My hair started to get thin when I was around 19-20 and I was diagnosed with alopecia and an underactive thyroid (I am 46 now). I was devastated and I felt very alone. Like I was the only one. 

Initially I was trying to cover my thinning hair by changing my hairstyles but eventually there was no hiding it.  I had tried everything from a scalp biopsy (which was done on the NHS) to seeing a trichologist (privately). At this time there was very little support available online and I assumed that wigs would be bouffant and old lady like. I started to wear a baseball cap and tie what hair I had into a ponytail.  

This of course affected my self confidence and I avoided going out anywhere I couldn’t wear my baseball cap. I would skip evenings out where I needed to dress up.  I hate to say but I started to feel like a recluse. My alopecia had completely changed me and at the time I felt it had totally ruined my life. The process of my hair thinning was very slow over a few years. I had been told it was androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness. I often lost my temper with myself and would regularly breakdown in tears. 

Eventually things started to evolve online and I found an online forum where I would talk to others with hair loss.  I eventually tried on wigs in a Trendco salon. I remember walking into the shop and breaking down in tears. Eventually I found a wig which I liked.  Initially I only wore my wig at weekends to get used to it.  After a while I plucked up the courage to wear it to work. I chose to wear it for the first time at work after I returned from a holiday. The reaction was positive and this helped a lot. I can’t explain what a big step that was. I was petrified. But I found a new lease of life and felt more like me again. 

In 2017, I travelled from Bristol to Birmingham for Alopecia UK's Big Weekend 2017. I first heard about the event via the charity's Facebook page and I was both nervous and excited on the drive to Birmingham. I didn't know what to expect and thought i'd probably only stay a few hours. In fact, I ended up staying all day and even for the Saturday night social! I had previously met a few ladies in a small support group at a hospital, arranged by Changing Faces. I had never met so many others on such a large scale as the Big Weekend; it was incredible!

Big Weekend 2017 was excellent and a real turning point in my journey with alopecia. I got to meet so many lovely people, was made to feel very welcome and I felt like part of a family. For the first time in over 20 years with hair loss, I felt that I was far from alone. I felt more acceptance with myself than ever before. 

The event was arranged superbly and the volunteers were amazing. I enjoyed the workshops and the evening dancing! I never imagined that i'd be dancing in public with just my Henna Crown on my head!

I hadn't booked the Henna Crown beforehand as I never dreamed i'd have the courage! After a while at the event, I started to try on a few wigs and started to feel more at ease. And as the morning progressed, I saw ladies with their Henna Crowns and I started to think I'd like to have one. Very luckily there was one space remaining and I booked to have it done. It was a HUGE turning point as I had never previously taken my hair off in front of people (except my partner). I also booked to have my make up done and a photo shoot. None of this I would have believed possible before the event. I just got such strength and confidence from seeing others with hair loss. The biggest deal for me was going outside in public without my hair, into the centre of Birmingham. That was incredibly liberating!

Since Big Weekend 2017, I definitely have more fun with wigs and now own different styles. I now love switching my wigs depending on how i'm feeling or what i'm wearing. I still stick to the same hair at work but if people ask me about my hair (usually, how do I keep it looking so good?), I am now comfortable to tell people I wear a wig and have alopecia. 

Meeting others with alopecia helped me enormously and I have stayed in touch (via social media) with some people I met in Birmingham. I hope to catch up with some of them this September in Bristol, and hopefully meet new faces too!

I can't wait for Big Weekend 2019 in Bristol. It's great that it is near my home town as I will be able to spend more time there, including the awareness walk on the Sunday. I'm not sure how I will feel about going outside in public with Bristol being so close to my home town. I'm not sure how i'd feel about bumping into someone I know without my hair on but I haven't ruled out going without my wig for the walk. However it's good to know that whether I choose to wear my wig for the walk or not, I'll be surrounded by supportive and friendly people who just understand!

For anyone not sure about whether to come along to Bristol this September, I'd say 'Go for it'! Going to Birmingham in 2017 changed my feelings towards accepting my alopecia. It allowed me to think 'This Is Me' and it's ok that I don't have hair.

Big Weekend 2019 takes place in Bristol from Friday 27th - Sunday 29th September. You can take in as much or as little of the event as you like.