This article was originally published on VICE Spain.
It happened suddenly. It wasn't one of those treacherous situations that start little by little, where you don't realize there is a problem until you are screwed. Sure, there was that couple of weeks when I noticed a bit more hair than usual clogging up the drain after a shower, but I didn't pay much attention to it. I had other things to worry about. Things like looking for a place to live after my boyfriend had left me with an apartment that I couldn't pay for by myself.
There was a definitive moment in the story of my alopecia when I knew something was seriously not right. That day, I woke up late and had to move like a maniac to get to work on time. I hurried in the shower, jumped out, wrapped a towel around my head, and when I took it off to brush my hair, handfuls of strands started to fall out one after the other. I felt like I was in a fucking nightmare. I carried on brushing my hair, hoping that it would stop shedding from my scalp. Within ten minutes the sink's surface was covered by a pile of long brown strands. I took it with both hands and made a big ball out of it. I starred at it for while, I was so amazed by it. I even smelled it.
My heart was pounding, and with my stomach in my mouth I went toward the mirror to see just how bad it was. I pulled my hair back with both hands and, horrified, saw that one side of my head was largely bald. I didn't understand. How could my hair fall out on just one side? These things happen symmetrically, don't they? Isn't that how nature works? I couldn't believe it was real.
I arrived at work crying, partly out of panic and partly out of shock. Hoping it was all some kind of hallucination, I pulled all my hair back again and asked my closest work colleague:
"Which side is set back the most?" I asked. I'll never forget the look she gave me, it was awful.
"Well, the left side. What's happened?" she said.
I had no idea what was happening to me.
Days of frustration and distress followed this episode. Within a few weeks, my once-luxurious thick fringe consisted of just a few hairs. My crown had also started to shed. Nothing seemed to help either—not the complex hair loss nutrients that the pharmacist recommended nor the special shampoo. So I decided to go to the doctor.
In the doctor's office, I went through the same motions I had found myself repeating to everyone I trusted. Hands on both sides, push my hair back, sad face: "It's gone. Look, on the crown," I said.
"Are you very stressed?" the doctor asked.
"Well, yes. I have been a little nervous lately."
I didn't think twice before telling the doctor that only a few months ago my boyfriend (the man who I had shared the past five years of my life with) had all of a sudden disappeared. From that moment on, life had not been awesome.
The look he gave me, the tone of his voice, and the words that he carefully picked showed compassion for the girl who sat in front of him. A woman going bald, in the prime of her life, can seem like a catastrophe—a curse even. He told me that we would get some tests done to check my hormone levels and that we would figure this out. There was nothing to worry about, he assured me.
The tests didn't show any abnormality in my androgen levels (the masculine hormones), so I didn't have to be treated for androgenic alopecia. That would have been really shitty because it would mean the hair I had lost would never grow back. They couldn't give me any other explanation as to why this was happening. If it was stress, then it would be something transitory that I would have to put up with.
When you're told that your hair is falling out because of stress, it only leads to more stress. It's a vicious cycle that drives you crazy. You try to calm yourself down, thinking this must all just be a bad dream. But finding balls of your hair on your pillow, in the shower, on the sofa, in the sink, in every fucking corner of your house doesn't exactly help you keep calm.
My baldness turned into an obsession. I couldn't think about anything except for going bald. I was depressed and cried all the time. I stopped going out and didn't want to talk to anybody. I spent hours of my days online, either researching or talking to other balding women on chat forums. I desperately sought testimony that would reveal the existence of some miracle product. I was terrified when I reached the peak of this whole tragedy: the wig.
It had been four months since that fateful day in the shower. I had lost more than half of my hair and the left side of my forehead was set back much more than the right (something no doctor managed to explain). The hairs on my crown had been wiped out to reveal a spot approximately six centimeters in diameter.
I tried a thousand different ways of styling my hair to cover up the bald patches: side partings, low ponytails, strategically-placed up-dos.
I also took up a treatment based on Minoxidil, and crammed in as many vitamins as I could. I tried to eat as healthy as possible, meditation, and even psychotherapy. When ten minutes into our first appointment, the psychologist told me that I should accept what was happening to me, I didn't know how to react.
"Close your eyes and repeat that this may never be resolved. Make a space for how this phrase makes you feel. Allow yourself to feel this emotion." What the fuck was this woman saying to me?
I left crying like a baby. That session was the straw that broke the camel's back. Until that moment I hadn't thought that this horror might last forever. I cried and cried until I was empty. I had the feeling that nothing was worth it, that I would never be happy again, and that scared me a lot. I was worried I might go crazy.
I can't say when exactly something in my head changed, but one day I came to terms with the fact that nothing was left to be done except take control of my life again. I had no idea if my baldness was going to resolve itself, but I did know that I couldn't keep going on like this.
I have now been semi bald for eight months and, I'm not going to lie, I still feel like shit. But it's also true that I am better. My hair is growing back, though with nowhere near the same thickness as before. I have learned how to cover up the bald spots and I have figured out how to have sex without freaking out my partners. I think, hands down, I have accepted this problem just like that mean psychologist said I should. Does this mean that I am happy? No, I'm not: Going bald is a gigantic pain in the ass.