It’s been one year and three months since I exposed myself in Coming Out From Under The Wig. I was naive to think my fears and insecurities would diminish, because I decided to take a risk and try self-confidence on for size. I was naïve to think 20 years of hating my reflection would suddenly make me feel like the fairest of them all. I was naïve to think all of my problems would dissipate once I admitted I was losing my hair. I was naïve to think I was ready to give up my security blanket.
On June 14, 2017 I let the world know that I have Alopecia Areata and that I had worn a wig for the last six years. I was terrified, nervous, excited, and liberated. The response I received from my words and pictures was overwhelming (I’m crying, like a little bitch as I type this). People I hadn’t spoken to since High School reached out with encouragement; Coworkers peeked into my office to high five my new look; Strangers thanked me for sharing my story while exchanging their own struggle with hair loss; Men told me I was beautiful; My friends wondered what the fuck took me so long. I was exhilarated and floating with inspiration. I was out and I didn’t see myself going in any time soon. I went to work without wearing my wig for six weeks. Six whole weeks!!! I didn’t have a plan. I just rode the wave of confidence. I was fearless, until I wasn’t.
Before I dive into the ugly truth of my battle with self-acceptance, let me share the good. I have some pretty great experiences being out in the open about my Alopecia. I know I would not have had these highlights had I stayed hidden.
I started 2018 off with a bang when a writer for a UK news blog, messaged me on Instagram to ask if he could share my story. I was shocked, because I didn’t think my story was news worthy, but I knew that was my insecurity doubting me, so I accepted. A few weeks later my best friend text me a link to my article in the Daily Mail! So much for a random news blog, the Daily Mail is huge! I was so honored to share my story on such a large platform. If you haven’t read the article, read it here.
Daily Mail wasn’t the only publication my bald head was lucky to be apart of. I found a project through Instagram called “Underneath We Are Woman.” Founded by Amy Hermann, a photographer and body positive activist. She was looking for women to share their flaws in her book. I immediately applied. I knew Alopecia had to have a voice in this book, to inspire women feeling less than beautiful to embrace their lack of hair and let their bald heads shine! In March I took off my wig and my top and posed for Amy as a badass bald babe. I felt nervous, liberated, and unfiltered. I cannot wait for this book to come out next year. I will share more details in another blog.
Lastly, if you follow my blog or Instagram you know that baking has been my therapy since I was a kid. I have baked for TV shows, weddings, and Cupcake Wars (twice). I write my own recipes and share them on Love Sweet Mess. I am self-publishing my first cookbook called “What To Bake When” and it is dedicated to my Alopecia. This book is unique because it is for purposeful baking. New neighbors? Summer BBQ? Halloween party? Baking for him? I got you covered! I am really excited, because it has taken four years and three concepts, but it is finally coming to life!
No publicity is bad publicity, and I am lucky that these highlights are all good, but my journey this year has been far from a walk in the park. Let me dig into the ugly experiences of coming out from under the wig.
Not Bald Enough
To help me cope with being out, I joined a support group on FaceBook. I thought I would be bombarded with inspirational triumphs and words of wisdom to keep me confident and rely less on my wig. Sometimes it was, but other times the members used the platform as a place to vent their sorrows of self-pity. As much as the group was a safe space for all topics of Alopecia discussion, I found the overall tone to be depressing. That used to be me. I was the girl looking for doctor referrals, homeopathic remedies, and diets to promote hair growth. I was the girl that would die if anyone knew I wore a wig. But I told that girl to fuck off; I didn’t want to be reminded of who I was. I wanted the encouragement to continue to be my true self, to exist without hiding, without self-pity, without fear of rejection. I began to feel guilty.
“Am I bald enough to stand as a role model for Alopecia? What gives me the right to give life advice, when I have more hair than half the women I coach?” That damn self-doubt monster was back. I thought he would die once I surrendered to myself. I didn’t know that I had to keep working at staying positive and dodging my own negativity. For years I felt nothing but self-pity. I could identify with other women struggling to come out, and thought those that were out were crazy. Once I got to the other side I realized hiding in self-pity was crazy, and I never wanted to go back there. I also thought it was easy for me to feel this way because my case of Alopecia is not as severe as some of the people I have encountered on social media. I felt like I wasn’t bald enough. Some women would kill for the amount of hair I grow in a week, not to mention my eyelashes and eyebrows have never fallen off. To be honest I’m one hairy woman. Maybe I could only own it because I didn’t have that much hair loss to greave. The power of thought is real, and I manifested my fears and insecurities into existence.
“You have hair though you don’t really have Alopecia…” I woke up to that comment on my Instagram the other morning. My first troll! I was pissed. I wanted to put her on blast and shame her for being such a hater.
“Every case looks different. You have no right to tell me what I don’t have.” I snapped back.
“You have a full head of hair with lashes and brows please explain where your Alopecia is.”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It’s Alopecia Awareness month. This is the time for people struggling with hair loss to feel safe sharing their stories, come out of their wigs, and support one another. What did this woman gain from questioning my Alopecia, my journey, my feelings? The longer I sat with my thoughts I started to feel less pissed and more sad. Sad for this woman not for myself. I was sad that instead of educating herself on the different types of Alopecia, she decided to deem anyone without complete hair loss wrong. I was sad knowing that she is so insecure that she has to deflect her insecurity onto others. She made me realize that my fears are real, but I am strong enough to handle what people think, because IDGAF.
Alopecia: One Type Does Not Fit All
Here’s the gist. There are many types of Alopecia and many triggers that lead to when and how much hair one will lose. There is no such nonsense as “not bald enough” (if you hadn’t put it together yet, this is the pep talk I give myself on a weekly basis). I never lost my hair in patches. In fact I can’t remember losing my hair at all. It was as if I woke up one day with a thin patch of hair on the top of my head, and it stayed exactly the same to this day. It never filled in, or thinned any further. Imagine having three 2-inch bald circles on your head, then spread out that bald surface area throughout your head, focusing most on the top. That’s my head. I have a full head of hair, but it doesn’t grow in looking full. It is very scarce. My follicles are spread out far from one another, and my hair strands are very fine. I shave my head every week, because I feel more put together and my wig tape sticks to my scalp better. Growing my hair out doesn’t give me any more confidence, because I will never have a full head of thick hair, and that’s okay! I don’t need a full head of hair to define me. The journey of hair loss is difficult no matter how much hair is lost or grown back. So take that, nasty self-doubt monster!
Owning my hair loss doesn’t stop the questions that so many of us Alopecians want answers to. Will I ever date again? Will anyone ever love me? Will I ever get told I am beautiful and believe it? Will I ever be enough? No matter how much control you think you have over your negativity monster, these questions still seep through the cracks. Whether I felt bald enough or not, the self-doubt didn’t sleep as long as other women were posting the same thoughts on Facebook or the trolls were questioning my authenticity. I wondered most often, “Will I die bald and alone?”
Bald Girls Need Love Too
I don’t care what anyone says, the hardest part about sharing your flaws is the fear of rejection. Every woman I have talked to about hair loss, or every comment I read on an Alopecia support group says the same thing; “No one will ever love me without hair.” I believed the same words. “What man would find me attractive if I told him I was wearing a wig? What man would think I was sexy and feminine with a bald head?” These thoughts consumed me for most of my life. When I decided I was going to come out I accepted that I wasn’t going to date again. I didn’t care about finding love, because I wanted to love myself. I was tired of thinking so negatively. I was tired of hiding my hair loss from men. It was exhausting. I didn’t even act like myself, because I didn’t know who I was or how to let my guard down. So I quit. I quit dating, surrendered to loneliness and shared my story. You know that saying love will find you when you least expect it” or some shit like that? Well it’s true. When I stopped looking, it bit me in the ass.
Four days before I planned on posting my sweeping, bald proclamation I had casual dinner plans with an out of town friend from middle school. To be honest he was an ex-boyfriend. My very first, if you don’t count the boy I forced to play Prince Eric to my Little Mermaid in kindergarten, or the boy I kissed on the cheek on the playground in grade school. This was the boy I first held hands with at a skating rink. We “dated” for two weeks before my mom told me I was too young, so we broke up. I hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years. I don’t know how we connected pre-social media, but we managed to stay connected. I wondered how awkward it would be (assuming we had nothing in common), and if I should cancel, because what are plans if you aren’t trying to break them? I decided against flaking and greeted him at the front door of my building. HOT DAMN. This was not the boy I was expecting to reunite with over casual dinner. This was a gorgeous man that gave me butterflies (barf).
One year later we are in a long distance relationship. I would love to say that this relationship has been easy and that I am so comfortable and secure with him, but I would be lying. Just because I posted some pictures without my wig on and shared my story, doesn’t erase the years of trauma associated with hair loss. It doesn’t matter how many times he tells me I’m beautiful, I can’t believe it. I have not taken my wig off in front of him, despite him seeing my bald pictures. I have a wall up, and even though I want to be completely vulnerable, I hit that wall every time and I retract. This wall has prevented me from having a truly intimate relationship. I want to be myself, and let him in, but the fear of rejection causes me to pick fights and play defense, just so I can say “I knew he didn’t really love me,” when it doesn’t work out.
I don’t want to be this way. I want to bulldoze that wall, and be close to my boyfriend, so I am working on myself through therapy and life coaching. I am looking into my past to discover where this insecurity really stems from and how to overcome it. My past relationships were no different; I just never cared enough to heal myself until I realized all that I had to lose. We have lost so much in our hair loss journeys, why should we continue to grieve loss if we don’t have to?
In June of 2017 my newfound self-confidence was liberating. I was on top of the world until I wasn’t. Four months after coming out, cloud nine started to evaporate leaving me flat on my bald ass. My six-year producing job went on hiatus leaving me unemployed for 8 months. I had never been unemployed that long since I started working at the age of 15. I started to retract. Every rejection email, or call back I didn’t receive made me that much more insecure. I wore my wig every time I left my apartment. Soon enough I was barely leaving my apartment at all. I started poking holes in my relationship, looking for anything else to fill my self-pity. The woman that told the world about her bald head, and didn’t wear her wig for six weeks was gone. She was unemployed, broke, depressed, and discouraged.
I ended up losing my luxury apartment downtown that I loved so much. I lost my savings, and accumulated debt. I lost my pug for three months (she lived with my grandparents while I found us a new home). I lost a good friend and an uncle (the first real deaths I have ever known), I am about to lose my 14 year-old Corolla (which is a blessing it’s time to let go, I know this), I lost my security. I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough. I convinced myself that I was no better than the broken, hunch-backed, bald, little girl whose daddy didn’t love her. I hated looking at my reflection again. I hated taking my wig off. My wig was my security blanket. The only place left to hide from myself.
The struggle of unemployment in an overpriced and overpopulated city is real. I never imagined I would hit rock bottom so quickly. That was my problem all along. I thought unemployment was rock bottom. I only focused on all that I was losing rather than all that I was gaining. It has been almost impossible to change my mindset, because every week something new has come up that makes me feel sorry for myself. I know that life gets the best of everyone, and that people with hair don’t start wearing wigs to feel safe. I don’t want to either, but for now I am going to keep wearing my wig while I rebuild.
My year was so powerful and liberating, if I don’t focus on all the bad. The biggest takeaway I have from my darkest time is that retracting to who I was isn’t going to move me forward. The bottom is going to drop, plans will change, shit is going to happen. I can’t relate life to my Alopecia. I have to keep the two separate. I am working on that. I am working on finding a new path. I was the girl that thought she had everything figured out, knew exactly where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Now I don’t have a clue. I know that continuing to feel insecure and defeated when life throws lemons at me (like really really hard) is not going to change my path. I have to be strong enough to change direction myself.
I compare myself to people in my life sometimes (like you don’t), and feel like I am so behind for being 32 years old. I don’t own anything but a 12 year-old pug and 14 year-old Toyota Corolla (that’s on her way out). I’m not married with children (thank God). I don’t own a home, and I’m not filthy rich, traveling the world as I please. The good news is I am filthy rich in relationships. I have perfect health (alopecia does not affect my health). I am able, I am willing, and I am ready. I am ready to take on more work, more creativity, more challenges, and more adventures. That my friends, is all you need in life: the drive to do better. You can always do better. I am going to do better and when I feel like wearing my wig I will, when I don’t, I won’t. I have been vision boarding my future and smudging the shit out of my apartment, and myself so I feel pretty optimistic about my next chapter.
I’m 32 years old. I have Alopecia Areata. I wear a wig a lot. I’m insecure, and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I got a little lost, but I’m looking forward to finding my way.