shaving

A zombie face with half the mouth missing

Symptomatic/Psychopathic. Zombie features.

What happens to you when you feel a bout of something coming on? What’s your tell? The reason you start to panic or brace yourself for the ensuing episode? Mine is the start of my zombie features – a period where I swing between bouts of obsessing over my dry skin and general mania.

The reason I’m asking is because I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (surprise surprise).

It goes like this – I see a wee red patch of dry skin on my right hand (kind of like stigmata! There is nothing holy about my reaction). Once I notice the patch, a sense of dread courses through my body as I fight my way to the mirror to examine my scalp  – looking for signs of inflammation or crustiness. I am generally not happy until I find something, anything – YES. I am turning into a zombie  – I knew it.

I Zombie?

A zombie face with half the mouth missing

This – is how I imagine I look when fully symptomatic

The reason I relate my ‘symptomatic’ state to that of a zombie is because they both share similar physical features – such as:

  • Falling hair
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • White coating on the tongue
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Red, chapped flaky skin

I know all of the above can also be signs of other stuff – an allergic reaction, an intolerance to dairy, wheat or countless other things or simply some sort of infection. I have thought and thought (and thought again) about all of these things – usually on a loop once I notice that bastard patch of skin appear on my right hand.

Mania

The internal reaction to my physical appearance becoming zombie like is usually mild to manic panic. Constant worry and questioning about WHY this is happening, WHAT is causing it and HOW can I stop it?

My obsession with spots are a recurring theme – maybe they are indeed the problem and I have brought all of this on myself. The constant questions my brain asks along these lines are also a clue that I am experiencing ‘an episode’, ‘being symptomatic’ or just having a generally shit time of it.

I find it hard to concentrate at work or in conversation – probably because my brain is busy asking the same stupid effing questions over and over.  I also find it hard to make decisions – what to wear, what to eat  – total brain fog.

How does noticing this help?

I’m unsure which came first and now which feeds what, but as soon as I see that little red patch or start to feel the other symptoms, feelings or manic thoughts – I try and remember it’s just thoughts, red patches or an inability to make a decision. I don’t let one add to the other and make me feel worse.

I think naming something, realising what’s happening and being prepared is useful – eventually. It takes time but every time one of these smaller things happens – I call it out for what it is – just something that’s happening which isn’t the end of the world.

As I now know what’s coming – just my feelings, just a patch of skin & just my own thoughts – they have less power over me and are gradually becoming easier to manage.

LDN and Alopecia

No I’m not talking about the capital of the UK or quoting a Lily Allen song, I’m on about Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) – a drug that I’ve just started taking.

Apparently naltrexone, in a low dose (the LD in the LDN), can normalise the immune system — helping those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and central nervous system disorders. A lot to live up to.

The drugs

Naltrexone’s normal use is for treating addiction to opiate drugs such as heroin or morphine. The dose used for this purpose is usually between 50 and 300mg daily. The one I am taking is way, way lower. I am starting at 1mg and going up steadily to a max of 4.5 mg.

You need to get it on private prescription which is what I have done. For  more info on LDN – go to the LDN research trust.

The alopecia

Well – it’s back with a vengeance on my chest.

There has also been a general thinning on the top of my head and a few small patches have been threatening to make a more formal appearance for ages now.

Logging my results

I started taking it on 5 November 2016 and started on a 1mg dose of the liquid. After a few weeks I am now up to 4.5.

I am off to Australia today for 5 weeks so will try and blog while I am there and keep you up to date with my progress.

Cheers

R.

 

Patchy hair- don’t care

Ok  – so that’s a blatant lie. I do care  – but I’m adopting a much more relaxed approach to falling hair – when I see it on my laptop, desk or pillow I flick it off and try not to stress about it – most of the time.

What’s changed?

Nothing, I just know from past experience that stressing will not help me in the slightest. I am also trying out my ‘mini habits’ in an effort to curb stress and freak outs. They seem to be working.

The spots

O.K. so the hives/urticaria are still coming and going and I’m unsure if they are caused by emotional stress or intolerances but they remain a constant at the moment.

Is the hair loss following the same pattern as last time?

Nope. It is now coming away everywhere! Last time it was confined to my head – face and scalp. This time my chest hair is taking a beating. Have a gander at this:

The chest

Last time I lost hair on my scalp, I didn’t really lose any on my chest – apart from one wee dot – which as you can see has now spread and had lots of little spotty babies dotted in random places across my chest.

alopecia areata patches on my chest

Patchy Chest

My scalp

I keep looking at the patch on my left side whenever I get out of the shower – but the same apocalyptic feelings just aren’t there as much anymore – I give a wee shrug and feel a bit shit but so far I can pat hair over it and carry on with my day. When the day comes – or should I say – if – it comes, I have a handy pair of shears with my head’s name on them. I’ve done it before and have no issue with shaving it all off again.

I do have a few patches on my head but they seem to be minimal compared to the fast spreading ones on my chest. And like I said – I’m really not that bothered at the moment

The good news

My facial hair seems to be returning! Amidst all the shedding, my moustache is making a bit of a comeback. I am not going to rival Tom Selleck anytime soon but it’s coming back very, very slowly.

So I can now have a moustache! Ok it’s patchwork kind of moustache but it’s mine, I grew it and my face feels ‘normal’ again. It’s like I’m 14 again and trying to prove I NEED to shave. I forget it’s there but every time I see it, I have a wee smile.

So I was off work for a full week and didn’t shave. This is the result:

half moustache regrowth from alopecia

14 year old flashback

Those wee white hairs on my chin have been there since September 2012, when I hoped they would gradually turn black and grow like they used to. They haven’t so far – so I may rock a badger beard in the future – who knows.

Eyebrows

I’m pretty unsure what’s happening with these former caterpillars. I keep thinking that my left eyebrow is filling in a bit and then i notice wee spots of bald across both eyebrows and the panic sets in again. I can deal with no hair but would rather keep my eyebrows and eyelashes this time if possible.

eyebrows august 2016 close up

Eyebrows August 2016

The Future

God knows what’s to come with the hair anywhere on my body. I’m heading to Australia, Singapore and Thailand in December so who knows if I am going to be getting my bald head burnt or crossing continents with a decent head of black hair. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

Hello Darkness, my old friend…The return of Alopecia and departure of hair (again).

No, this post isn’t an homage to Simon & Garfunkel, as lovely as they are. I’m merely borrowing lyrics to highlight my current mood. It’s getting darker – which is the inverse of my hair – which is getting lighter. By lighter I mean patchier. By patchier – I mean – the always lurking alopecia areata is making a comeback 😦

One year on

It’s been precisely a year since I started to grow my hair back in. I shouldn’t whine – I had a full head of regrowth for summer (no sweaty cap or burnt scalp for me) and for my sister’s wedding. In the back of my mind I always knew it would come back (or go – whichever way you look at it).

When people asked me or saw an old photo of me and were puzzled – I’d explain that I have Alopecia – not had. I would never trust them when they said “Really, I would never know”. Such is my paranoia when it comes my hair.

IMG_5670

Paris, March 2016

Never really went away

I never had full regrowth, below is a list of the stuff that didn’t properly grow back when my luscious mane did:

  • My eyebrows never fully grew back to the Brooke Shields/Cara Delevigne caterpillars that they were  – but at least I had some – even if it did look like I’d over-plucked
  • A patch on my chest and trunk – which started when my head hair came back.
  • I had one patch of (no) hair – above a newly returned grey spot which never came back in (see below)

grey bit

 

What am I going to do this time?

You may remember last time I tried a few things? This time I don’t want to radically overhaul my diet (as I’ve been steadily eating healthier foods and upping my fitness levels for the past few months). I gave up smoking – in January and am drinking less alcohol than I ever have.

I seriously believe that my alopecia is either:

  • a cyclical thing  – that I have no control over
  • it’s triggered by stress – which I do have control over
  • both

Point is, if I remove or react to stress better, it’s a win-win. I know how mini stressful episodes affect me – I get a racing mind, laboured breath and a tightness of  muscle. Whether these mini episodes have contributed to my alopecia or not – I don’t want them. So…

This time, the only things I’m going to do are:

  • Try (and I do mean try really hard) to calm the f*ck down
  • Try not to stare at the ever increasing patches of pink skin
  • Remember to breathe – seriously, I’m making a conscious effort to take big long lung-bucket-fulls of breath – it’s not only good for the soul – focussing on my breath will stop my mind racing about impending baldness

I just need to remember that I’ve been through all this shit before. The ‘worst’ that can happen is actually more of an inconvenience – having to shave my head, facial hair and patchy eyebrows off on a daily basis. It isn’t life threatening and lots of people are going through much worse than me.

I’m away to snort some oxygen and (not) look at my hair in the mirror!

 

 

 

Here’s a video about ME…

I had to create a 2 minute intro video a while ago (for a Digital Marketing course I am doing with Google). I gave this blog a shout in the video but didn’t actually share here. Sorry folks.

Anyway – here it is…

As you can see – I am still ‘rocking the bald’ despite getting almost full regrowth – I am still shaving my head everyday until it all grows back – then I will attempt to regrow my receding hairline into an actual hairstyle!

It’s been a while – will be a novelty buying hair styling products again!

As usual  – feel free to ask any questions or send me a private message if you prefer.

Cheers

Reece

Me. November 2014

Well here I sit on the beach in Edinburgh with Kitty – my puppy. Almost a full head of hair (apart from a slow growing patch at the back and a few tiny wee holes dotted around).

Oh yeah and pretty much one and a half eyebrows and full set of eyelashes!

IMG_3722-0.JPG

IMG_3709-0.JPG

Photo update – my Alopecia and regrowth – 2.5 years on.

Howdy Blog watchers

I am so sorry for the delay in posting pictures. I have been pretty busy with the birth of our wee girls 7 Boston Terrier puppies. Check the cuties out here.

Back to the hair – enough puppy chat/excuses!

Here I am attempting to show you (in pictures) the spread, loss then regrowth of my hair over  a 2.5 year period. My Alopecia started as little spots on my chin back in November 2011. I thought it was just Alopecia Barbae and was still distressed- then it gradually spread and I shaved my head  in 2012- detailed here.

Where it all began – first ‘spotted’ in November 2011 and by the time it got this big – I was officially scared, depressed and stressed!! (March 2012):

two spots of nothing.

Two spots of nothing.

Comic Hitler tache

Comic Hitler ‘tache

looking scared

Chunk missing

 

 

 

 

 

The first image was taken in June 2012.

Once my facial hair began to disappear – so did my hair: The first spots appeared/ hair dissapeared in July 2012.

The big shave

So I shaved it all off on holiday in Spain in August 2012

Baldy Bald

Baldy Bald

And here is an above head shot from when I first shaved:

The solar system at the start

The solar system at the start

 

Is there any hope?

I started to notice thin white hairs growing back into my facial hair loss in September 2012

chin with alopecia regrowth

regrowth on my chin

September 2012 regrowth – Egypt

I was hoping that the blonde would go black straight away – it didn’t.

My hair kept disappearing, too: here is a peek from the front and top (both taken in October 2012).

My head with alopecia

From the front

My head with alopecia

From the top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2012

Alopecia head

My right side

man with alopecia areata

In the middle of my long alopecia episode

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 November 2012

November 2012

Right side

November 2012

Left side

 

 

My eyelashes and  eyebrows started to disappear in November 2012.

Alopecia Eyebrows and missing eyelashes

Eyebrows up close

alopecia on an eyebrow

Disappearing caterpillar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eyebrows were a low ebb – but the loss of my eyelashes are what made me feel more alien – literally. It is a strange sensation not having eyelashes. People gave me a second look as they couldn’t quite put their finger on ‘what wasn’t right’.

I have detailed in another post my experiences trying to hide my missing eyebrows.

 

In case you can’t be bothered reading that post and want to see what my pencilled-in efforts looked like:

eyebrows alopecia

Pencilled-in eyebrow as of November 2012

I tried a number of  different ways to regrow my hair or at least hide the fact I had Alopecia, but found that a close shave (in the end) was best. At this point I was shaving my head daily and ignoring the ever-decreasing eyebrows and lashes.

My facial hair was also fast disappearing  – again taken in November 2012.

Facial hair disappearing alopecia

My chin

alopecia facial hair

From the side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 2012

The patches started  to spread quicker – which made my Christmas elf hat less itchy as there wasn’t as much stubble to aggravate it.

As you can see from the images below most of the holes started to join up with each other especially the two big ones at the left hand side! I hate those two bad boys.

My Alopecia December 2012

My head from the back

My Alopecia December 2012

The left hand side of my head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year 2013

In 2013 it seemed to progress quicker. Here is the top of my head taken in January 2013.

Alopecia as of January 2013

 

February 2013

Alopecia hair February 2013

Alopecia hair February 2013

Alopecia hair February 2013

At this point I was still wearing beanie hats and pencilling in my missing chunks of eyebrow.

March 2013

This was when I started realising that my eyebrows were more or less drawn on and I saw a picture and realised it was time to get rid of them.

pencilled in eyebrows

Abi and the eyebrows 🙂

shaved eyebrows following alopecia

shaved eyebrows following alopecia

 

As you can see, they looked fake and I hadn’t realised until I saw the image above. So in March 2013 I shaved them off in the shower whilst shaving my head.

The middle image above makes me look strange and if you look closely you can see that it is because my right eye has hardly any top eyelashes and the left eye does. Not a great look but now I looked bald and possibly blonde?! Just another balding fair haired guy? That is what I told myself and started to walk about without hats – in certain places anyway.

May 2013

  • Then the hair loss started to snowball and this was when I thought “F*ck it!”
  • My alopecia was getting worse and worse.
  • I had become resigned to it and pretty much everyone had seen it and knew what it was.
  • I still got the odd comment but brushed it off because (finally) I was in a stronger place and didn’t actually care as much as I did at the start.

Now that’s progress!

The images below are from July 2013. As you can see there is hardly any hair left at all.

Alopecia hair May 2013 Alopecia hair May 2013 Alopecia hair May 2013 Alopecia hair May 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alopecia hair July 2013 Alopecia hair July 2013

Alopecia hair July 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

These images represent the worst my Alopecia got (It seems strange saying that but I don’t want to jinx anything). Then I stopped taking photos as much of my head as I actually forgot about it!

Forgetting about it

Here I am forgetting about it at a wedding in Valencia in September 2013.

Valencian wedding

Guests at a Valencian wedding

I decided to forget and what happened a month later??? The bastard started coming back!!! Exactly two years since I noticed it going!!!!! My previous post was correct! And there is hope for all you people out there who got this late and are hoping yours may come back in this famed two year period!!!

November 2013 THE RETURN OF MY HAIR!

Alopecia regrowth November 2013

Alopecia regrowth November 2013

Whaddya know –  it kept on growing through December. Merry Effing Christmas!!!!

 

2014 – The year of regrowth

The year started well for me.

Here I am in January…. More progress on my regrowth in my next post………

December 2013 Alopecia regrowth

Kisses from Coco

December 2013 Alopecia regrowth

Haaaaaappy Christmas

 

 

The treatments and coping mechanisms I tried and how they worked for me…

Well I am sure many of you reading this blog are here to find out what I am currently doing to encourage my hair to grow back!

If you haven’t already read my last post – aptly titled – My hair is coming back. Then you can read that first or after this one – it opens in a new window.

So – what have I tried?

Lots and I will tell you now that NONE really worked for me (in the sense of sprouting back lost hair I mean). Sorry if anyone read this and got their hopes up. However – what didn’t work for me – may work for you.

Hats

abfabfestival

  • As discussed in my lengthy post which details my hair shaving. I quickly became a fan of hats – all kind of hats.
  • They were good at hiding it initially – though the wind quickly became my enemy.
  • Not great for a posh dinner or a fancy restaurant. A cheeky old man even told me to take my hat off in one restaurant. I was tempted to play the “I have cancer card” but decided just to skulk away mumbling.

I digress, hats are OK at first but when your patches become too large and appear under the hat – or if it’s too hot outside and you are continually sweaty – I found it best to get rid. Once I had shaved however I do continue to wear hats in winter.

Professionals

  1. Doctors: My local GP was useless – told me I had male pattern baldness and after much pleading referred me to a dermatologist and gave me anti-depressants (keep reading – that bit is further down).
  2. Dermatologist: Confirmed I had Alopecia Areata (I already knew this) and said:

50% of my clients with Alopecia have had a trauma, stress, death of a loved one – the other 50% have had no such occurrence. It may all come back, some might, or it might never come back and progress to Alopecia Universalis.

His comments helped immensely as I thought – fine – there is no point getting false hope.

man showing half eyebrow

half an eyebrow with alopecia

  • This was my first kick up the arse. He also handed me a leaflet (usually reserved for burn victims and people who have been disfigured through injury). He informed me that “Your image is changing and you need to come to terms with it”.
  • My metaphorical kick up this arse smarted even more when he delivered that blow.
  • But now –  on reflection – I am so thankful he said it. Alopecia does change you and it’s how you deal with your constantly changing face that helps you overcome your fears!

       3. Trichologist: This woman was awful – in my desperate state at the start of my journey I paid her £90 a session to ‘analyse my hairs’ and give me              ‘special lotion’ to rub into my scalp.

  • She then upped the ante and gave me Reflexology – which was lovely – but not worth the extra £50 a session.
  • She was a charlatan and when I became wise to the fact I was paying this money and had zero results – she had no argument apart from stating that “Your hair won’t come back anyway” – Screw you love!!!

Pills – Anti-depressants – I have discussed that at my lowest ebb – they really helped me from dipping so low.

  • If you are in a very dark place and they are an option available to you – then from my personal experience  I would encourage it.
  • I am not trying to push my views and again they may not be agreeable to you but they did help me out of a dark hole.
  • However you should always discuss in detail with your doctor and partner/loved ones before making this choice.

Alopecia areata

Hair regrowth tablets: My doctor gave me a prescription for Propecia (which I had to pay for). I felt this worked at first but after a year  – no change.

Lotions and potions: I tried the lotion that the ‘trichologist’ gave me which as I stated – didn’t work. I toyed with minoxidil but after my propecia failure – decided not to.

Garlic and Onions! I tried this after reading that in India that rubbing one or the other on the head on the patches encourages hair growth.

  • This theory was solidified when my Indian neighbour noticed my patches and offered to bring me garlic into the house as it “really worked for me”.
  • I thanked him and said I was fine – then ran into the house and began rubbing it on my head. It didn’t work but did make me and my pillows STINK.

Mindfulness: This didn’t help my hair growth but it did really help my mental health and encourage me to deal with my feelings.

Diet and lifestyle: I cut out sugars, caffeine, carbs and alcohol – all at different times – some for over 6 months – again no change – apart from the fact I obviously felt a little healthier (and deprived).

Exercise: I tried to keep fit – which boosted my mood and energy levels but did nothing for my hair. I had read that endorphins and hanging upside down helped so I did a reverse bungee jump and an actual bungee jump. Nothing.

Cosmetics and stuff

  • I tried spray on hair – for two minutes to cover my patches and realised I looked like David Gest so immediately washed it off.

    Glasses

    Glasses to hide the eyebrows

  • I successfully used eyebrow pencil for my eyebrows for a good few months – detailed here.
  • I enquired about a hair transplant then realised all of that would also fall out
  • I used a sun-bed when I first shaved my head to make my newly bald napper look less milky white – served a purpose at the time but would rather be pale than have skin cancer!
  • Glasses – used to hide the fact I had no eyebrows – I kind of liked the hipster look but wasn’t ‘kewl’ enough to pull it off.

So what DOES work?

  • I haven’t a clue – nobody does. And all these people telling you they have a cure – are full of crap.
  • In my experience it all comes down to coming to terms with how you look, may look and accepting how people perceive you.
  • Don’t compare yourself to your past self as you wont look anything like that image. I had dark black hair and bushy eyebrows. Now I have no eyebrows and a patchy head.

Cookie – crumbled. Sometimes a dose of tough love to yourself and a reality check is all you need.

Grin

Cheese

Acceptance is key – as are a supportive network of people around you – cheers to mine!  And go seek out yours.

My hair is coming back.

My hair has slowly started growing back.

And I mean painfully. Slowly.

Creeping back into existence…

chin with alopecia regrowth

regrowth on my chin

  • I first noticed it coming back and blogged about it way back in May 2012.
  • The image to the right shows my face squished against a black bag under a bright light so you can see (if you look really really hard) that there are some hairs there!
  • But that was all it was – wee whitey/blonde hairs that needed to be shaved off my face everyday.

I just carried on and forgot about this.

THEN – all of a sudden. . . .

January 2014 – my partner  (who takes all the pictures I share with you) said to me:

“Put your head down a second!”

After looking puzzled then twigging it was about my Alopecia (and therefore my vanity) I whipped my head down.

Arghhhh “It’s coming back! It’s coming back”!

Photographs

Naturally I wanted proof of this – here is an image from March 8 2013.

my disappearing hairline

slowly slowly

 

And here is an image from January 2014

 

My head in January 2014

My head in January 2014

 

Woohoo – still a long way to go but I am getting there.

 

I hope that my regrowth has given some of you a glimmer of hope.

Speak to you all soon and please get in touch with any comments, queries and concerns.

 

Reece.