Alopecia and Me

Graphic by Jessica Wade

Marissa Woolard

College can be described to many as the “most stressful years of your life” but having a medical condition can make it even harder.

Alopecia is an auto-immune disease that causes one’s immune system to attack the hair follicles causing hair loss, along with other underlying symptoms such as fatigue and emotional distress. You can wake up one day and have a chunk of hair missing from your head or your eyebrow is completely missing. Hair loss can also happen more often due to stress or the environment around you.

Hair loss can have a giant emotional impact on students which can affect their true “college experience”. Being around peers, meeting new people or striking a conversation can make people with Alopecia feel self-conscious. Even if the hair-loss may not be visible to others, the person suffering can feel shut off from the world around them.

I myself, have alopecia. I was diagnosed in November 2017 during finals week of my junior year. I did not know what to do but cry; I questioned if all of my hair would just fall out in one piece or if I would look like I had just torn out chunks of my hair. I thought, “why me”, I felt I didn’t deserve this diagnosis. I remember crying to my mother over the phone in the parking lot of the doctor’s office. She didn’t know how to react because she knew how much my hair meant to me. Acceptance is a tough pill to swallow.
During the winter break, I went through multiple tests by different doctors to get some sort of answer. I went far enough to have a piece of my scalp taken out for a specialist to examine my hair follicles themselves leaving a permanent scar. The answers all came back the same, “We don’t know why this is happening”. I spent the winter break wallowing and wrapping my hair with scarves so I didn’t have to look at it while drowning it in oils to try and promote hair growth.

Spring 2018 semester brought me a new life of bi-weekly doctor visits where I would get up to 30 shots of steroids in my scalp to try and reverse the hair loss which had its own side-effects as well as multitudes of experimental medication. Along with doctors, I still had a full time job and I completed 18 credit hours; it started to become a lot for one to handle. In May, I decided to take a step back from the doctors and let my body do what it needed to do. I decided if I wanted shots again, I would go back but my body had been through enough,

My life will never be the same since I was diagnosed with Alopecia. I needed to accept my new life and find my self confidence that I had thrown away for some time. There are days I look at every bald spot on my head and there are days I don’t care. It is a battle I will fight every day but letting it take over me was not a part of the plan.