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overcoming obstacles: Alopecia Areata & Bullying

Posted Nov 08 2011 5:05pm
Disclaimer:  This post is a serious one in nature.  It has nothing to do with running, but is more personal.    Feel free to come back tomorrow for things involving running, puppies, and rainbows.

If you read or watch the news, you know bullying has become a widespread problem which is trying to be extinguished.  My heart hurts for every child who is belittled or tormented.  Some quietly take it, while others defend themselves, and others are much more drastic like the 11 year old, Mitchell Wilson, who committed suicide after being bullied.  Read full article here:   Disabled 11 year old commits suicide .   

Each push, each comment, each snicker of humiliation affects that child which could reasonate with them for the rest of their lives.  As a child, I wouldn't say I was bullied per se, but looking back, it felt like it. 

Around the age of 8, it was discovered I had alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease which causes hair loss on the scalp and body. It began with one small round circle and quickly spread to many.  Causes of alopecia remain somewhat hazy.  It could be heredity (none in my family history) and environmental factors like trauma or stress may also cause it.  Doctors were baffled by why I could have it.  Nonetheless, I did. 
At first, it was no big deal, but as it spread and became more noticable on my scalp, I became more self-aware.  People questioned it, "did I have cancer?". No.  "Well, was I sick?". Not really.   It was confusing, even to me.  Treatment only heigtened my insecurities.  They tried creams which left my hair greasy and sprays that froze my hair foliciles, but left me with mind-splitting headaches.  I wanted it to stop.

I remember clearly walking past an older boy on recess who looked over and shouted while pointing, "oh my god, she's going bald!".  I wanted to die inside.  There were a few other isolated incidents that left me with this soul-crushing feeling.  I hated this thing I couldn't control. I didn't want to be different. I didn't want people to question me or hurt my feelings. 

If I could, I'd go back in time and give my 8-10 year old self a hug (treatment lasted for roughly that long).  Finally, the hair grew back, but a piece of me went missing.  I withdrew from things and was shy and reserved.  I focused on school and "blending" in.   I desparately wanted to go unnoticed.  I didn't want to draw attention to this 'thing' and how it separated me from people around me.   At 8 years old, the last thing I wanted was to be 

Time went on and I slowly became more outgoing and self assured.  However, alopecia is known to be cyclical and it came back in my senior year of high school. It wasn't as noticable, but all my old insecurities came flying back.  It was shorter, but every day I felt the fear rising up, hoping no one noticed.  The fear of being ostracized seizing up inside.   

I've had one more round of it, right after Ryan and I started dating.  It was a super small patch that was barely detectable, though I made Ryan check all the time that it wasn't showing.   I'm still pretty meticulous checking to make sure I don't have any "spots".  

There's always a chance it will come back.  I can't control it, but I can't let it control me, either.  I can control how it makes me feel.  Maybe I can't confront the hurtful things of the past, but maybe I can help hurtful things in the future.  I'd like to think its given me more sensitivity towards others and strength in troubling times.  I also like to think it is something I can illustrate to my future children.  To show them an example of how to treat others and how every comment can truly have an impact on someone. If nothing else, I understand at the end of the day, whether you're one or 100, sometimes you just need a hug and someone to say, "I love you no matter what"....(luckily I had parents who reminded me that daily.).  

Source: via Megan on Pinterest
And if you don't believe in the power of a hug, then take a look at this hug that made my day better after hood to coast
this picture still makes my day.   So much love for  XLMIC

Now please, go give someone you love a hug.   

Questions for you:
-Ever had problems with bullying or 'not fitting in'?  How did you deal with it?
-Know anyone with alopecia?  How did/do they deal with it?
-When was a time you just needed someone there for you?
-Any questions for me?
PS - love you all, thanks for always being there for me.  I feel like you all give me virtual hugs all the time :) 


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