Before My Alopecia started I had a nice thick head of dark hair.
In November 2011 – two tiny little dots where hair didn’t grow appeared on my chin. .
Obviously like any other person who cared about their looks I was worried – in fact I was majorly freaked out if truth be told. Bordering on daily obsession! To read more about the start of my journey and how I began to cope- view my previous post on the start of my facial hair loss. This will give you the background info in relation to how I felt in the run up to the ‘big shave’.
Following on from my facial hair loss. . .
I had gotten used to the ever decreasing amount of facial hair and was coping fairly well. From November 2011 until the middle of 2012 – I had started to cheer up and ‘make it work’ for me (to quote Tim Gunn).
I had been told by my dermatologist (re: my facial hair) that “It may come back, it may not, all your hair may fall out – be prepared”. I thought I was – but i wasn’t..
It was during July 2012 that I had started to chill out and get used to this whole thing. However – as I have previously said – this Alopecia is an unpredictable ar5ehole and had a surprise in store for me.
I was getting my haircut (ah, a fond memory) and having a chat to my hairdresser Anne when I heard her say those dreaded words “have you always had this wee patch?”. The words echoed seemingly forever as I tried to scratch around for a distant memory – a knock I had as a child, falling off a swing – anything to explain why I may now have a patch of hair missing from the back of my head. In reality – of course I knew what it was, and if I had a sense of humour about it – (which I didn’t at the time) I would have glared in the hairdressers mirror, stroked my imaginary white cat and said (in my best Bond villain voice):
“Ah, we have been expecting you“.
In reality, I sat agog and unresponsive to her question, trying to work out what to say. Ann saw my face and guessed what was happening, I think I began to well up a little. It was something I had expected and prayed wouldn’t come – but it had, rather quickly- the first patch of alopecia on my scalp. She then started to fill up and was actually quite cut up about losing a customer and gossip partner.
I went home and washed my hair after the ‘final cut’ and had a little sob in the shower. Rather dramatic and self-indulgent but I think I needed it.
It’s about to get dark. . .
From that day on I started compulsively checking my hair and tugging on bits to decide where it might start to disappear from next. I didn’t crumble emotionally this time, I took a few steps backwards and once again hair loss became my favourite topic of discussion – my apologies to anyone that had to listen to me during that time!
I started to notice more and more patches – I think I had three when I first started toying with the idea of shaving my head. I say toying but in actual fact it was an emotional wrestle I had on a daily basis – in the shower, touching the soft skin of the bald bit, asking anyone who would listen what they think and ignoring their response.
However – on a brighter note…
Coping was easier in a sense this time as I had a slight indication and expectation of what to expect – and sorry to tell you this anyone who may be reading this and experiencing the same things – the only two emotions and feelings I knew I could expect were unpredictability and a sense of helplessness:
- Of where it might strike next.
- Of the speed of hair loss and potential recovery times.
- Permeates your feelings towards your body image, appearance, place in society and self-confidence – “Why bloody me?, is it because I am stressed, unhealthy, because I use these hair products??”
- A general sense of helplessness felt by you and those closest to you.
As the two elements above are standard themes in my personal experience of Alopecia, I knew accepting both were the only way I would stop myself from going mad. I tried numerous creams, potions, lotions and crazy cures. These will be detailed and discussed in a later post – none worked for me.
The 3 greedy spots got fatter
The 3 initial spots spread fairly quickly and started to have an impact on my life pretty much straight away – the elements were my enemy! Wind and rain filled me with dread if they were lurking behind curtains each morning – a surprise flash of my newly balding bonce was always a possibility. I panicked and constantly thought – what will people think if they see a flash of scalp during a gust of wind? “Will they think I have a disease or am just going bald and not able to get the balls to shave it off?”
The almost mad hatters pity party
To combat these negative feelings – from the moment my scalp started to show more skin – I became an avid hat collector – I collected over 20 different pieces of headwear in an array of colours – including:
- baseball caps
- trucker caps
- baker boy style
- wooly hats
- skiing hats
A multitude of the above became part of my outfit de rigueur. The only times i didn’t have a hat glued to my noggin were when I was at work or ironically if I needed to look smart! I figured that a trucker cap/beanie wouldn’t look appropriate in an office environment or with a dinner suit! In these cases I was forced to embrace the natural look and pray for calm weather.
It was during this time of half hiding/covering that I started thinking about next steps. I knew I couldn’t keep relying on hats to hide what was going on & my tired wee brain couldn’t cope with constant trips to the bathroom to check my bald bits weren’t showing.
If they were I got flustered and immediately scraped some hair over the offending pink patch while silently feeling disgusted with myself.
This was a pretty shit time and most people probably couldn’t see very much wrong on the outside but I felt low, ugly and odd. I had to do something. This was when I maniacally typed – “shave or not to shave” & looked for tips on what to do. Hoping someone would answer for me or inspire me into making a decision. In reality I knew what I was going to do – I made my mind up early on that if the patches became obvious – I would rather shave it off than have a massive comb over.
Easier said than done..
As you can see by the picture above – July was a bad time and it quickly progressed.
I took photos all of the time and as previously mentioned was not a fun guy to speak to around these months. One of the final straws came when I was attending a conference in Glasgow – I got caught in a downpour (with no hat or hood) and caught sight of myself in a shop window. I glanced at the hollow ghost with the panicked face, scared, alarmed eyes and patchy head. Fuck – it was me! I don’t know if any of you have ever not recognised/been shocked by your own appearance? It’s painful and surreal. I had been kidding myself that my alopecia patches were small and inconspicuous. They weren’t. I felt awful. I had an impending holiday to a villa in Spain and decided I would do the deed then. I marked it in my imaginary calendar with a cartoon black mark and nervously waited..
I had been on holiday for one day when I decided enough was enough…
I decided to take one last picture from the pool for posterity and to see how much my face and general look would be changing. I also took loadsa photos as I was chopping the locks…
As you can see – It was getting harder to hide – the first shave pictures below was after using the clippers at number 1:
I was shocked by how many other wee holes had appeared which I could now see once I had shaved my head. I decided it needed to be closer shaved – so I took the plunge and used a wet razor and shaved my head as I wanted it to be as smooth and less obvious as possible.
This is me now – bald, with some wee blonde bits of regrowth. Its getting worse but also maybe getting better?
It’s actually amazing how odd but sometimes pretty the alopecia patterns can be – ‘oh the irony!’ I will post a few ‘patch photos’ next time and show how they have gotten bigger over each month. I am glad that I am cool with the alopecia and not caring what happens next. This I feel is what needs to happen – whatever comes next. I’m ready – and actually not that bothered!
Cheers for reading.