I’m not really sure how to start this but I guess I can begin by saying that 2018 was the worst and best year of my life.
In mid-April 2018, a couple weeks before I turned 24, I suddenly noticed a lot of hair in my brush, around my scrunchies, and coming out in the shower. I instantly knew something was up.
The below was the first alopecia related picture I took. I sent it to my mom explaining that the amount coming out from brushing my hair that morning didn’t seem normal.
I went to my primary care doctor that weekend and had some blood work done. That night my mom and I were checking my scalp and found two round bald patches. I was incredibly scared because although my patches were small and easily hidden, the hair shedding was happening rapidly and I had no idea when or if it would stop.
The next morning we went to a dermatologist which was a very scarring experience. The doctor started by doing a “hair-pull” test which meant taking a section of hair and lightly pulling the hair between his fingers to see how many hairs came out loose. The normal amount of hair strands to come out during this test is around 2-4 hairs, but when he did the test on my hair, about 20 hairs came loose. The icing on the cake was when he said “this hair loss is quite impressive”. I wanted to say, “Great, doc, thanks, I’m glad you are getting a kick out of this nightmare of mine”. He diagnosed me with Telogen Effluvium which is when hair follicles suddenly go into their resting phase.
I went to another dermatologist the next day because I just didn’t feel great about working with the first dermatologist. I felt he was jumping to conclusions. The second dermatologist diagnosed me with Alopecia Areata, given the signature circular bald spots, and recommended doing a round of steroid injections into my scalp. We continued the steroid injections every 4 weeks for the next 3 months. I was also given a steroid cream as well as Latisse to put on my scalp every night.
I started finding more spots but what I didn’t realize was that my hair was also thinning everywhere. When my bloodwork came back from my primary care doctor, I had a slightly underactive thyroid and elevated antibodies indicating that I had Hashimoto’s disease. I was put on a very low dose of Levothyroxine which I still am taking daily.
After only about a week of being diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, I started doing a lot of research on autoimmune disease. From this research, I decided to go on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet. Essentially cutting out all dairy, grains, and eggs among other things. The idea behind this diet is that eliminating these inflammatory foods will reduce symptoms of an autoimmune condition. Although my doctors did not think the diet would help, I was willing to try anything.
In the first month of hair loss, it was still easy to wear my hair down and use headbands to hide the thinning sections.
I was really hoping that after a month of being on the diet, the hair loss would stop but the thinning reached its worst point in June.
At this point, I was about 80% sure that I was headed towards Alopecia Totalis, which is when the Alopecia affects your entire scalp. But then, sometime in July, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. My scalp was no longer a gleaming white underneath whatever long hair was left. My scalp almost looked gray, meaning that my hair was growing back!
It’s important for me to point out that even though my hair re-growth had started, there was still long hair falling out at the same time. My hair shed from the top of my scalp first and then when the hair on the top began to grow back, the hair on the side and back of my head continued to fall out, meaning that the sides were the last to grow back.
By the end of August, I had about 5-10% of my long hair left but no bald spots and you could no longer see my scalp because of the re-growth.
By September I felt that the hair fall had really slowed down. The thinning had basically made its way through my entire scalp but luckily I was never bald all at once. I chopped off the little bit of long hair I had left and embraced the change as best I could (even though I felt like a 7 year old boy for the first couple weeks).
Reflecting on my Alopecia Summer:
Although I shed countless tears dealing with this condition, the growth I experienced actually makes me so incredibly thankful it happened. Losing such a big part of what made me feel feminine and beautiful, really forced me to work on my self-love practice. I was able to emerge from this past summer, with a growing head of hair, a better understanding of what type of food my body thrives on, and so much gratitude for my health.
For anyone who is losing their hair, the best advice I can give is to lean on your family. They will pick you up on the days when you feel hopeless and remind you of how lucky you are to have a condition that isn’t more serious.
The power of positive thinking and love from the people around you and from yourself makes all the difference.