This article was originally published on VICE Spain
It might be an awful thing to say, but the truth is I've always been an attractive girl with a lot going for me. I don't attribute my success to my appearance or anything – I'm just used to people noticing me. So, when I suddenly lost one of the things that made me so attractive, I felt my whole world crumble around me. And to think I always hated vain people.
It wasn't one of those awful situations that slowly came creeping, either. It happened very quickly. There were a couple of weeks where I noticed my hair falling out more than usual, but I didn't pay much attention to it. I had other things to worry about. Things like, looking for a new place to live after my boyfriend ran off and left me with an apartment that I couldn't afford.
There was one particularly fateful day in the story of my alopecia. I woke up late and had to scramble like a maniac to get to work on time. I quickly showered, jumped out and started to brush my hair. As soon as I began, handfuls of strands started to fall out, one after the other. I felt like I was in a fucking nightmare. I carried on brushing, hoping that the hair would stop shedding from my scalp. It was clear that something wasn't right. Within ten minutes, the sink's surface was covered in a pile of long brown strands. I took it with my hands and made a big ball out of it. I stared at it for while. I was so amazed, I even smelt it.
My heart was pounding and with my stomach in my mouth, I walked towards the mirror. I pulled my hair back with both hands. One side of my head was totally bald – the hairline beginning quite a few centimetres further back than the other side. I hadn't really noticed because I've always had a fringe. But hang on, how can my hair only fall out on one side? What is going on with the other side? These things happen symmetrically, don't they? Isn't that how nature works? This can't be 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 my hair back again and asked my closest colleague:
- "Which side is receding the most?" I'll never forget the look she gave me.
- "Well, the left side. What happened?" she said.
I had no idea what was happening to me.
Days of frustration and distress followed the episode. Within a few weeks, my once luxuriously thick fringe consisted of only a few hairs. My crown had also started to shed. Nothing seemed to help – not the complex hair loss nutrients that the pharmacist recommended nor the special shampoo. So I decided to go to the doctor.
At the doctor's office, I went through the same motions I had found myself repeating to everyone I trusted. Hands on both sides of my head, pushing my hair back while frowning: "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 recently my boyfriend (the man who I had shared the past five years of my life with) had left me. From that moment on, life hadn't been particularly awesome.
The look he gave me, the tone of his voice and the words that he carefully picked showed compassion for the girl that he had in front of him. A woman going bald, in the prime of her life, is quite literally 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.
The tests didn't show any abnormalities in my androgen levels (the masculine hormones), so I didn't need to be treated for androgenic alopecia. That would have been really crap because it would have meant that 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 just have to put up with.
Obviously, when you're told that your hair is falling out because of stress, you get even more stressed. It's a vicious circle 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.
In my world, things couldn't get any worse. My baldness turned into an obsession; I couldn't think about anything else. 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 a testimony that would reveal the existence of some miracle product.
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 hairline was receding more and more. The hairs on my crown had been wiped out to reveal a spot that was approximately six centimetres in diameter.
I tried a thousand different ways of styling my hair to cover up the bald patches: side partings, low ponytails, strategic buns. 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, practice meditation and even gave psychotherapy a go. When ten minutes into my first appointment, the psychologist told me that I should accept what was happening, I didn't know how to react.
"Close your eyes and repeat to yourself that this may never be resolved. Make some 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 child whose parents had just died in a traffic accident. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Until that moment, I hadn't considered that this horror might last forever. I cried and cried. I cried so much that I couldn't cry anymore. I was empty. I felt like nothing was worth it and that I would never be happy again and that scared me a lot. I was worried I might go crazy.
I can't say exactly when things changed for me, but one day I came to terms with the fact that there was nothing left to do other than 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 on like this.
I've been semi-bald for eight months now and I'm not going to lie, I still feel like shit. But I'm doing much better. My hair is growing back – even though it's nowhere near as thick as it was. I've learnt how to cover up the bald spots and I have figured out how to have sex without freaking my partners out. I think I've come to accept the problem just like that mean psychologist said I should. Does this mean that I am happy? No, I'm not: Going bald is the biggest pain in the arse imaginable.