As Mum was plaiting my hair, an overwhelming instinct made me reach for the back of my head with my right hand. Maybe Mum didn't want to tell me... Not this again!
I was 10 years old and Mum had made me a Drs appointment, but I didn't know why. There we were sat in the waiting room, me aimlessly kicking the chair in front of me, bored, while Mum was fiddling with my hair. I had no idea why we were there, and quite frankly, I didn't care! I was loving that I had a morning off school... Maybe Mum would give me the whole day off!
As I stared at the huge fish tank, filled with murky green water, and barely visible goldfish, that was placed at the front of the room, my name was called. I trundled after Mum through the waiting room, dragging my feet clad with clumpy black school shoes, and skulked behind Mum as she knocked on the door to the Drs room.
We entered and I sat next to the Drs desk, my feet dangling from the chair, unable to touch the floor, and Mum pulled up a chair and sat beside me. The Dr asked, 'How can I help today?' I didn't have a clue, i was more bothered about whether my tamagotchi pet was still alive, as it lay in Mums bag. I looked at Mum and let her do he talking.
Mum explained to the Dr that I was developing little bald spots on the back of my head... This was news to me. The Dr stood up and I sat there, legs dangling, as both adults surrounded the back of my head. There was a lot of 'Hmm'ing' going on as I felt the Drs fingers examining my head. All the while I sat there just waiting to find out what exactly was going on with my hair!
The Dr sat back down in front of me and began to ask me questions, 'Do you have a habit of pulling at your hair?' No. 'Do you wear your ponytails too tight?' No. 'Have you banged your head?' No. 'Do you get worried and nervous at all?'...Well, sometimes... But doesn't every body?
The Dr explained to me and Mum that I had something called Alopecia Areata, or 'spot baldness'. I was losing hair in patches. The Dr said a ten year old shouldn't be stressed, and told my Mum to keep an eye on me. He said there was no cure for this, the hair would hopefully eventually just grow back, and I may just grow out of the condition all together.
How hadn't I noticed this? I suddenly became ever so conscious of my hair... Had people in school noticed? Were people making fun of me behind my back? This was so unfair!
After walking in to the Drs a somewhat carefree ten year old, I now walked out very self conscious, very aware of my appearance, knowing I was different to the other girls in my school, constantly reaching to feel that the bald spots on the back of my head were covered.
I went back to school that day a changed little girl. I had always had to contend with the whispers and giggles behind my back, when getting changed for PE, when the other children saw the massive scar on my back. But my scar could always be hidden by my clothes on any other occasion, so I only worried about it when it came to PE. But you can't hide your head. Every time the wind blew, my hands reached to grab my head. Every time I bent down to pick something up off the floor, one hand would be holding my hair in place. I never allowed other girls to play with my hair in the play ground, and I felt like I could have a panic attack if anyone came near my head.
I hoped, and prayed, and begged to God that I would grow out of the alopecia quickly, and when little sprouts of hair began to cover the bald spots on my head, the elation I felt reached such great enormity, and just in time before I started high school... But as soon as one bald patch grew back, another appeared, and another... and another.
Mum and Dad used to always try and reassure me that I was lucky that I had lots of thick dark hair, that could cover the bald patches easily, but as an adolescent, pubescent teenager, going through my first few years at high school, losing my hair seemed like the end of the world. I felt weird, and unusual, and was so scared that the bullies would spot my bald patches. I was never relaxed, never at peace and on top of that there was a hell of a lot more people at High School that I had to explain my scar to. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, bodies changing, hormones raging, boys becoming the centre of your world, and girls developing a bitchy bone. I just wanted to fit in, and blend in to the crowd... Being different was like hell on earth... But I was doing well at hiding my baldy's. Three years on and nobody had noticed yet, or if they had, they were kind enough not to point it out. Then I woke up one school day morning in year 9...
My bald patches had always been at the back or sides of my my head, and my hair was thick and heavy enough to fall over them, but as I looked in the bathroom mirror, I burst in to tears. I thought there had been a lot of hair on my pillow that morning when I woke up, and as always my hand instinctively reached for the place the hair had fallen from... I had a huge bald patch right at the front of my head on my hairline. I cried to my Mum and begged her to let me have the day of school, but she said I was going to have to go in sooner or later. She sat with me as I dragged the hair from the other side of my head (luckily, side partings were in,) and I fiercely gripped the hair in to place, spraying enough hair spray on my head to make me a hazard at a bonfire.
The weekend after I discovered the baldy at the front of my head, one also developed right in the middle at the top of my head. So Mum did some research and discovered a place about 30 minutes away from where I live, that specialise in wigs, extensions, and camouflage for bald spots.
Mum booked an appointment for me, and we made our way down there. The people there were so lovely, and sympathetic, and reassured me that there are lots of people out there with the same condition. They assessed the baldys and told me the best thing for mine would be a type of makeup for the head. The only way I can describe it is like a thick, brown, foundation.
I couldn't use it on the bald patch on the front of my head, but I could us it on the spot on the top of my head, and any that appear on the back. That way, if the wind blew, or my hair fell out of place there wouldn't be an obvious bright white patch of scalp showing.
The head makeup made me feel so much more relaxed, and confident, feelings that were quite alien to me.
Throughout the rest of my time at high school and college, I kept getting my little and big baldys, but the older I got the less embarrassed I was to reveal to people that I had alopecia. But I still hated it. Hair is so important to us girls, well it is to me. Every time one bald patch grew back a little bit of hope that it could be the last one was always distinguished by the appearance of a new one.
At the end of 2010 quite a big baldy had disappeared, and sprouts of light coloured hair were growing rapidly in its place... I waited for another one to appear. Yet for the first time, in a very long time, I had a full head of hair! I could style it however I wanted to, and styling my hair was something I had become very good at. Living with these bald patches had forced me in to understanding how to work with my hair, making it look good while hiding my baldy friends. I was so happy!
'Mum, my alopecia's back isn't it?'