Not guilty, but it felt like it...!
You might not know much about AlopeciaUK, but it is a fantastic charity run solely by volunteers who give up a lot of time and put in a lot of effort.
One such volunteer is Amy; an energetic, outgoing and fantastic lady with a penchant for Rainbow Wigs. She's responsible for a lot of their social media output and also writes her own blog 'Hairless Whisper'. When not wearing her rainbow wig, Amy sports a patchy head, cropping her hair super short as she moves through different stages of Alopecia. In her most recent post, she talks about the importance of educating children on acceptance and supporting them if they shout out about not having hair. You can read it here...
Now I haven't had that particular experience, probably because I'm hooked on wearing a different wig every day of the week ;-) but this blog got me thinking about my own experience with baldness. Not quite a child shouting in the street, but something I have experienced is the assumption I have cancer.
'You're looking well considering!'
'What's the prognosis?'
Thankfully, these comments are few and far between and even though they're a little odd, they're usually well meant. In the same way some people feel able to put their hands on a pregnant lady's bump, so too does a bald head give people something to talk to you about or comment on; it isn't meant badly.
Now, I brush these or similar comments off, or carefully and patiently explain my condition and what it means, working to ensure they aren't embarrassed but at the same time introducing one more person to the condition. After nearly three years of baldness, this is second nature and I've stopped worrying about it. Rewind three years however and it's a totally different story...
My Hairloss took a total of nine months, starting in small patches and growing millimetre by millimetre until all the patches blended together. About four months in, when I'd stopped denying what was happening to me, I remember being so angry and depressed about what was happening. One month later and that anger was replaced by an immovable wall of guilt; guilt that I was upset about something non-life-threatening; guilt about what I was putting my family through; guilt about not being able to 'pull myself together'; guilt about almost anything you can think of. No matter what I did, I couldn't shift it; ignoring it, talking about it, even wallowing in it; nothing made a difference.
Forward another month and the patches had become more ocean than island. As I left the house, and the patches become more noticeable, I began to spot the initial puzzled looks and shortly the sympathetic ones. That's when I hit a guilty rock bottom. My guilt was no longer inwardly focused on my own condition but instead shifted outward to others going bald. I began to carry guilt about people with cancer; feeling somehow the assumption I had cancer was in some way disrespectful to those who really did have it - that in some way this misconception was my fault.
It was when I finally went totally bald that I was able to shift the guilt. As I came to terms more with what was happening to me and what that meant, so too was I able to get clarity and realise it was a reasonable assumption by others. Time also gave me the clarity to realise that I have an opportunity to educate and to help foster better understanding with people I meet. Now, I work to explain the condition, help others to understand it and generally garner more awareness.
Now I am aware I have digressed somewhat from the idea of educating children, but I feel it's an important tangent. Baldness is not a crime, but it is an opportunity; an opportunity to spread the word and to explain it in a way that is accessible and interesting.
Anyone else had a similar experience? We'd love to hear about it!
Aspire Hair South