“I hate myself,” I wrote. “All I’ve been able to think about for the past two weeks is my hair. I hate how it’s consuming me. Like my hair loss, I feel like my self-pity is unstoppable. I am a monster to my children. I can’t sleep. Food doesn’t taste good. I spend hours a day looking at my bald spots in the mirror — hours just obsessing over how and why and what I did wrong and what I’m doing wrong. I want to stop. I want to scream. I don’t want it to be this way. But I feel obsessed by a force. I don’t know how to control myself and my thoughts and my obsession. It’s all-consuming and I feel like this miserable cycle will never end.”
My journey with hair loss began the summer after my second baby turned one. And I had been so busy with life as a working mother of two I hadn’t even noticed. Until one day in June, as I was getting ready for work, straightening my hair, and tilted the mirror in just the right direction and there it was — a bald spot starting right back at me smack in the middle of my head. I began searching and before long I found another; this one was a little smaller and on the top of my head, right along my part line.
Immediately, I went numb. And I almost passed out.
Remember how they tell you that postpartum hair loss is gradual and you won’t lose all of your hair? No one ever said anything about bald spots.
I began frantically researching what on earth could be wrong with me. What vitamin was I missing? How were my iron levels? Did I have a thyroid problem?
I went to one dermatologist and he took one look at me, declared that I had “alopecia areata.” He told me he had no idea why it was happening. He gave me some steroid shots in my scalp, told me to use Rogaine and come back in four weeks.
I was devastated. I had done just enough Google research to know that alopecia areata (AA) was autoimmune and could be lifelong. I had also read horror stories about people with AA who never regrew hair and eventually lost all of it. How could this be happening to me!?
I’ve never had great hair. It’s always been too thin or too fine or too flat. But I’d never had hair loss before. Even after the birth of my first daughter, my hair loss hadn’t even been noticeable. And I also tended to keep my pregnancy hair until I began to wean my babies, resulting in years of thicker, more luscious hair.
This hair loss proved to be a nightmare. I found myself longing for my old, thin hair that used to annoy me. I continued to shed — not just from my bald spots, but from all over…for months. I saw another dermatologist who had a more gentle approach. She gave me topical steroids and more shots, and assured me I would regrow hair. She still didn’t have any answers for me, but somehow she gave me hope.
I weaned my second baby — through lots of tears — and began using Rogaine. I wore a hat a pretty much all summer long and my hair style consisted of a lot of French braids to hide my ever-growing bald spots. I ended up with three spots and the largest was the size of a golf ball. For the most part, I was too scared to show even my family and friends. I had a wonderful support system with my mother, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, but a part from them I was scared to talk about it.
That summer was rough. But by the fall, I had small tufts of regrowth and my shedding seemed to subside.
It was a devastating journey that again spiraled me into depression, anxiety, fear, and more self-loathing.
“Hair loss is so demoralizing,” one friend wrote in a text to me. And so many people don’t understand how debilitating it can be.
“It’s just hair,” people tell me. “It’ll grow back.”
But what if it doesn’t? It’s a thought that is always in the back of my mind.
Through my journey, I am learning to live with my reality.
I have two little girls and I tell myself daily that they don’t care what my hair looks like. They will love their mom, not in spite of her hair loss, but because she was brave enough not to let it define her.