I'm still getting to know myself with alopecia. I found my first bald patch above my right ear in May last year, and now it's progressed to so many patches on my head I've begun shaving it entirely every few days. My beard hair has become increasingly patchy since March, and in the last few months my eyelashes and eyebrows have almost completely gone along with most of my body hair. It's been a super slow process for me, with only one maybe two months of head hair regrowth over Christmas before continuing to fall out in the New Year. 

Shaving my head in May this year was a huge leap for me. I had clung on to hair that was thin and patchy for too long. I had tried to hide it from myself too. Caps, beanies, flat peaks. I wouldn't leave the house for anything unless I was wearing something on my head, even if I was just putting the bins out. I was hiding hair that I wasn't happy with and I knew I had to take control.

So now with a shaved head I'm beginning to take steps to being outside in public without a cap. Basic things, washing the car, playing with my daughter out in the front garden, and yes, taking the bins out! I also go running without a cap, but right now that's where my limit lies.

I still don't recognise myself in the mirror. Even when my hair was falling out, I thought, 'Hey you know what? I'm just gonna grow a beard!' And I did, that was my way of keeping some of my identity, staying in control. Shortly before I discovered my first patch I had relatively long super thick hair. And I always had a beard of some length, whatever length I fancied maintaining. That was me. I enjoyed having longer hair for years, and, I know now, I found myself attractive like that. I felt confident in myself and the identity I'd chosen.

The beard worked and when the regrowth happened over Christmas I felt okay and trimmed the beard back, taking on a new identity. It wasn't a classic me; short beard and a grade 3 all over my head with only some minor patches. But I felt good in it, like Miles Kane or Dermot Kennedy, and I was beginning to enjoy this new identity when my hair began to fall out again, head and beard too.

When I finally shaved my head it was definitely going to be the biggest shift for me yet. And rightly or wrongly, I placed, I guess I still do place, a lot of my identity on my hairstyle. So with no hairstyle, no beard and eyebrows and eyelashes fast on their way out, I'm left staring at someone I don't really know. Someone I haven't figured out yet. I'm not comfortable being me, particularly when I'm in public. Only with family at home can I lose myself away from my appearance. Still, then, I have moments where I catch myself and immediately dislike the way I look and my head is bombarded with negativity. 'Why would anyone love me?

I overcame severe OCD in my early twenties, I'd spend hours every day on rituals, and even more time spent anxious or stressed. I never thought I'd be in a place where I'd be okay, I'd live with it and it'd be so under control my life would actually function normally. Maybe I'm not so far gone with my alopecia that I can't ever see a place where I live alongside it, but I'm finding it hard to climb the rungs to a better place. Though I do take strength that I have the tools within me to overcome the anxiety and insecurities that I'm experiencing. 

Shaving my head for the first time left behind a swimming cap bowl of pale white skin that hasn't known the sun in some 7 years when I last had my hair close to short. I've had some very dark days since that first shave, and it's also hit my confidence in other aspects of my life too. Rationally I know my appearance has no influence on ability, but I can feel the weight of my head throwing negatives about how I look and those punches hitting everything that I am. Like I said, my identity has been tied to who I am or how I've viewed myself for a long time, and now I'm just trying to break that bond, or at the very least loosen it. To surf, I don't need long, salty hair. To be a dad, I don't need a well-kept beard. To be a man, I don't need hair. Those things, those people, those qualities, are already a part of me. The stereotypes are just that, stereotypes.

Comparison is the thief of all joy. I always liked that quote, and now it applies even more, and not just in comparison to others but myself, whether at Christmas with short hair or a year ago. Would I prefer my hair from a year ago? Yeah, definitely. But that's not real, I can't chase that, it's not obtainable. I'm trying to get my head in the now and learn to accept myself as I am. Believe in myself, and rediscover the self confidence I've had before.