We recently spoke with Cath from CMT Psychology and she shared a bit about herself and her alopecia story.
- What are you reading or watching right now?
- I’m watching Mare of Easttown and Superstore. I’ve just finished reading All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton.
- Who’s someone you admire or look up to?
- I love Leigh Sales.
- What’s something you want to learn?
- I tried to learn French for years and still can’t speak it. I would like to try again one day!
- What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
- Probably putting a picture of myself in my first wig on Facebook and “coming out” as having alopecia.
- If you had 25 hours a day, how would you use your extra time?
- I have a baby at home so the honest answer is sleep!
Tell us about your alopecia story!
At age 20, after a sunny day outdoors I noticed a tender spot on the top of my head. Closer inspection revealed a sunburnt bald patch about the size of a 20 cent piece. Shocked, I turned to my Dad to seek reassurance… was I imagining it? He glanced at the top of my head and stated very matter-of-factly… “yes you do have a bald patch.” (Dad isn’t one for mincing words).
What followed was a roller coaster of treatments and my hair falling out, growing back and then falling out again. Nearly 15 years later I’m comfortable with having alopecia areata. I shave the little hair I do have on my head (which is not very much). I wear wigs most of the time and feel most myself when I’m in one. This place of acceptance wasn’t easy to get to and there are still times when I feel anger, sadness or anxiety related to my bald head.
There are several things I learned along the way that I wish I had known earlier. I wish I had been more aware of the stories I was telling myself and the impact those were having on me. For example, I had some health issues (totally unrelated to alopecia) and began telling myself “Here we go again… more proof that my body doesn’t work properly… my body is defective”. This kind of self-critical thinking adds an extra layer of suffering on top of an already difficult situation. That doesn’t mean I think I should have forced myself into “positive thinking”. I just didn’t need to add to my suffering by beating myself over the head with self-criticism.
Another thing I did that added to my suffering was to avoid social situations in the early days. I didn’t want to go to social events because I was scared people would notice my bald patches. Later, I was scared they would notice I was wearing a wig. While in the short-term, this eased my anxiety (because no one would notice my bald patches while I was sitting alone in my bedroom), it led to increased social isolation and made it a bigger deal when I had to go into social situations. The more I went out, the more I noticed that others didn’t really worry about my alopecia. It was a much bigger deal to me than it was to them! Afterall, “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” (I have often thought of this line throughout and Google tells me it was Dr Suess who said it – very wise).
I feel wary of giving advice to others going through this because we all receive far too much of it. Many well-meaning people will give lots of advice. It is so important to speak about it with people who make you feel heard, cared about and supported. It is okay to feel sadness, anger or any other emotion. Allowing myself to feel these difficult emotions and talking about it with supportive people was crucial to feeling at peace with my alopecia.
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