Right, so “hair” we go with my story with alopecia..

My first experience with alopecia was in 2006 when at the hairdressers he found a small smooth bald patch at the top of my head and suggested I go get it checked out at the doctors as it might well be alopecia areata. I’d heard of the condition before but never had any idea of what it caused or how it worked so it was quite scary at that point.

I visited the local doctors and I have to say the help from my GP was very poor, basically telling me what the condition was and that there was nothing he could do to help me with it. I was told I should just wait and it should grow back, which was not ideal as he didn’t offer any other support I might need such as mental support. Back then there didn’t seem to be any support offered to me regarding the condition so luckily I had a very supportive family and friendship group that took it upon themselves to name my patches “Barry” so I had someone to put the blame on if you like which made it slightly easier and a little bit more manageable and added a small amount of humour.

At the time I was working in the hair industry working as a sales rep for a well known hair colour company so as you can imagine a sales rep with his hair falling out is not a good look so this put a lot of pressure on myself regarding my employment, and also my social life, affecting my confidence. My solution to this was to grow my hair long, at the time I’d only had two or three patches on my head and a couple more patches in my beard, so by having long hair with plenty of hairspray you wouldn’t even see the patches fortunately. Luckily over 3 years I had full regrowth.

In February 2021 my wife spotted a small smooth bald patch hidden away in hair and it was clear clear “Barry” had returned. This was devastating news but I thought I’ve been through this before I can go through this again.

Ordinarily I am an extremely hairy man and once we had found this solitary patch on my head things started to progress rapidly I was experiencing much faster hair loss than previously and it wasn’t just linked to my head I was losing hair all over my body which was quite a shock. The hair on my head was coming out in clumps my beard was falling out rapidly also and my eyebrows followed suit first of all falling out and then going back, fortunately, quite quickly but white which made me look a lot older than I am. This was quite tough to deal with as it’s a visual reminder of what’s going on with your body every time you look in the mirror.

It soon became obvious this was going to be a lot more challenging than my experience 16 years ago so I decided I was going to shave all of my hair off, which I did raising over £1600 for charity. Short term this definitely helped me with dealing with the situation and I went to see my GP, a different GP who was much more understanding much more supportive and took lots of blood tests and try to offer me some reasons as to why this might be happening unfortunately, as I’m sure a lot of us are aware there was no real answer.

I decided to tell my story to my work colleagues all of my friends and family that may not been aware I had previously suffered. I put my story on all of my social media accounts to try and get out in front of the situation and stop everyone asking me why I all of a sudden had a bald head, no beard and grey eyebrows. I did get a lot of support via those accounts and was surprised other people had suffered in a similar way.

I found it particularly tough to go to work with a completely different look. It really did test my mental strength and that is an ongoing battle on many days when you just don’t feel able to go out and be yourself, whether it’s to work or social events or even just to the shops. I think I found it particularly hard, even though people were trying to be nice, when they would see me and tell me that a bald head suits me because it’s just a reminder of what’s actually going on but I know they mean well.

When I decided to shave my hair off it was a small help with the situation but I wasn’t prepared for mentally how it was going to affect me with this much more severe hair loss. I hate having my photograph taken now and will shy away from having that done and I feel embarrassed sometimes when out and about socially. I find meeting new people really is one thing I dread. Weddings for example, we had two to go to last year, one I was best man for and I found them to be really testing times. I get sad and frustrated when I see old pictures of myself and I find that particularly hard to deal with now as it’s just another reminder that “Barry” is still in my life.

It's been over a year now as a bald man and I’m used to it but I do not like it but I’m doing everything I can to make myself feel better in situations that arise. I have an extensive collection of hats now which I tend to wear everywhere, sunglasses too have become very important to me basically using 'face furniture' like this most days. 

I used to think I didn’t really have an issue with being bald but I think over the last year that has changed. I definitely do because I do not feel like myself. The old me was confident and outgoing. Now I feel like it’s a façade, forcing it out of myself every time I go out the house. I don’t feel relaxed and I don’t feel comfortable in many situations. It’s hard work and sometimes I feel like I’m being rude or unfriendly because I just don’t feel comfortable in that situation whatever that might be and maybe a little bit quiet or a little bit aloof. It’s not deliberate but it’s just the way I feel as my confidence has been smashed into pieces.

I do try and take the positives out of all of this, convincing myself that challenges do make you a stronger person mentally although to be honest I don’t think there’s too many positives. Maybe the fact I get 10 minutes longer in bed in the morning now, as I no longer have to wash my hair and the money I’ve saved on hair product and haircuts is astonishing!!!

Right now, I’ve had a little regrowth in certain areas of my body which I’m taking as a good sign that things are happening internally. I’ve even now got a very small amount of regrowth on my head. I’m trying not to get too excited but I’m trying to be optimistic that I’ve turned the corner.

I try to see this tough time as a challenge and to not let it define me. I won’t let it. I don’t like it and I have to accept right now it’s where I am but I won’t let it stop me doing the dad, husband or individual things I want to be doing even if it might take a personal chat in the mirror in the morning to get out and go to that wedding or meet some new people. The world has definitely changed in the 17 years since my first bout of Alopecia. The Facebook groups, Twitter feed, support of GPs, friends, family online information is much more supportive and readily available and it’s great to know I’m not in this challenge alone. There are others to help if I need a lift or a blog to read for support. And I have to say the Alopecia bunch, we are a positive bunch …..most of the time haha. .

My 6 year old son gave me some perspective when he said to me when my wife was shaving my head, which as you can imagine was an emotional experience - “Daddy don’t worry you might have a bald head but you still have me.”  Brilliant.