Truth Will Set Me Free
By: Andrea diNorcia
Here’s the truth. My name is Andrea and I have Alopecia Areata, a skin disorder that causes the body to send the immune system signals to protect from an external threat. My body has determined that this invader, that must be eradicated, is my hair. Alopecia Areata, or AA as I refer to it, is a frustrating and unpredictable condition. There is no cure and the prognosis is different for everyone of the 2.1% of Americans who have it. Some will lose patches, some lose everything. Yes, that means everywhere.
When it’s active it’s a devastating force, creating chaos and unfathomable stress and worry. Shame and isolation also play a part. It is awful to feel helpless and with so little control. The worst part has to be the weight of not opening up about my AA, as it has been an emotional and physical drain over the years. I’ve decided it's time to set myself free.
Since I was a child my condition simmered. Stressful events preceded the shed of dread. I first saw a dermatologist in my early twenties. I never spoke about it. I felt ashamed of this mysterious affliction. Was it something I did? Was I deficient? Was I somehow cursed? The blame and shame game went on and on.
Over the years my AA has cycled from shedding to the point of wearing hats daily. I have tried supplementing with any number of miracle cures, secretly experimenting with this and that, rubbing essential oils on my head, silk pillows, or using a ton of products and exhausting hours of strategic styling to look like I’m having a regular “bad hair day.” Dreaming one day of having a full head of hair to style, toss around, not have to hide when I wake up. Driving with the windows down, or swimming on a beautiful summer’s day is what I long for. I managed my disease with secrecy and denial, never imagining the energy the obsession to hide it was costing.
Today, after a few body-blow stressful events, I am in an active cycle of AA. I have lost over 50% of my hair. It’s also brought me to a crossroads; denial and shame no longer options. My new path is to be honest and open based on two reasons that are now clear to me:
- It’s exhausting and uncomfortable hiding things from people who care, and matter, in my life. There is nothing to gain from living with secrets. People will still love me no matter what. Maybe more so after I show my vulnerability.
- To put others’ minds at ease about my health so they aren’t concerned. I have an autoimmune skin disorder but otherwise I am very healthy, so no need to worry. I want people to be comfortable asking questions and I will be comfortable discussing it. This will address the matter, ease the pressure and may help someone who feels confused and trapped in the AA spiral.
It won’t always be easy or straightforward, AA is neither an easy nor straightforward condition. But for me, I must now speak up, no shame, no blame. Just me and my beautiful head.