an aunt, or uncle went on holidays, they’d always come back with a new bandana or head band for me. My collection of head coverings was fairly vast! I had every colour of the rainbow, and more.
My family tried their best to deal with teasing and bullying head on. I do confess now years later, I didn’t tell them about half of it. In hindsight, I didn’t let it affect me too much. I was self conscious when it came to playing sport. I was constantly worried that my bandana would fall off, and I’d get starred at even more than I would usually. Many people thought I had cancer, and didn’t know what alopecia even was. When I wore a bandana in public I got starred at a lot.
It was reiterated to me all the time, that I was more than just my alopecia. It didn’t define me, and I could do anything, or be anything I wanted. I had very little self-confidence as a child, but I was surrounded with support. When I hit adolescence it got harder to deal with. I was so jealous of other girls with high ponytails, highlights and up-dos. All I wanted was to blend in, and be just like everyone else.
Deciding To Wear Wigs
I decided to start wearing wigs full time on my first week of secondary school. Everyone has embarrassing teenage photos but mine definitely take first prize. When I look back, I laugh myself! I went through a lot of bad, ill fitting wigs in shades that absolutely did not suit me one bit. My poor mother felt so limited when searching for wigs that would suit, that were in our price range. Ten years ago there weren’t that many options online.
It was suggested to me to wear a wig in a shade close to my bio hair, dark brown. It was also suggested that I cut in a full fringe, so my lack of eyebrows would not be on show. I discovered eyeliner, and I’ve been rocking a cat winged eye effect for years disguise my lack of eyelashes.
My Life Now, Accepting Alopecia
Alopecia has shaped my personality. I did not let it define me, but it certainly made me stronger. Having a condition that made me look ‘different’ taught me to be empathetic to others who struggle with their appearance. It has taught me to be compassionate to other peoples feelings, as I know what it was like for mine to be hurt. It has brought out my creative side, as I experiment with different wig styles and head coverings. Most importantly, it has taught me that beauty isn’t measured in sight. Beauty is held in your soul.
Click here to read more stories like Kate-Leigh’s. We hope you enjoyed this blog, and all of our blogs we brought you over the month of September, highlighting Alopecia Awareness. To keep up with all that is new in the World of Wigs, make sure you follow our Instagram and like us on Facebook.