Jesse recently received a sponsorship from AAAF for his taekwondo classes. Read his experience living with Alopecia Universalis and how participating in taekwondo has helped him through his journey.
Hello, I’m Jesse & I have Alopecia Universalis. I also have ADHD, OCD & involuntary facial and body ticks, especially when I get stressed.
At the age of nine, is when I started to notice hair loss in certain areas on my scalp. It started as Alopecia Areata. Over the course of a year, I would say all my hair had fallen out by then, including all body hair. This really affected me at first due to the fact I was the only person in my entire school with alopecia, so I stuck out & was made fun of quite often, being the butt of the joke all the time, because primary school kids just weren’t used to it.
Even a teacher told me to just shave my head and be done with it, but as anyone with Alopecia can understand, it’s not that easy to just voluntarily get rid of what little hair you have left, not knowing if it will ever grow back, so my patchy head made some people at school feel uncomfortable, mostly adults, which is ironic, as they are supposed to be equipped to handle uncomfortable situations better than kids, but this isn’t always the case.
Some kids, including my close friends, didn’t treat me any differently, but before all of that, back when I started losing my hair, I started martial arts with ATI. At first I had trouble getting there, due to my ticks & OCD, but over time I started finding that doing it was really beneficial for me, helping me to exercise & concentrate, which took my mind off my problems.
Another benefit was when I started taking medication for my tics, OCD & ADHD, I gained a lot of weight, so when doing taekwondo I was getting a workout & this really contributed to me losing that weight again. The reason that means so much to me is that I was extremely unhappy with being overweight & never was before all of the medicine, not only that, but I didn’t feel attractive or confident, on top of feeling self conscious from having no hair, so losing weight meant a lot.
Skip to high school now, in year ten at 15 years old, nearly 16 and I don’t care about what people think and I don’t let not having hair get to me. I’ve lost all that weight that I used to have, being more active now more than ever, which I thank ATI for starting that. Now that my Taekwondo journey has come so far, being so close to a black belt and my Mum has encouraged me to never give up, even when at times, it was all I wanted to do, it’s important that I continue and do my gradings and tournaments but it’s a really expensive sport to do. My Mum said it costs us about $3,500 a year which is why we never go anywhere on school holidays and why I can’t get new sparring gear.
The AAAF sponsorship doesn’t cover equipment but it will help so much because Mum will be able to save up for foot and shin guards that actually fit me (I’ve been using the same ones since I was little) Having money issues causes a bit of stress at home and this sponsorship will really ease the financial burden for my Mum & my brother and me, so I can not feel guilty about going to ATI.
I remember when Mum couldn’t afford to pay the $50 administration/registration fee because we had no food in the house. I know that the AAAF paying for my fees for a year will not only allow me to continue doing something that builds my self esteem, keeps me fit and will help me when I join the army next year, but it will allow me to feel useful because I’m giving back to AAAF by bringing awareness to the community about the great support they provide people with Alopecia & their families too.
I’m really thankful to AAAF and look forward to updating you with my progress and milestone check-ins over the next 12 months.
Jesse Ferguson, 15, Perth, W.A.