Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hair is Overrated.

There has been a huge influx of questions from friends and family with what the heck is going on with my hair. I thought I'd write about what's going on for those curious here.

This summer I was diagnosed with psoriasis. Not a huge deal, except that it totally sucks. Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells making it very itchy and flaky and horribly uncomfortable.

There was a patch of it behind my ear and I was using a topical cream to treat it. Seemed to work but psoriasis comes and goes whenever it feels like it, so it's frequently present. Then this past Friday I had a hair appointment and my hair dresser was brushing out my hair checking the roots when he asked me

"Have you noticed this?"

I looked up to see this fairly large bald spot behind my ear.

Awesome, right? Well, he continues looking and finds another spot symmetrically behind my other ear. A tiny freak out happened inside me. He said that it looked like alopecia, which just means baldness, and that I should go see my dermatologist. My first thought was that it was some weird reaction to my topical cream or that it had to do with my psoriasis.  Monday morning I called my doctor and we set up a time to come in and check it out that afternoon. He did a ton of blood tests to make sure it wasn't anything with any of my organs or metabolic measures ... and to make sure I wasn't prego. I'm not. Thank God. And nothing else was wrong for that matter.

"You're completely healthy!"

Clearly. The next step was the dermatologist. I went this past Thursday and she walks in, takes a look and says, "Oh, yeah. That's definitely alopecia areata. Without a question."

Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. It usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).

The basic consensus is that you don't know how much hair will fall out, you don't know when it will grow back, if it grows back you don't know if or when it will fall out again and if it will be a different spot or the same and you don't know why it happens other than it's autoimmune and there isn't a cure. You're just left in the dark and wondering what the crap.

My dermatologist thinks that stress is what made it surface. So I think weekly massages are totally called for. :)

How am I feeling about this? What a funny question for me to answer, since feelings aren't really my thing. I'm feeling like there could have been an autoimmune disease that makes me really sick, or prevents me from eating certain foods or something that could have been really painful. This just hurts my worldly perception of beauty and it's not painful, I can still live a "normal" life, can color the hair I do have, my diet probably isn't a participating factor although I may try a paleo diet just to cleanse my body and make sure everything else is in tiptop shape and I'm not sick. What makes me chuckle is that about a week prior, I was talking with my Mother-in-law about how there's really nothing that wrecks my world anymore because God is so much bigger than my circumstances. My joy doesn't get depleted because something crappy happened and that the period of not being okay was very short. Then this happens right after a really rough couple days of some things that surfaced in mine and Ben's marriage that was really, really, REALLY difficult to bare and walk through. 

The funniest part was how much being diagnosed with alopecia areata paralleled the issues of our marriage. The end result for Ben and I was that I needed to be okay with not having an answer about some things. That some things that I had realized I wanted to do and dreamed of may or may not happen and I needed to shift my thinking on the fact that I was married now and it's not just about me and what I want to do but about us. That I needed to be okay not knowing and ultimately trust and rely on God and believe that whatever happens, he is for me and for Ben and I more. 

Just like this alopecia areata is a physical unknown. I literally cannot do anything about it, I have to be okay and content in the fact that it may or may not grow back, I don't know when or why. I just have to keep moving on and trusting God.

Funny how He works, isn't it?

I'm truly confident now that circumstances really don't deplete my joy and that I do believe God is bigger than my circumstances. I've been able to recognize that mourning over things is appropriate and that doesn't mean I don't trust God, and that just because I don't FEEL happy, doesn't mean I shouldn't considered the fact that God is growing me in areas of weakness a JOY. What a blessing this has turned out to be at 23 years old. 

The next steps:
  • I have decided I do not want steroid shots into my scalp to attempt to force hair to grow, which is usually a common treatment when first diagnosed.
  • I have agreed to a daily steroid shampoo - which I'm not sure what's worse - having to wash my hair everyday or that I have to use a 4oz. bottle of shampoo that cost $260.00.
  • I've changed my psoriasis medicine to something that is used for scalp psoriasis in hopes that will help - since really both are an autoimmune disease. The only down side is that this new medication has some not so fun side effects like headaches, fatigue, more susceptible to catching infections which should be really fun since I work with kids and apparently if I get pregnant on this stuff our baby will have two heads.
  • I have a new vitamin intake that includes a TON of biotin and other vitamins to help with the higher risk of catching something.
  • I cut my hair off. Like really off. Mainly for two reasons: 1) if I have to wash my hair everyday, I want an easier solution to doing it. This new do will help me dry faster and hopefully my natural wavy hair will work. 2) if and when my hair does grow back, it won't take long for it all to be the same length. And yes, I mourned over the fact that my long hard work to grow it out for dreads is no longer happening. I'm also very sad about my bun.

Goodbye, bun.

Thank you to those who have been so loving and helpful. I really appreciate your kind words and prayers.