I was diagnosed with Alopecia when I was just 16-year-old. It is a rare genetic disorder that is characterised by a receding hairline and diffuses thinning on all areas of the scalp.
I always had thin hair and when I first got my period at the age of 13, I started losing my hair in chunks. It took six years for doctors to realize that it was not just PCOS or hormonal imbalance that was causing it.
During that time, my family and I were shooting in the dark and tried everything including hormonal contraception pills, Ayurveda, homoeopathy, acupuncture, home remedies, and the last straw was a hair transplant, those 150 stitches at the back of my head still make for a good story).
I am extremely grateful for my family who did not leave any stone unturned but after spending a considerable amount of time with doctors, recounting my story and giving blood tests multiple times, I was exhausted. It was a massive relief when I received a definite diagnosis that it is androgenetic alopecia. Finally, I had a name for the six years of roller teenage life which I have lived.
I grappled with self-esteem and social anxiety since and I still suffer from it. There was a time in high school when I was hosting a cultural show and a few days later the photos from the event were shared.
The photographer took a few shots from the auditorium balcony which captured my bald spots and I realised how exposed my crown was.
I remember staring at the pictures with a sinking heart, thinking, "it can't be me" and at that moment I just wanted to disappear. So I did the next logical thing - went home, hugged my mom and cried myself to bed.
That was me at 16 and today, I feel I have come far and every person, place, and experience helped me along the way. When I moved out from India three years ago, I realized what an ideal conversation about hair loss should be like.
It was always a casual question, no judgment whatsoever. There might be some ignorant remarks but they usually stemmed from innocent curiosity and not the notion that the life of an Indian girl without hair is completely futile. This was so refreshing and definitely was a catalyst for the self-acceptance journey.
As much as I long for the feeling of running my fingers through my own hair, there was a dire need of accepting and embracing my reality. So I went ahead and shaved my head a few months ago and that was the most liberating moment of my life. I actually squealed in the chair. Looking at 'myself' in the mirror for the first time, an epiphany struck- this is who I am and hiding it further made no sense.
Being able to share my story is a baby step towards self-acceptance.
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