Imagine this. Your hair is falling out by the handful. There is not a second of the day that passes where hair is not falling all over you. Nothing is stopping it. All you want to do is curl up in a ball under a cover and hide from the world. But shit, you can’t do that. You’ve got to pull your life together and go to work. Heck man, you’ve got bills to pay! Doctor appointments are not cheap, and insurance will laugh at you for wanting to get your experimental treatments covered. This is life with alopecia. This was my life with alopecia.
I had been working at my job for 4.5 years when I lost my first handful of hair. In fact, I was getting ready for work when it happened. I was on a conference call the day I realized the hair on my arms was gone. I was in my office cafeteria when I tearfully begged my doctor’s nurse to squeeze me in for an appointment to figure out what the heck was going on. I was in my cubicle the first time somebody panicked when they saw me and thought I had cancer. I was at the doctor’s office an hour before going to work when I learned that my immune system had fully turned on me and was going to more than likely take all my hair. The point is, alopecia and my job had somehow become super intertwined.
So how the heck did I find a way to balance the struggles of work with the struggles of alopecia?
1. I shaved the last of my hair and started wearing a wig. You can’t be distracted by hair falling on you when there is no hair to fall. Wigs can be a challenge and require their own adjustment period. They can get hot during the day, they can itch, they can feel uncomfortable. For me, it was worth it to just feel a bit more like myself. It was worth it to not have people see me as this Gollum looking chick on a quest for a ring, and see me as the way I used to (sorta) see myself.
2. I found a coworker friend family. Basically, I have a hype squad. It is pretty lucky if you ask me. If I was having a day where the struggle of transforming into a little bald alien was making me want to cry, I had my pick of friend cubicles that I could duck into to shed a tear or 8000.
3. I got help. My depression was the worst of the worst when this all went down. My morning ritual consisted of me taking a picture of my head to see if there were any changes and then crying. Taking a shower and losing disgusting amounts of hair under the water and then crying. Looking at my hair in the rearview mirror of my car and then crying. Getting to work and walking into a bathroom stall and then crying. You get the picture here. It was a year and a half of releasing enough tears to start my own bottled salt water business. Jokes aside, my mental health was completely shot. I had thoughts of wishing semi-trucks would hit me on my drive to work to end it all. It was that bad. Finally, I made the best decision of my life. I found a psychologist. Alopecia is such a crazy disease. It effects your hair, but it truly can take a toll on your mental health. I know this from my own experience. I know this from the posts I read in the alopecia support group I am in. I know this from the messages I receive on my Instagram. I know that so many of my fellow alopecians are struggling and are having the same if not worse thoughts. I’m telling you friends; a little therapy goes a long ass way. Especially if you are career driven. It will give you a way to deal with your emotional struggles so you can come into work and be your best you. I’m not talking about the fake smile on the outside, weeping on the inside you (case and point me). I’m talking about the real smile on the outside, mostly smiles on the inside, ready to make that money you. Alopecia is a jerk who can take your hair, but it should not be the thing that takes your promotion!! Plus, wigs are hella expensive and you’re going to need that promotion money if wigs are your jam. 😊 But seriously, please, please, please get help if you’re struggling with this disease. Life is too short, you deserve to be happy, you deserve to have success, you deserve to have it all! I can’t emphasize this enough.
4. I opened up. At first, alopecia was my big secret. My coworker hype squad knew, but nobody else did. I expended a lot of energy hiding. I was perpetually afraid that someone would figure it out. I felt guilty if someone complimented my hair because I knew it wasn’t MY hair, it was my wig. I lied and told people I got extensions when I got a new longer wig. I was so scared that people would notice that my hairline periodically shifted throughout the day. I was scared that I’d accidently wipe my drawn-on eyebrow off while sitting at my desk. I thought for sure someone would look at me and realize my eyelashes did not exist. Constant anxiety. Then one day, I shared my story on Facebook. I made post public, and many coworkers who weren’t my fb friends could see it. The support blew my mind. It makes me wonder what I was so afraid of. Let’s say hypothetically, someone chose to be mean or shitty about it. Doesn’t that speak more about them as a person than me as a baldie? Now a days I’m very open about my alopecia at work. The energy that I used to waste hiding my bald girl secrets, I can now use to grow my career. What I realized is that I am a strong independent woman who don’t need no bald secretes to succeed!!
I share my story to help. I wish there was a one sized fits all solution for alopecia struggles. I wish I could wave a wand over all my struggling baldies out there and help you get to where I am now. Sadly, its just not that simple. It is a journey and it takes time to find your new normal at your job or elsewhere. Never forget that your emotions are valid, your struggle is valid, it is not just hair, and you deserve a great freaking life!!!!!! You deserve to go into work and crush your job. Even if you’ve lost your happiness and drive along the way, I truly hope you never give up the fight to find it. You will find it. This I can promise you. Lots of love to you all!! Love, your little Baldie Boo.