September 13, 2019
As a kid in the ’90s, I dreamed of having the sleek, straight hair of Posh Spice or Rachel Green. But my hair had other ideas. It was wild, frizzy and far too thick to look normal on a small child ― a deeply unwanted homage to my Irish roots. My childhood diaries are populated by stick figures struggling to be free of monstrous brown cloaks consuming their heads.
Heres What I Wish My Friends (And Everyone Else) Knew About My Alopecia
My mom and grandmother hated the idea of me getting my hair cut, and in my early teens ― when I begged for straighteners ― they acted like I’d politely asked if they could pick me up some crack cocaine. But when I was 14, a friend straightened my hair, and my dad was so impressed with the transformation that he personally thanked her and took me on a covert trip to buy some ceramic straighteners.
My relationship with my hair had always been complicated, but at 17, I was diagnosed with alopecia areata ― an autoimmune condition where hair falls out in round patches. The hair grows back, sometimes after years, but when it does it’s incredibly coarse in texture. It’s definitely not as life-altering as alopecia totalis ― where the hair loss is much more widespread ― but it can still significantly affect your appearance and self-esteem. My relationship with my hair had always been complicated, and then at 17, I was diagnosed with alopecia areata -- an autoimmune condition where hair falls out in round patches.Truthfully, I wasn’t all that bothered when I was first diagnosed. There wasn’t any hysteria or “why me?” moment. My hair and I had been sworn enemies for as long as I could remember, and as far as I was concerned, it was just throwing down the gauntlet again. “You complain you’ve got too much hair? I’ll show you,” I could almost hear it snarling.
My mom, however, wasn’t so indifferent, and she hauled me off to a specialist. “There’s unfortunately no treatment,” he shrugged, and that was that. My grandmother immediately changed the subject when I told her about my diagnosis. As someone who held women’s hair in such high esteem, I figured she didn’t want to dwell on this unseemly dent in my crowning jewel, and that was OK. 
In the subsequent years, I found various techniques for dealing with my alopecia ― there was a lot of A/B testing going on behind the closed door of my university dorm room. Keeping my hair relatively short seemed to temper the loss a little, and inventing interesting hairstyles to cover bald patches became a bizarrely satisfying hobby. I discovered I had to regularly change my parting placement or hair loss would begin in that area, while tight hairstyles would begin a spiral of hair loss.
Unfortunately, the biggest trigger seemed to be stress. This meant that if I endured a bout of hair loss and became stressed about it, the situation would become physically worse, beginning a cycle.I endured a public dressing-down from a lecturer in my journalism course for having “messy” hair that made me look “unprofessional,” despite spending hours on it that morning.In shared houses I’d gag as I’d dig out handfuls of hair from the drain, worried my housemates would find out. I was aware there was little I could do about my condition and that it didn’t make me a bad or gross person, but I still wanted to avoid their judgment. Other than a few catty comments from a particularly badly chosen boyfriend, I seemed to be hiding it relatively well. 
But no matter how I wrangled it or how many expensive serums and conditioners I tried, my hair always seemed to look worse after two hours in front of the mirror than everyone else’s did after they’d “just rolled out of bed.” Friends ― believing I simply needed educating ― offered unending, patronizing advice on how to improve my hair health, unaware of my condition or that that I’d already tried everything without success. I endured a public dressing-down from a lecturer in my journalism course for having “messy” hair that made me look “unprofessional,” despite spending hours on it that morning.
Visiting the salon was a humiliating experience during which the stylist would usually invite trainees to look at my hair and scalp, while simultaneously berating me for allowing it to become so dry. When I told one of my best friends about it, she shushed me, concerned that an elderly man nearby would hear me. This did not make me feel in any way accepted, but I clung onto the belief that it was everyone else who had the problem, not me. The writers and celebrities of our generation were using books and essays and tweets to tear down taboos erected by those who had come before us, eliminating shame as they went. In this age of acceptance, no topic was off the table. Or so I thought.After graduating, I moved to a new city. My friends there were strong, intelligent women, and we were extremely open with each other, discussing everything from dieting and hair removal to sexual experimentation and mental health without shame or prejudice. We were millennials; the writers and celebrities of our generation were using books and essays and tweets to tear down taboos erected by those who had come before us, eliminating shame as they went. In this age of acceptance, no topic was off the table. Or so I thought. 
It happened again and again: The moment I brought up my alopecia ― which I didn’t do often ― shoulders would stiffen and smiles would freeze, my friends’ eyes darting wildly as they tried to segue back into a more comfortable line of conversation. Sometimes they would deflect by way of awkward jokes. I sensed that even the most accepting of my friends were not prepared to discuss this. But why?
As far as I can tell, the root of the awkwardness is that alopecia is a condition that affects my appearance. It certainly has little other impact on my health. I’ve never experienced this stigma when talking about my asthma attacks or the time my lung collapsed — which to me seem infinitely more damaging and frightening to talk about. 
I recently asked a couple of good friends how they feel when I bring up alopecia. One replied: “I feel bad for you because I know how self-conscious about your hair you are. I also feel grateful I don’t have it because my hair is the only thing I have going for me.” Another messaged me back, after a couple of reminders, saying: “It makes me feel awkward because there’s nothing you or I can do to fix it.” 
Here’s the thing: If you put on weight and want to lose it, it’s possible. If you hate your nose, save some money and you can change it. Small lips? It’s filler time! In this Kardashian-inspired, Instagram era, if you don’t like how you look, the solution is to outwardly fix what you consider the problem. But what if it’s unfixable? While I don’t believe having alopecia has exposed me to the worst ramifications of society’s beauty obsession, it’s given me a disappointing insight into the moral panic people feel when a woman’s appearance is threatened.My friends are now 30-something feminists, but attempting to talk to them about my condition has made me realize just how much stigma we inadvertently internalize. We might believe we’re more resilient than the teens in Instagram influencer comment sections, but the subtle effects of our aesthetically led culture run much deeper. We might believe we judge other women on their intellect, their achievements and their character, but something entrenched within us still buys into that harmful Disney principle where internal qualities correlate with outer beauty. And while I don’t believe having alopecia has exposed me to the worst ramifications of society’s beauty obsession, it’s given me a disappointing insight into the moral panic people feel when a woman’s appearance is threatened. 
Thanks to the unshakeable zeitgeist of the male gaze, a woman’s value continues to be tied to her appearance. My friends feel awkward because they love me and they don’t want me to feel devalued. But I don’t, and I never have. Being diagnosed with untreatable alopecia means I’ve had to work toward self-acceptance; I just wish the rest of the world would catch up. 
Since my diagnosis, I have viewed alopecia as little more than an annoying inconvenience ― a condition that meant I’d have to spend more time tending to my hair, along with the disappointing knowledge that it would never look as good as I wanted it to. Yet the reactions of the people I’ve confided in ― and even those I haven’t ― as I navigated my 20s, have made it feel like a much more shameful thing than I could have imagined: something to hide, as I did years ago with my college housemates. 
Not too long ago, I was dashing through a train station when I spotted a group of bald women cheerily shaking buckets of change, raising money for an alopecia charity. I stuffed $10 into a bucket and quickly walked off because, to my surprise, I was in tears. I realised I wasn’t crying due to the bravery of the women, but because their simple action of publicly being who they are has to be deemed brave, or even rebellious, in the context of how society values women. I hope to feel that supported and confident one day. After all, I am more than my disease, and I have nothing to feel ashamed of.
This article first appeared on HuffPost US Personal
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal What I've Learned From Talking Openly About My Bowel Disease My Hysterectomy Was Meant To End My Pain. It Was For Nothing. What I Want You To Know About Dating With OCD And Intrusive Thoughts
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
'Succession' Composer Nicholas Britell on How He Crafted the Music of Season 2
July 03, 2020
xgJUmZgGHUI
Kieran Culkin & Dan Levy - Actors on Actors - Full Conversation
July 03, 2020
x1U65peRmGo
Emmys 2020: Issa Rae, Linda Cardellini Among Possible Contenders for Lead Comedy Actress
July 03, 2020
DnMulYkHAGs
Can Lea Michele’s ‘mean girl’ behavior be forgiven? | Page Six Celebrity News
July 03, 2020
Sp-hyaacIB0
Will the 'Ellen DeGeneres Show' be canceled? | Page Six Celebrity News
July 01, 2020
w6fF_hmLmw4
Candace Cameron Bure wants these ‘Full House’ quotes to live on | Page Six Celebrity News
July 02, 2020
PRF4fuEHuSM
Kanye West Announces Presidential Run
July 05, 2020
3LvC9OKO_P4
Jada's Affair?, Charlize Ther-Wrong Name & Housewives Hitman - "Nightly Pop" 07/02/20 | E! News
July 02, 2020
ZcwG2INSVRI
Chance's Relationship Fail, $1K Haircut & Jen's Advice - "Nightly Pop" 07/02/20 | E! News
July 03, 2020
mPSzAABN4yI
Beverly Hills 4th of July Party a Breeding Ground for Coronavirus
July 05, 2020
jHPVAU82grw
Parade of Trucks with Trump, Confederate Flags Blaze Down L.A. Streets | TMZ
July 04, 2020
e9t3VLZ9-2w
Lucas Grabeel Says He Wouldn't Play Gay 'High School Musical' Role Now | TMZ
July 05, 2020
m3e1EGMseWc
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Roma
05
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Villarreal - Barcelona
05
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Southampton - Manchester City
05
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Aston Villa
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Bologna
05
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Athletic Bilbao - Real Madrid
05
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Newcastle United - West Ham United
05
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Burnley - Sheffield United
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Brescia - Verona
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Genoa
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Sampdoria - Spal
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Fiorentina
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Cagliari - Atalanta
05
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Osasuna - Getafe
05
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Espanyol - Leganes
04
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Wolves - Arsenal
04
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - AC Milan
04
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Watford
04
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Bournemouth
04
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Torino
03
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Mallorca
02
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Liverpool
02
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Sheffield United - Tottenham Hotspur
02
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Udinese
02
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Getafe
02
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Napoli
01
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Spal - AC Milan
01
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Chelsea
01
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Norwich City
01
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Brescia
30
Jun
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Atletico Madrid
30
Jun
ENGLAND: Premier League
Brighton - Manchester United
30
Jun
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Juventus
28
Jun
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Roma
28
Jun
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Inter Milan
28
Jun
SPAIN: La Liga
Espanyol - Real Madrid
28
Jun
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Spal
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k tudKp5Vhs3k iwWHibhssSo kQr0XHPbICM 5NeCb7JxaRk
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.