I have been a sufferer of alopecia for 12 years I think. I am not sure what caused it but, I was in denial about having an issue for many years.

I always used to have hair extensions plaited into my hair in my 20's and early 30's. I am not sure at what age I recognised my hair was thinning, think it was my early 30's but I had to change having my hair plaited as my hair became very weak and I developed bald patches at the front of my scalp. I sought some advice from a hair specialist in Leicester and she advised me to see my GP but in the meantime, she offered me weaves as a way to cover the patches up. She also advised me to take pictures of my hair so I could monitor loss overtime.

If I had not been advised to take pictures I may have never accepted that there was something wrong. After my first weave I was hooked as I had found another way to hide my patchy scalp and I felt great. I ignored the advice to go and see a doctor and just continued having weaves. I am not sure how much you know about weaves but this is where I had my hair plaited into cornrows and then the human hair was stitched to my own hair and then styled. She had developed a special mesh that was stitched across my bald patch that the extensions could be attached to.

This continued for another few years until one day my hairdresser said she could no longer stitch the hair to mine because the bald patch at the front was so large. I don’t remember hearing much of the conversation, all I heard was "you will have to have your hair natural and I will show you how to style it". I felt sick and panicked at the thought of not being able to cover it up. I got in the car and drove home, the one-hour drive gave me time to figure out what to do and I knew I had to go and see my GP for some help. I decided to wear my hair naturally to reduce the stress on it whilst I waited for the appointment to come.

The appointment came and my GP (a male doctor) tried a number of the usual treatments over the next few years all varying in pain and irritation levels, creams, steroids, oral tablets, and other topical treatments. Whilst this was happening I was wearing an off-the-shelf wig, which added to the irritation of these treatments. I quickly reached breaking point and at an appointment with my GP he stated my hair loss was my fault as I had been plaiting my hair too tightly and wearing weaves. The anger began to swell inside me as I knew this not to be the case as I would never let someone plait my hair too tightly, at least not because of the pain that would cause? I broke down in tears right there and my GP not knowing what to do finally referred me to a consultant dermatologist.

I continued to wear my wig just buying new ones of exactly the same style so no one would suspect, least not the people I work with. Being a teacher, it was always my fear that my wig would fly off when trying to stop a fight or slip whilst I was teaching.

On the day of my consultant appointment I felt relieved that there may be an end in sight and over the next year I was subjected to yet more painful and irritable treatments that did not work. Eventually, I was sent for a biopsy and in October 2016 I was diagnosed with Lichen Planopilaris. The diagnosis was a relief but the words that followed will haunt me forever as I was told it was a scarring form of alopecia and my hair would never grow back again! What followed was a grieving process and over the next few months I spiralled into a form of depression. I was snappy, irritable and not a nice person to be around. My partner bore the brunt of it and in January 2017 as part of an agreed resolution, I decided to find some support. The first port of call was the internet and I researched everything I could about alopecia and stumbled upon the Alopecia UK website. I found a support group in Birmingham and registered to attend the very next meeting.

Alopecia UK has a special place in my heart as I finally met others like me and was able to converse and share stories and concerns with people who understood me. I owe my sanity and return to normality to this charity and feel I would not be the strong person I am now if it was not for the support and friends I have made. It's like having a new family.