People very often overlook how our hair is connected to our identity. Personally, when I lost all my hair due to developing alopecia, I struggled with my identity. I remember wearing hats at first, to try and hide it, then I was worrying if the clothes I'd worn previously still suited me because I felt different, I felt as though I'd lost the old me and was trying to find who I now was. I'd look in the mirror and my heart would sink. I felt as though I was mourning even if that does sound a little over the top to some. Mourning can be defined as the act of feeling or expressing sorrow which in turn is a feeling of deep distress caused by loss and in this case, losing my hair was my loss.

No one can or should judge how your experience has made you feel, we are not in control of our feelings, life would be much easier if we were. I kept all my hair products such as hair wax, with the hope of it returning. A week turns to a month, a month turns to a year and so on, when do you concede? People who I've since met will tell me that they couldn't imagine me with hair, that I'd look strange and I'm better as I am, yet this doesn't help me.

Having no eyebrows is a big frustration and it's more frustrating than most people realise. When I break into a sweat, on hot days or when exercising, the sweat just drops down straight into my eye and I'm forever rubbing them because of this. I had no appreciation for my eyebrows pre-alopecia but now I completely appreciate their function. Our brows wick away sweat and dirt, so they don't cloud our vision. They also deflect rain, and force drops to run down the side of our face instead of straight into our eyes. Who knew?!

It is frustrating when I hear some say that alopecia must be easy for men because 'they can just shave their heads'. I'm sorry to say that this couldn't be more wrong. It doesn't matter what your gender is, it can be just as difficult for anyone suffering with hair loss. Alopecia isn't always just on your head, it can be literally any part of your body. Everyone’s experience is different and how they deal with it will be different. When I lost my eyebrows, I started to struggle with things such as self-identity and low self-esteem. The psychological side effects of alopecia can be really complicated. If you were to stereotype, then you may say men tend to have shorter hair than woman but that doesn't mean that our hair isn't as much a part of who we are.

We are all different and we shouldn't be trying to conform to society's expectations. Life is hard enough being yourself, never mind what society expects. I genuinely believe that only when we stop focusing on the opinions of others that we can really be free. This was my problem when I lost my hair, I was constantly thinking about society and what everyone thought when they looked at me. Then after a while you realise that they don't matter. Too often, we look outward for validation that we look good enough and that we're fitting in. Well, we weren't made for fitting in. We were made for standing out. Believe in your own self-worth. Be proud to be the person you are. You’re amazing and never let anyone tell you otherwise.

I have finally accepted my alopecia is a part of who I am and I'm embracing it with all that I am. I thought my alopecia was holding me back when in fact I was only holding myself back. Alopecia does not and should not stop you being the person you want to be. Life is about perspective; you can tell yourself that you fell down today, or you can say you learnt to stand back up.

Dean regularly shares his thoughts about alopecia via his Instagram account @patchproblems