Coping with Alopecia Areata and coming to terms with hair loss.
Many of you will have read Fiona’s amazing story on our website, if not you can read it here Fiona’s Story, and learn about her experience of coping with hair loss caused by Alopecia Areata.
Her inspiring story of coping with Alopecia Areata, two small children and a demanding job has really struck a chord with so many women.
Sharing this inspiring interview
However, Fiona’s story as it appears on our website is actually only part of an amazing interview she gave to us and we really wanted the chance to share it with you in full.
We were delighted when Fiona agreed to allow us to share the full interview transcript and we know it will resonate with anyone who is experiencing any form of hair loss, including Alopecia. It may even help women to find a solution that works for them.
Please enjoy reading Fiona’s Interview in full here and do feel free to share using the social icons below, especially with anyone who is struggling to cope with Alopecia.
How long have you been a client of Hair Solved?
I began my Hair Solved journey at the beginning of July 2020.
Did you try any other treatments or solutions before you went to Hair Solved Manchester?
When I first experienced hair loss almost 5 years ago I was pregnant with my first son. The patches that I had were quite minimal, so I used to cover them with make-up products. This one little pot of hair powder (which matched my natural dark brown hair roots) became my saviour. I even remember a moment when a colleague, whom I had confided in, touched up some areas behind my ear and around my hairline where some patches had become visible.
My little strategy worked for a while.
It is a very heart-warming memory: something so personal and raw had become somewhat of a maternal and protective moment. I am forever grateful to my colleague and friend for having done that for me. This little strategy worked well for me up until January 2020.
Then my hair loss truly escalated
I had just entered my sixth month of maternity leave with my second son when I began to experience hair loss yet again. It was around March or April 2020 when I had lost approximately 40% of my hair. At this point, my little pot of magic powder was not enough.
Lockdown had begun. There was nobody to go to, speak to or confide in. My mental health was at an all-time low.
At that point, with financial support from my parents, I began the process of searching for a private dermatologist. Due to COVID-19, everything was online: the doctor could not examine my scalp, and everything was discussed based on images I had sent prior to appointments. It was all very clinical and non-personal. I was prescribed steroid treatment which I had to apply to my scalp every day, twice a day.
My hair loss was worsening.
Due to my eczema, which had possible links to my alopecia, I also had to undergo a prescribed rigorous cleansing and moisturising routine. My hair was in a constant ‘top knot’ to conceal the ever-increasing hair loss. Although I followed this for six weeks continuously there were no positive results. In fact, my hair loss was worsening.
I would need a wig.
I recall the day calling my mum saying that I had reached the point where I would need some form of hairpiece or wig. It was either that or to completely shave my head. I’d enough. I had lost control and was truly in ‘fight or flight’ mode. My instinct was to flee, from everything. I thought I was coping with Alopecia Areata but I was wrong.
Where can I buy a wig?
I went on my phone and clicked on amazon. There they were: a whole host of ‘luxurious’ blonde/brown ombre wigs, all within a reasonable budget. I clicked ‘buy now’ on the first wig that seemed like me. How did I feel? Honestly? Excited! For the first time in months, I may get to experience what it felt like to have a normal head full of hair. I remember the day it arrived. In a small, plastic, lifeless envelope knowing that the contents were in fact, my lifeline.
It didn’t look like me!
Tearing it open, disregarding the information leaflets, I ran into my bathroom and shoved it on. And I have to admit, it wasn’t bad for a budget wig. I remember the first time I put it on: I came into the living room and my baby boy, Oisin, started crying. It wasn’t me – it didn’t look like me. He knew that and I knew that.
I asked my older son, Matthew, what he thought. He said, “I like it when your hair is up mummy.” Even when I knew that my body was failing me and I looked awful, my boys still wanted me as I was. A killer, yet life-esteeming blow.
Braving the wig, because I had no other choice.
I had started back at work following maternity leave in June 2020. Of course, I braved the wig as I had no other choice. Once back at work I received comments such as: “Your hair looks really different, have you had it done?” or, “Your hair looks lovely”. But I could see their face, their eyes, their reaction. The hair wasn’t me. I looked fine and I was fairly comfortable, but it wasn’t me.
Sick with depression and anxiety.
I recall lying in my bed one Thursday evening, sick with depression and anxiety. My ever understanding and loving husband was looking after the children once again whilst I lay in a heap of self-pity. I reached for my phone and randomly began searching for hair solutions near me. That is when I came across Hair Solved. Without looking too much into it, out of desperation, I rang the number.
My insecurities dispelled
I still remember vividly, lying in my bed, my cheeks stained with tears, and in desperation, I dialled the number. A male voice answered, and I remember feeling instant relief. He had the most comforting voice as if he knew all my thoughts, all my worries and issues. It was just like “of course that is fine, I can book you in for a consultation, no problem”. My insecurities dispelled and I found myself booking a consultation appointment for the following day.
It felt very positive even after that initial phone call.
I cannot describe the relief I felt that someone was finally listening to me and was willing to take me on: I wasn’t going to be on my own anymore. My spirit lifted at the thought that I was actually going to go and see someone. Whilst still acknowledging that the hair system might not be for me. I didn’t know what Hair Solved were all about or what they were going to do, but it felt very positive even after that initial phone call.
My first visit to Hair Solved is still a vivid memory.
I had my consultation with Natalie who explained in detail what the hair system would entail: she showed me a range of hair colours and constantly referred to the hair system as: “just having more hair!” Striving to disregard my uncertainty and hesitance, and my usual attempt to flight, this time, I chose to fight. Fate had it that there was an available appointment the following day and I took it. Little did I know that within 24 hours, my life would change.
Do you still describe yourself as having Alopecia Areata even though the patches are much bigger?
Yes, I do.
I have actually had a lot of hair growth since my hair system was put in. I can always tell when I am having a little bit of hair growth because my scalp becomes a little bit itchy and you can sort of ‘feel’ it. When I went in for my realignment, I asked if I could just have a look and I couldn’t believe the amount of hair growth that I had.
Of course the hair growth could have just been based on my natural cycle of regrowth however, I truly believe that it was largely due to not waking up every morning and not seeing this big patchy head. That’s what caused the ongoing stress, worry and anxiety. This is when I began to truly look at myself and I just felt like me again, I felt brilliant.
When you first developed Alopecia was it a particularly stressful time in your life, or would you say there wasn’t a reason it happened when it did, or do you just not know?
All of the above to be honest. I found my first patch of hair loss when I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my first child. Coming out of the shower and drying my hair under quite a strong light in the middle of the room I noticed something at the top of my head. I thought it was the light shining on the top of my head, so I kept moving.
Then I thought, “no, that’s not a light, that a bald patch”. I remember taking photos and sending them to my Mum asking, “what is this about?”
Naively I thought that maybe I had used my hairdryer on too hot a setting. I was just a bit shocked and couldn’t understand why this was happening.
During this time I learnt that hair loss can be common in pregnancy.
I’d always had long thick hair that was in good condition and had never had any issues with my hair before. So I put it down to another symptom of pregnancy and obviously did a Google search and learnt that hair loss can be common in pregnancy. Had I have not been pregnant;
I would have probably reacted in quite a different way, but all my energy was going into my body and trying to keep healthy and positive for my baby. When I became a mum, being ‘Fiona’ went to the back of the queue.
Every few months a new patch would arrive.
It was over a year later that I got another patch and then it escalated from there. Every few months a new patch would arrive and every single time it happened it got bigger and it got worse. I had a full head of hair at the end of my second pregnancy; in fact, I had no hair loss at all, my hair looked amazing it was in really nice condition.
It was about when my baby was five months old that it started again. I was a bit like ‘here we go’ but it got worse and worse and worse to the point where I could not conceal it anymore. Then lockdown happened and it was really, really tough this time. I really felt I was losing the battle of coping with Alopecia Areata.
In all honesty I was putting myself last, but my body was putting me last too
This year was harder because I couldn’t fight it anymore. I was going back to work after maternity leave and of course, wanted to look well. But I was putting myself last and my body was putting me last too. Strangely I felt like I didn’t deserve to look well, and my body felt the same. So I was really beating myself up and had a really, really huge struggle with it. Then I had some counselling because I was at rock bottom.
It’s easy to forget how down you felt.
You may have seen a post (on Instagram) that I did before I had my hair system which I often look back at to remind me what hair loss had done to me. When you feel good, it’s easy to forget how down you felt. It was the first time we had seen family due to restrictions. I was wearing a wig that day and it was nice being out, but I just had all these really negative and irrational thoughts.
Do you feel there is a stigma attached to female hair loss?
There is definitely a stigma attached to female hair loss. It is rarely talked about and nobody really knows or understands anything about it. When I have divulged it, people are a bit shocked and say what do you do about it. Women are expected to have a naturally beautiful head of hair, to look and dress a certain way.
But when hair loss happens, people think what have you done to have caused this? I have often been asked “Are you eating something differently? How is your diet? Could you be overweight? Maybe it’s stress?” Why can’t this just happen to me because it has happened? Does it have to be something that I have done?
Being a woman, I do look and compare myself to other women. It’s constant! I remember watching a film where the woman’s hair was scraped up, like Audrey Hepburn, and I watched the whole film thinking, ‘I wish my hair could look like that.’
Do you feel the system has helped you get your confidence back?
I truly cannot stress that enough. I’m a very emotional person and I remember crying on the way home, happy tears when I had it done because, after a matter of hours, I was just like me again. In fact I almost felt like a better version of myself because the hair system is nicer than my ‘bio’ hair. I was absolutely over the moon and didn’t have to worry about this problem anymore. It is taken care of… it is done. Like someone had waved a magic wand and it was all taken away: the pain, the hurt, the fear, everything.
Are you back to your old self? We talked about a photo I had seen of Fiona on a night out in Manchester.
My friend and I went to a restaurant in Manchester as soon as restrictions had lifted.
I had a lovely night out, and I felt really, really good. I feel uncomfortable saying that I looked good, but I felt good, and I felt I looked good! Usually, even before the hair loss, it would have taken me an age to do my own hair and it never quite sat right. But with the hair system, all I had to do was brush it through, put a little curl in it and it’s done – literally a ten-minute job. I don’t have to worry about my hair because I know it is going to look good.
So, I am now getting into my make up again which I am so passionate about.
You know I love the artistry connected to makeup and how different products are used. It is a topic I could talk to you all day about and love makeup and brushes and products. I probably spend far too much money on them but I love it and it’s the one thing I have for me. In many ways I am starting to get my old self back, to how I was before I had children. I suppose the hair system has given me that much confidence that I really feel like I am the old me.
Of course I love my children to death, and they have always been the thing that has kept me going. My husband is my rock, and we have such a solid, loving relationship. In addition, I am learning to love myself just as my children and husband (the ‘your oxygen mask first’ analogy springs to mind. I will let you know when that sinks in!
Is there anything you particularly like about the system and does it feel quite natural to you?
It feels totally natural. I actually got a message from a lady who was enquiring about the system and she said that when she sleeps in her wig, she really hates it and could imagine the hair system being the same. And I just replied saying, “no, get that out of your head.”
I do sometimes forget I have got the hair system on because it so feels like my hair. The thing I like the most about it is effortlessness. I know it is guaranteed to look nice. I know when I get up to go to work, I could have washed my hair on Saturday. Whats more it will still look good all the way till Thursday. It will look nice every day. It is just perfect.
How do you find the team at Manchester?
What I love about going, is that it like going to a normal salon. When I go, we (the stylist and me) don’t really discuss alopecia at all. We talk about life and children and background. Just having the best of craic talking about box sets we like, places we like going to, and just life!
Some clients may want to talk about their condition and that’s fine.
I don’t mind talking about it, but I just love the chat and the normality of it and that Alopecia wasn’t the opening conversation. It was nice to be treated like someone coming in and just getting their hair done. I wanted that relaxing Salon experience. And when I had my first hair wash, and I got a head massage I thought, “wow”. Sometimes you only get that in a more luxurious hair Salon and when she did it, I thought oh my goodness, this is like a real hair salon. I said, “You’ve no idea how nice this is.”
For someone coming from a home with two children, never having time to even finish a coffee or eat, just having that one little thing was a treat. Just getting my hair blow-dried and chatting, I felt like a million bucks.
Did you visit any online forums about Alopecia?
Yes I was part of an Alopecia group on Facebook. Alopecia UK was the biggest and had the most interaction. I only started my Instagram in April but before that, it was always that Facebook group.
I didn’t really interact a lot because I always felt there were people worse off than me.
Because people had Totalis or Universalis and I only had Areata which seems the least of the forms of Alopecia. But I would go on and comment and listen to what other people had to say. Many people shared pictures about braving the shave and people would also go on for a moan. It did help me and support me.
I began to open up more
When I started my Instagram page, I didn’t post a lot, to begin with, because I was just so scared of sharing that side of me. It took me a long time to get the confidence to be seen on the screen. When I did a story, I always held the phone at a certain angle or had my hair in a certain way so you couldn’t see.
It helped me to engage with others trying to cope with Alopecia
It was only when I began to engage with people, similar to me, that my confidence grew and I began to open up more, to be more honest with people about my condition.
With Areata, you are very much in a limbo situation: one day you’ve got some hair, then the next, you haven’t. The constant self-questioning: “am I going to lose it; is it going to grow back?”
You are in limbo and it is so emotional.
With the best wigs costing 1000’s and not knowing if your hair will grow back. I used to see the ladies who shaved their hair and they looked amazing – it was empowering. But I was always in limbo, not really knowing what to do.
It was either somehow get it sorted or shaving my head.
When my hair loss was at its worst, and I had lost a lot of my hair, I had gotten to the point that it was either somehow get it sorted or shaving my head. I remember telling my friend that I wanted to shave my head. And she said, “Fiona, you are not going to do that!” and my husband was the same.
I want to shave my head.
Both of them were totally against it but I said, “Guys, I need you to support me here, I am really losing my mind, I am losing control; I just want to get back in control. I want to shave my head.”
Thankfully that didn’t happen.
It was literally a couple of days later when I called Hair Solved. I remember messaging my friend to say I am getting this done and I will not shave my head.
Thank God that I found Hair Solved before the razor. Now I can say that although I know there will be ups and down I have found a way of coping with Alopecia Areata and am so keen to help others.
We are so grateful to Fiona for sharing her experience of Alopecia.
For taking the time to give us such an honest and candid account of coping with Alopecia Areata. We hope you will share her story and help us raise as much awareness of the devastating impact female hair loss can have and how we need to change attitudes to hair loss. Don’t forget you can follow Fiona on Instagram at Life.in.Patches
Support with Alopecia Areata
To find out more about coping with Alopecia Areata the amazing charity Alopecia UK has a really informative website, simply follow this link AlopeciaUK
Support from Hair Solved
Almost half of Hair Solved’s clients have some form of Alopecia and we know that coping with Alopecia or any form of hair loss can destroy your confidence and happiness. Talk to our team if you would like to find out more about our bespoke hair loss solution Contact our team of experts