I want to talk about my experiences of alopecia. I was ten years old when I discovered my first patch, I remember going to see a GP with my mother and I was told it was alopecia. He didn't refer me to a dermatologist that time. At that age I didn't really give the hair loss a second thought. The patch soon disappeared but three years later, I discovered another patch, this time it was joined by three others. I again went the GP who still supported his original diagnosis but this time referred me to a dermatologist who confirmed the diagnosis.
This Is Me
Being thirteen years old and suffering with hair loss was really hard. One of my worst experiences was when I went to one of the larger superstores. I had gone to buy a new CD with my friends but was refused entry unless I removed my cap. I explained to the security guard why I was wearing it but he was adamant I must remove it to get in. I'd never felt so embarrassed. I had people looking at me as though I was a naughty kid. I didn't know where to look. What little confidence I had left me right there. Afterwards I went straight home where I broke down in tears.
Over time my alopecia disappeared but I started to struggle with anxiety because I was always worried it would come back. Over the next fifteen years my patches came and went and I began to accept it was a part of me.
However, two years ago after going five years without any patches, my alopecia returned. It started with one really big patch then after a few weeks I had four. I just got on with things because I was used to this, I'd had patches on and off since I was ten, so this wasn't unusual.
Your Feelings are Valid
Things took a turn one morning when I noticed my eyebrows were falling out. I started to become more anxious than ever before. After a few months, I was hairless from head to toe, losing all of my hair was mentally tough on me. I felt like I was losing my identity, I looked in the mirror and I didn't recognise who was looking back. It took me down a dark path because I just didn't want to be me anymore. You become paranoid that everyone is either staring at you or talking about you. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. The worst thing for me was that I didn't talk about it. There is a stigma, especially for men when it comes to talking about health whether it's physical or mental.
Things started to turn around for me when I joined a group that was set up by AlopeciaUK
. I was able to read similar stories to my own. I wasn't alone anymore. I started to engage with likes on some posts that I related to which soon turned into comments. Before long I was posting about my own journey. Somehow, I found my brave.
I want people to know that alopecia is NOT just hair loss, it is so much more.
I now have my own Instagram account where I advocate for both alopecia and mental health. I've been really lucky to meet some amazing people through social media. I reached out to Matt Lucas who has been nothing but inspirational. After Skyping with him I felt I could conquer the world. I told him I was doing this blog for Models of Diversity and asked if he would do a quote for me. His quote is 'It's been great to chat to Dean about his experiences and witness how he's facing the challenges of alopecia'.
This Is Me
I have come to realise that we have to grow from our experiences. Having or not having hair does not define us. We are all beautiful in our own right. I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me.