Wednesday 28 December 2016

Alopecia - Journey's End and a New Chapter Begins

December 2016
May 2016

I can always remember my late Father's wise words. 'Give it time,' he would say. 

He would say it very often in his daily practice as a Vet, to anxious owners who wanted to know how long before their sick or injured pet to make a full recovery. He would say it to us kids when we were being impatient and expectant. 

There were occasions when I thought this to be an avoidance tactic when my Dad didn't have the time, energy or motivation to engage (and I'm sure this was the case more often than not). However, it taught us kids a valuable lesson in the virtue of patience, though I'm sure we weren't aware of this at the time, and probably didn't appreciate it.

I remember hearing his very words ringing in my ears last May when I made the decision to embrace my alopecia and shave off my remaining damaged hair. Initially I felt the need to find out the cause and a way to fix it, but I soon came to realise that I may never find out why it happened, and there may not be a way of fixing it - and I was OK with that.

Like my Dad said, I knew I just needed to give it time. 

We tend to assume that the GP will have all the answers - after all, they have a pill for most things, and if there isn't a cure then at the least they can usually offer an explanation.

We humans seem to need to have a reason/diagnosis/treatment or plan of action. It serves the purpose of putting our minds at rest,  it can allow us to apportion blame, or it reassures us that it's not all our own fault, Above all, it gives us hope and empowerment - we feel we are able to do something constructive, and we are given back some semblance of control.

However, often when investigations draw a blank, rather than being relieved that nothing sinister has been uncovered, some people can become frustrated and even disbelieving of the medical profession, and can feel that they have been let down.

What we're not terribly good at is sitting back, doing nothing and accepting something for what it is without knowing the reason why. It is the element of control, or lack of, which can really mess with our emotional well being because being able to exercise autonomy is one of our essential emotional needs.

Along with my Dad's words, I have held on to some other expressions during my journey with alopecia, and they have been my inspiration along the way. 

'Let Nature take its course'; 'Wait patiently for what time brings', and especially the words of the Serenity Prayer;

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.

I feel that the most important part of my recovery has been emotional rather than physical. I have been extremely fortunate in being able to give myself the gift of time in order to do a lot of introspection and reflection, and to implement changes where needed.

Most importantly, I have been able to focus on ensuring that my emotional needs are met as fully as possible - and I still make this a priority. I see this as not by way of any selfish need, but as an absolute necessity - because if I don't look after myself, then I cannot give my best to those that I care for.

I am convinced that my sound emotional health has been my mainstay throughout my journey and has undoubtedly helped me to accept the loss of my hair and the prospect of it not returning. Of course I feel immensely lucky to find that it has regrown, but I was mentally prepared for this not to be the case - and I was OK with that.

Sadly, I know there are hundreds who live on a daily basis with the anguish, embarrassment and low self-esteem that accompanies alopecia. To those who are suffering in this manner, you may find it useful to consider the following: 

It is not so much WHAT we experience, but HOW we experience it. It's not what we go through that determines our ability to cope, but how we deal with the stress, and how we still manage to meet our needs as best we can, retain hope and feel empowered.

Most people will accept us for who we are with or without hair - those who feel the need to poke fun or are unkind are generally acting out of  ignorance, and these are not the people we need to associate with right now. Much of our criticism comes from within, so it is vitally important that we learn to love ourselves and to ensure that as many of our emotional needs as possible are met on a daily basis.

You might find the following links helpful and