It was a cold-ish November day, about a week after my mom’s birthday (I remember because we had to go to my cousin’s for a late birthday dinner for my mom that evening). My sister and my brother-in-law had decided that they needed to step out to go Christmas shopping for their kids at the mall. I needed a haircut so I figured I would tag along and go get a trim. I knew the hairdresser and he knew how I liked my hair, pin straight, and square.
I sat down on the chair. He put the batman cape on; you know the one that chokes you every time they put the damn thing on. We then went to wash my hair (the most uncomfortable part of the whole process. It feels as though your neck is about to break and a river of water will flow down your shirt. Freaks me out every time.
We returned to the chair and he started to part my hair. Combing slowly and making sure everything was equal (I’m the kind of client that will have a panic attack after getting my haircut if it’s not extremely straight. Getting my haircut gives me severe anxiety in general). He then looks at the reflection of my eyes in his mirror and tells me “Anik, you have alopecia”. I laughed and said, “No I don’t, my mom has that, not me!” Little did I know that what I was referring to was actually called Rosacea. He parts my hair again and shows me while saying convincingly “you have alopecia!”.
I leaned forward in the chair to get closer to my reflection, my glasses were off and my vision wasn’t the sharpest. I squinted a bit…and there it was. A big bald patch of skin in the middle of my head. I couldn’t believe it. He told me to touch it, I didn’t want to touch that! I was fucking freaking out! Thinking to myself “Holy shit, this is it, I will have to shave my head. Fuck. What do I do? Where’s my mom? I need to call my mom!”
What could I do except sit there and proceed with the haircut? Nothing.
So I sat there.
I began to cry. My luscious brown thick hair was falling out at an uncontrollable rate and causing bald patches on my head. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Was I dying? Did I have cancer? Was I sick? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME!
He hurried the haircut and I left the hair salon with bloodshot eyes walking frantically through the mall trying to find my sister. I found her in a girly kids store. She looked at me and before she could utter speak I told her we needed to go home NOW! She got upset and told me to calm down, that they needed to finish shopping, blah blah blah. My heart was pounding. I was on the verge of having a severe panic attack and collapsing in the middle of pink clothes and glittered hairbrushes (the sight of any hair accessories only increased this feeling). I pleaded her to take me home to my mom. Reluctantly, she agreed.
We got into the car and she finally asked: “what’s wrong with you?” I began to cry again and parted my hair without saying a word. She looked quietly and said “oh! I had that when I was younger, it’ll grow back”. I couldn’t believe that once again, she was downplaying how I felt about something that gave me great anxiety.
We finally got home. The five-minute drive felt like an eternity (we hit every god damn red light on the way home). I rushed inside and yelled for my mom. Where was my mom? I needed MY MOM. She came downstairs into the kitchen where I was standing sobbing, once again. She asked me “what’s wrong with you?” And again, I parted my hair quietly and she, to my surprise, got very worried. She touched the bald patches. I don’t know how she did it, I didn’t want to touch that alien skin…I knew it was mine but, I don’t know, I can’t explain it, it’s like it wasn’t mine.
She took me to the bathroom and she looked at it closely without anyone around telling us that I was fine and it would grow back. My mom knew how I was. She knew what caused me anxiety and she didn’t always have the answers to solve my panics but she would be damned if she didn’t try to help.
I remember her being sad. She cried. I cried. We didn’t know what was causing my hair to fall out. A week later I went to the wonderful doctor (he was cute, it made me feel slightly better about going there…). I showed him my hair and he told me I had Alopecia. What the fuck is Alopecia I thought to myself. He proceeded to tell me something about an autoimmune disease and that there was nothing I could do to change it. He also told me that stress could, in turn, cause my hair to fall out. I thought…GREAT! I’m always stressed. I will be bald in a matter of no time. I panicked. Crying in front of my cute doctor…what a fool I was but, I was terrified.
He gave me two options: To get needles in my head that would promote hair growth in the areas affected or…to let the hair grow back. “So, it’s either I get needles in my head or I let my hair grow…what…the…heck, DO I DO?!”
I let it grow back. I was embarrassed. The spots were so big that if I let my hair down people could notice them so, I would always tie my hair up. But there was a catch. I had another spot behind my ear and when I tied my hair up, that one would show. There was no winning so, I had to take the lesser of two evils. The hair was always up.
Since then, I’ve developed a complex. I hate when I see hair on the floor in the bathroom or in the shower or in my hand while I wash it, so, I close my eyes and sing loudly to myself. I hate when people touch my hair. It causes me anxiety. I’m scared that it will all fall off like leaves in autumn, one gust of wind and there goes all of Anik’s hair. Silly fears, I know. But I can’t help it. I hate brushing my hair, it pains me to straighten it or even touch it myself.
It’s a terrible thing that hair on someone’s head defines who they are. I look up to girls who are brave enough to shave their heads and I deeply sympathize with the children, girls, and women who lose their hair due to cancer or other illnesses. It’s like losing your identity. And I know this is not a healthy way to think but I can’t help it and I’m sure the women who’ve gone through this can’t either. The anxiety and the depression it brings when I get new bald spots is something I would not wish on my worst enemy (not that I have many)…
This is my Alopecia story.