Ground Control to Major Tom - Part Two “You can’t always choose what happens, but you can choose how you react and you can choose your mood” – Russell Davidson, sometime in 2010. At 20 years old and working at a Revolution Bar in Aberdeen, Russell casually dropped the above gem of knowledge on me mid shift. Russell is one of the happiest, most charismatic and inspirational men I have met and would randomly drop little nuggets of positivity like the above quote at any given point in any given day. Although its been some 8 years since Russell said this to me, it has stuck with me and is definitely something that when I’ve had a few bad days, has picked me up and helped me give myself a shake and change my mindset. In Part 1 of this blog, I went into quite an uncomfortable level of detail as to how alopecia had affected my life and my mental health. In this part, I hope to share how I’ve taken control of things. You see, after a long time thinking about it, that’s what it boils down to – A complete lack of control. When alopecia hits, it takes our control away. It takes away the ability to control your appearance and strips you bare. The hardest part is accepting this and moving forward. I dealt with a lot of anger and ‘why me?’ questions but this didn’t help. Eventually, it was time to take control back. Alopecia takes your hair, it makes you naked, it bares everything about your face for the world to see and with nothing to hide; you no longer have control over that and your head and face are completely naked. That was a struggle for me, but after a long time struggling with it, I changed my mindset; I’d had enough, if I was going to face this then it’d be head on and if I was going to be naked then I was going to look damn good doing it and I was sure as hell going to be happy. Losing control is a tough thing, to regain it takes little steps. For me, I decided to break it down. I didn’t overthink the situation, I realised I was unhappy with my appearance and not having control of it and the only way to fix that was to start putting things in place. I immediately cleaned up my diet. I cut out alcohol and nights out, from now on I am not drinking, I am not eating junk food, I am getting my fluids in and I am getting my 8 hours a night. Its amazing the mental benefits from eating well and sleeping well. I’ve always been quite into the gym and fitness so I decided to get back into quite a rigorous routine. I decided to dedicate my spare time doing 3 things to improve myself: Do something that challenges me and improves me. Do something I’m passionate about. Do something that makes money. The first wasn’t an issue, I got myself back into the gym and was working hard. For the second, I have always enjoyed martial arts and contact sports; I had trained Mixed Martial Arts, specifically Muay Thai for some time so it was time to put my gloves back on and get back into it. For the third, I had a think and decided it was best that I spend a couple nights a week working in a bar. Being an accountant for my day job was something I enjoyed but it didn’t have a very strong social aspect. I decided that while dealing with this then it was best to do so head on; if I worked in a busy bar then I’d be making money to bank and be putting myself in the spotlight a couple nights a week behind a bar for a lot of people to see. Although it was hard work, time consuming, tiring and a struggle; after a month or so I was in good shape, I was learning, I was growing my savings, I was meeting new people, I was putting myself out there – I was growing. My confidence was through the roof, I was motivated again, I was enjoying life and this is when I realised that taking control was absolutely pivotal not only to handling alopecia, but to life and I will always be thankful to alopecia for teaching me that lesson. The thing is, we’re not meant to be sat in an office all day just taking life’s punches on the chin, eating £4 meal deals for lunch from the local Co-op and spending our evenings vegetating on a sofa watching TV. We’re meant for greater things than that, we evolved from people who hunted woolly mammoths for crying out loud. The body and mind crave struggle, they crave being pushed, being challenged, learning and adapting. Since taking control and pushing myself physically and mentally – I have never been happier. I apply it to everything I do in life now. I get up early, I grind, I work hard, I appreciate my life and everything in it and I appreciate all the changes I see in my life from the work I’m putting in?. Most importantly however, I’m happy. I’m happy with who I am, I’m happy with my life, I’m happy with the people around me, I’m happy with how I look and I’m happy in my journey and the direction I’m going in life. Being a young man, it’s difficult to lose all of your hair, it’s difficult to lose control and its difficult to keep yourself from getting into a low place. Having been there and done it, I’d recommend the following things to any young man (or woman) struggling to get back on top of things right now, particularly regarding their appearance: If you’ve lost your eyebrows and your old enough, consider getting them tattooed on. I got mine done by the talented Ash at F.A.C.E in Glasgow and its changed my life. I could not recommend this enough. Take control of your physical health. Eat well and get in the gym. You’re going to look different from everyone and be naked which is tough. Take control of it. Eat a healthy diet that suits your goals and build a healthy body. You’re going to take on the world, taking control of this will make you feel fantastic and you know what they say: Feel good, look good. Take control of your mental health. Use the tools available to you if you need assistance, there is nothing wrong with this. Everyone goes to the gym to improve their physical condition, so why wouldn’t we see counselling regularly to improve our mental condition? Build a strong mind, it won’t let you down. Find a passion and pursue it. For me it is Muay Thai and mixed martial arts, but for you it could be anything from knitting to trainspotting. Find something you are passionate about and give it your all, especially if its something it can help you grow and learn. Push yourself, grow. This last one is king – Surround yourself with good people. All the above things should allow you to meet people of a similar mindset, people taking on the world, people who strive to better themselves and have taken control. Surrounding yourself with people who support you, see the best in you, accept you and are there for you is key. Find people who support you as you do them, build a strong social circle of good people; good people build each other up, not tear them down. Although the above is not a blue print, it is not a how-to, it’s not really anything except my advice about my experience and how I best dealt with it. The thing with alopecia is that it may take away your control and make you naked but that’s ok, in fact, that’s good. Take control of what you can and confront what you can’t, if you’re going to be naked then look good doing it. You might not be able to choose the cards you’re dealt, but you can always choose your reaction and you can always choose your mood. Take control. You’ve got this.