Alopecia: Who Am I Without My Hair? – Guest Post By Ashley
This post comes from my younger sister, Ashley. I’ll never forget when she found out she had alopecia. I was staying with my family while my husband was in Iraq for his first deployment. I remember when her hair started falling out. It came out so quickly. She was young, having fun, and dating boys. It was heart-breaking to watch her go through this. Our bedrooms were next to each other in the basement. I remember her crying at night. I could hear it through my walls. I remember going in her room and brushing the little bit of hair she had left. The brush would fill up with hair very quickly. I few days later, I shaved off what was left of her hair for her. Once she went bald, one of our other sisters and I had Ashley shave our heads so she didn’t have to be bald alone. It never bothered me. It was so much easier to be bald with her. The picture of our head-shaving party is down below. I’m on the far right. That was actually a really fun night! Alright, well, let me let Ashley share her story with you:
Who am I?
What are most girls thinking about from age 15 to 30+? “How do I look?” I was no different, and looking back to my high school years, I did pretty well to keep myself looking nice. It was in my control. As a cheerleader who also kickboxed and did gymnastics, I was in great shape. Being so active made it so I could eat whatever I wanted and I would stay lean. I wasn’t the type of person to admit to feeling pretty, but I did. I knew the boys liked me and my confidence was relatively high. My younger sister and I were called “The Hott Dumouchel Sisters.”
2 months before every hair on my body fell out.
So what happened?
Well, I have a loving Heavenly Father who knew I had some growing to do, and so at age 20, I lost every hair on my body in just three weeks time. BALD! From head to toe! Not a hair in my nose, nor a peach fuzz on my cheek.
I was diagnosed with Alopecia Universalis. It was a difficult time in my life. This left me feeling completely lost. I was unmarried, dating, and had no idea if I would ever have hair again. How do you feel pretty without eyelashes and eye brows? No more mascara. I remember looking into the mirror and just seeing skin- pale, peachy skin, with two eyes staring back at me. I was a blank slate. For the first few days I hid beneath my hood, but I could still feel when someone was looking at me. They were uncertain about what to say to me or how to approach me and I could tell my parents didn’t know what to do. I remember one day in particular. From the corner of my eye, I could see one of my younger sisters staring at me. I knew if I looked at her she would look away so that I didn’t think she was staring, and sure enough she did. It was that moment that I realized something…
Getting married with a wig.
No one will be okay with this if I’m not.
I was still alive and healthy and hair didn’t have to be so important. It wasn’t easy and even now, seven years later, I still long for the thick, long hair I once had. But my hair didn’t make me who I was. The more I reminded myself that I was healthy and alive the better I felt and the easier it was to smile. I couldn’t have accepted it without the incredible support I had from home. Two of my sisters and a brother-in-law shaved their heads in support of me losing my hair. My older sister introduced me to a wig store and I enjoyed playing with all the styles.
DON’T make the mistake of thinking this was an easy overnight change.
It was one year before I stopped visualizing myself with hair before looking in the mirror. It was two years before I was okay with the reflection looking back at me. I had so many people trying to make me feel comfortable. My Incredible mom paid for me to have some eyeliner tattooed in an attempt to bring color to my face. People I worked with cut their hair and gave it to me to make wigs. Everything I did was in an attempt to feel like the girl I once was. Three years after loosing my hair I lost something worse- my identity. I had nearly 30 wigs and nearly every day I wore a different one. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Each wig had it’s own personality with it. Short or bright hair gave me a spunky attitude, while long and wavy made me flirty. Everyday a different wig- everyday a different person- everyday I wasn’t myself, and I broke. I got mad at the wigs and I hated them. I wore bandanas and was constantly mistaken for a chemotherapy patient. The special treatment bothered me. I got it so often that I found myself occasionally thinking I really was a terminally ill person and had to remind myself I wasn’t.
My sisters wore wigs with me.
The bald girl
By this point I knew I was the bald girl and I even introduced myself as the bald sister or the bald daughter, bald friend- this didn’t bother me. Only deep down where no one would ever see did I still wonder who I was. I lost myself when I was trying to keep myself. There were times I cried to my Heavenly Father for strength so I could put on a strong face. It was no use crying about something no one could fix.
A glimmer of light came when my younger sister tried a new way to tie a scarf on my head. It was some sort of big, Lady Gaga bow – thing that I happily wore, but the next day when I went to tie the scarf again a new way came to me as I twisted it into a braid. It was beautiful and I wore it that way for longer than a year. This was a significant step because I wasn’t trying to hide under false hair that I didn’t have. Soon I was known as the scarf girl and I had many requests to show others how to tie them. Wearing the scarves helped me accept my baldness because they weren’t hair. I didn’t see hair in the mirror anymore, instead it was a scarf. My identity crept back slowly as I once again had one look. Soon I felt the desire to go without anything on my head. I wanted the freedom of nothing covering me. I remember the first time I did. I was just out shopping, but I felt like a spotlight was on me.
Seven years later.
Yes, it took another few years. It was just over six years total when I finally uncovered my head and found me again. I’ve been bald for seven years exactly and fighting a hidden battle the entire time. With bad days that made me angry for being weak and good days that made me grateful for having life. I’m forever grateful to my older sister who shaved the last of my whispy hairs off seven years ago and showed me my bald head for the first time. She told me I was still beatiful and had a perfect shaped head.
Embracing my bald head, on my way to my nephews Star Wars party.
My bald head is mine.
Today if you saw me I would most likely be bald with nothing on my head- unless it’s cold, of course. I glue eyelashes on and draw on eyebrows, but my bald head is mine. I found a confidence within myself that is stronger than I could have ever had without this experience. God made me strong when he took my hair, because I had to dig deeper than I would have ever gone, otherwise. I will still put on a wig for fun on the rare occasion and if I ever have the funds to get a beautiful head of hair from the hair club, I would. The hair club helps kids up to 17 years old for free, but seeing as I’m quite a bit older I will love my bald head for as long as I have it.
Bald And Beautiful
I’m married now to more incredible man I know and we have two beautiful kids who love me for who I am. If I went back in time I would not change losing my hair. As hard as it was, it made me the person I am today.
I know who I am. I am bald and I am beautiful.