thejessence

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. – Aristotle


1 Comment

Fake and Fancy Free

READER ADVISORY: Some photos and descriptions in this story might be disturbing to some individuals. Use discretion when choosing to continue. Previous blog posts leading up to this story are located at the bottom of this post. It is suggested that the previous posts be read first for a full understanding of this post.

 

To finally catch up to the present day, I will go back to February of this year.

That was my last dermatologist appointment. A week before, I sunk down beyond frustration.

I felt like nothing was working. I was the girl with the headband. What I thought would help me grow my hair was turning into a monthly fiasco of prescriptions and doctor’s appointments with no light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t see improvement.

So, I told myself that this was it. I was possibly ending any and all treatments for alopecia. I was tired of having my hopes up of one day not having the bald spots. I was done. I was ready to shave my head.

The doctor encouraged me not to give up hope just yet. She suggested taking photos again to show any progress. She said we would take another look at the next appointment and evaluate our options. I received a couple more steroid injections and would come back in a couple of months.

I paced back to my car with my eyes to the ground. To keep the tears from coming I decided to go ahead with my progress pictures.

20160216_093032

Photo by: Jessica McBride

As you can see, my scalp hates injections.

My head was throbbing. I sat in my car looking through all of the previous photos I had taken. The depressed fever set in and big, hot water drops rolled down my face.

I was so tired of being in limbo. Maybe I would have hair. Maybe I would shave my head. Maybe I would look at options at a later date. No answers. No when, no why.

Journalists don’t deal with unanswered questions very well. In fact, a no comment would’ve been better for my emotions.

I decided to make myself options since my body was taking them away. I threw the car into drive and went to Target.

I grabbed three different color scarves and checked out. I sat in the parking lot and taught myself how to tie them around my head via YouTube.

With a quick Google search I was on to my next stop.

I wasn’t real sure what to expect when I walked into the wig store, but I knew that I had to leave for the better.

20160216_114356

Photo by: Jessica McBride

The lady helped me look at options, and answered my questions. I tried a couple on.

I went short. I went long.

I went blonde. I went brunette.

I wore bangs. I went curly. I went straight.

The possibilities were endless. I enjoyed that.

Eventually I could buy several. I could be a red-headed wild child on the weekend, and an elegant brunette during the week. Maybe even a dumb blonde on holidays.

Who cared that people would know it was a wig. That wasn’t the point. This was something that I could do before and after if I decided to shave my head. This was the ultimate dream of being able to be blonde, curl my hair and change my look with no consequence and no commitment.

 

20160216_115319

Photo by: Jessica McBride

I decided bangs weren’t my thing, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford multiple wigs at once. Just a heads up, wigs are VERY expensive.

This would be something I would have to build up over a long period of time, which would also mean that I wouldn’t be able to wear the wig on a daily basis because it would wear out.

I never thought in my younger years (HA!) I would one day purchase a wig for something other than for Halloween or to goof around.

I settled for something more natural to help with the transition for myself and those around me. You’re welcome.

When I returned to work, I encountered something that I hadn’t even realized had been absent from my life for the past four years. People told me my hair looked nice.

… and cue the tear roll.

It wasn’t anything I ever thought about. It was a change I hadn’t anticipated. It was bittersweet. I thanked them, and corrected that it was a wig and not my natural hair.

The questions flew, and it was relieving to discuss. Most of my co-workers were aware. Most that were unaware of my alopecia are now. The conversation was comforting.

20160301_092330

One person asked why I purchased it. I happily explained that I needed it for my mental and emotional health.

Then they took me back several years to when I told them I had alopecia.

When I tell people, I typically show them. The visual element is very impactful to some people, and though I don’t want sympathy, many times it helps them to know I’m not lying, or exaggerating.

When I was initially sharing this piece of me with this person, I made a comment about my bald spots being weird, or gross, or scary.

The person repeated their response at the time, that it was me and that it wasn’t weird or scary to them. It was physical and not part of my personality or heart.

Acceptance.

The biggest thing about alopecia that I can relay to anyone is the emotional pain and anxiety associated with it. Sure, it sucks to not have hair, but after it’s been gone for awhile it becomes the physical portion of you just like a scar or glasses.

Because so many people do not know or understand alopecia makes it somewhat embarrassing, difficult to explain and gut wrenching that your body struggles to make hair.

Additional layers of being a female with a “beauty” issue and that there is no cure and not much known about the auto-immune disease tear into a vulnerable mind and create an anxiety that is difficult to communicate.

I am constantly worried that my bald spots are showing. I am constantly worried that the wig might blow off in the wind. I am constantly worried that people won’t understand.

And while I shouldn’t have these worries, I do.

It’s been four years since my first bald spot reared its ugliness, and I’m still fighting.

20160319_100319

Photo by: Jessica McBride

I took my pictures at the one month mark for the dermatologist. We’ll see what she says next week.

 

 

For clarity on the story above, please read the blog posts below.

Word Vomit

And Then It Appeared

Radius, Diameter and the Curious Spread

Shimmering Dresses and Comb Overs

The Monster Within

Peach Fuzz But Not Peachy Keen

Beauty and the Beast

25,000 Strands Lost

1 + 1 = 2

Bandana Bandaid

Reflection

My Hair is Full of Secrets

Follicles of Hope

Show Me The Progress

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Public Perception

I saw this video shortly after it came out. My initial instinct was to share immediately on my blog, but I hesitated.

One of my biggest battles with alopecia is not only helping people to understand, but also their perception of what it’s like to not be able to grow hair and the loss of control that person feels as a result.

I have debated since I was diagnosed whether I should shave my head and rock the bald or opt for a wig. I continue to change my mind on almost a daily basis, but I know that at some point because there’s not a cure that I will ultimately reach for the clippers.

What do you think?

By the way, massive props to Buzzfeed’s Becky Harris for sharing her story.


8 Comments

1 + 1 = 2

READER ADVISORY: Some photos and descriptions in this story might be disturbing to some individuals. Use discretion when choosing to continue. Previous blog posts leading up to this story are located at the bottom of this post. It is suggested that the previous posts be read first for a full understanding of this post.

Photo by: Jessica McBride On the show House, they do blood work over night. Having to wait two weeks just makes a nervous nelly, well, nervous.

Photo by: Jessica McBride
On the show House, they do blood work over night. Having to wait two weeks just makes a nervous nelly, well, nervous.

For two weeks in October 2014 I Googled, searched WebMD and tried to prepare myself for whatever would happen.

It was a daunting task because the list of search items was pages long. Really, it could be anything and nothing.

Randy and I talked about how we would deal with whatever it was. It was kind of hard to anticipate something when we didn’t have a clue. It was hard to even keep a smile on my face.

As the world’s biggest pessimist, I always anticipate the worst so when it doesn’t turn out that bad, I can be excited.

One day at work during the two week waiting period I was readjusting my head band. I do it several times a day, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary. But today was not a typical day. My hand grazed the back of my head just at my hairline. And again, I felt the tears fill my eyes.

A round bald spot was beginning to reveal itself at the lower left side of the back of my head. And this time, my head band wasn’t going to cover it.

I wasn’t even sure what to do at this point. They still didn’t know what was wrong with me so how were they going to stop it?

I decided that the best thing I could do was wait until my dermatologist appointment. Then, she would have two sites to poke and test and do whatever she pleased.

The most difficult thing about watching my hair fall out is not knowing when it will strike and glare it’s ugly head. No one wants to feel like a freak. I had always been the small nerdy kid that was picked on, but I wasn’t the freak. I didn’t have experience in this.

Photo by: Jessica McBride It's difficult to take pictures of the back of your head. Don't judge.

Photo by: Jessica McBride
It’s difficult to take pictures of the back of your head. Don’t judge.

During my research, I had read of several instances of children and teens losing their hair. All of it. Eyebrows, eyelashes, everything. I thought back to my childhood and teen years and couldn’t imagine going through what I’m dealing with as an adult.

I couldn’t imagine being the cheerleader with the big bald spot. I couldn’t imagine being scared the wind would blow my hair the wrong way during games. I couldn’t imagine having to tell the coach that I couldn’t wear my hair like everyone else and that the team would have to match me.

Tumbling and stunting would’ve been out of the question.

I wouldn’t have cheered, and that’s the truth.

As an adult, I must not have it that bad.

Randy convinced me that the spot near my neck wasn’t noticeable.

Through all of this I have never been a freak to him. I have always been his beautiful wife, hair or not.

The days when I would come home and cry, he didn’t need to understand.

The days he caught me on the internet pricing wigs, he told me to buy whatever I liked regardless of price.

The many days I came home ready to whip out the clippers and shave my head, he offered to shave his head too.

And when I needed to suck it up and bring my pity party to an end, he was the first person to tell me.

We’ve always had that type of relationship. From yelling at me on the mat when we cheered to quit being a mental case, to being someone to just talk to. Randy is more than just my husband. He’s my coach, friend and shoulder to cry on.

I still remember that Christmas he asked me what gift I wanted and I burst into tears and said that I just wanted my hair back. A simple request. A complicated answer. And if Randy could’ve given me his own hair he would’ve.

I am lucky I have him, because two weeks of being in limbo was a struggle. But I knew whatever was thrown at me, Randy would be right at my side with his battle armor on.

When the doctor’s phone call came, I was prepared and ready to hear anything. So I thought.

For clarity on the story above, please read the blog posts below.

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/word-vomit/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/and-then-it-appeared/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/radius-diameter-and-the-curious-spread/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/shimmering-dresses-and-comb-overs/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/the-monster-within/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/peach-fuzz-but-not-peachy-keen/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/beauty-and-the-beast/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/25000-strands-lost/


8 Comments

Beauty and the Beast

READER ADVISORY: Some photos and descriptions in this story might be disturbing to some individuals. Use discretion when choosing to continue. Previous blog posts leading up to this story are located at the bottom of this post. It is suggested that the previous posts be read first for a full understanding of this post.

I couldn’t do it anymore.

My hair was not only falling, but starting to thin. I had to make a doctor’s appointment. I was backed into a corner and had no other option.

I did everything I could to take my mind off of things. I was out of options, but it would be ok.

On a shopping trip to the outlet stores in Oklahoma City, I discovered a wide set head band in the Oakley store. $15 is an expensive headband, but it conveniently covered everything I needed it to. So, I bought it.

I was actually quite excited. This was a small victory in the world of losing your hair in your 20s. I could put my hair in a high pony tail like my cheer days. I could wear my hair down again. I could wrap it in a bun. I could have a normal hairstyle with the head band. It was more freedom than I had experienced in two years.

I styled my hair curly with mousse and tousled it around. I let it dry a bit, and then strategically maneuvered the headband to cover the beast. It was the happiest day for my hair in two years.

Photo by: Jessica McBride July 8, 2014 After being criticized for my new headband to cover my balding head, I spent my lunch crying in my car reminiscent of being called names by a high school bully. Every time I look at this picture I can see the tears in my eyes that I was trying to hide with a smile.

Photo by: Jessica McBride
July 8, 2014 After being criticized for my new headband to cover my balding head, I spent my lunch crying in my car reminiscent of being called names by a high school bully.
Every time I look at this picture I can see the tears in my eyes that I was trying to hide with a smile.

For two years I was stuck parting it and wearing a low pony tail or clipping it to the back of my head. I was victorious in this purchase. I had beaten the beast.

At one of my meetings that day my heart sunk. Correction. My heart was ripped from my chest and brutally stomped on.

Who could ever learn to love a beast?

A couple of comments from the peanut gallery related my new style to that of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. It took all I had not to cry instantly. I dropped my head and tried not to say anything the entire meeting. When it was over, I hid myself in my office with the door shut.

People can be so inconsiderate and so mean. I didn’t ask for a compliment. I just wanted acceptance.

No one knew my struggle. No one knew how bad it hurt to not be a normal woman with luscious locks of hair. No one knew that I was ashamed to go to a hair stylist because of this awful thing that had happened to me. No one knew I hadn’t had a haircut in two years and the only pair of scissors my curls had seen was held with my own hands to trim off split ends.

For once it might have been great to just have someone understand.

No one knew the pain of having one small victory ripped away. Going to the salon or styling your hair a different way is a typical part of being a woman, but not for a woman losing her hair.

I went out to my car during my lunch break. I wasn’t hungry. All I could think was that what I thought was a brilliant idea made me even more of a target for the people around me.

I’m a very self-conscious person. I’m always so anxious about food in my teeth, about my eye brows being brushed into funky positions, about mismatching socks, about mixing black and brown clothing, about my bald spot showing.

I cried for at least 30 minutes straight. I was completely broken. I told myself that I was letting the comments get the best of me and that they would just have to deal with my disorder. I had to deal with it, so they did too.

A doctor’s visit was inevitable. I could no longer deal with this on my own and my anxiousness of having something terribly wrong with me was eating away at what dignity I had left.

Photo by: Jessica McBride July 8, 2014 That same day I decided I needed to start facing the fact that this was something that would be around for the rest of my life. The small battle turned into an all out war, which I was determined to win.

Photo by: Jessica McBride
July 8, 2014 That same day I decided I needed to start facing the fact that this was something that would be around for the rest of my life.
The small battle turned into an all out war, which I was determined to win.

I had to face myself in the mirror every day, yet all I was doing was covering up the problem and not dealing with it.

I hadn’t documented my journey. It was difficult, but the beast needed to be released.

I took a deep breath and pulled off the $15 Oakley headband. I pulled my hair away from the bald area so that there was no mask or camouflage.

I raised my hands which grasped my phone above my head, and I snapped what would be the most monstrous and repulsive photo of me.

I forced myself to look at it, and in turn forced myself to understand that this wasn’t me. Though it wasn’t beauty on the outside, I needed to remember to love myself and not let this tragedy define me.

Don’t be deceived, for true beauty is found within. And that’s something I knew I had to realize to make any of this better.

For clarity on the story above, please read the blog posts below.

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/word-vomit/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/and-then-it-appeared/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/radius-diameter-and-the-curious-spread/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/shimmering-dresses-and-comb-overs/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/the-monster-within/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/peach-fuzz-but-not-peachy-keen/


11 Comments

Shimmering Dresses and Comb Overs

WARNING: SOME IMAGES AND DESCRIPTIONS IN THIS POST MAY BE DISTURBING TO SOME INDIVIDUALS.

It’s difficult for me to trust others. It is a long process in which I analyze a person to see which pieces of my life I can trust them to care for and handle.

Photo by: Hayden Photography

Photo by: Hayden Photography

I mean, I had a huge bald spot on my head, who could I possibly trust to tell and help me? Unfortunately, I had to suck it up and step outside of my comfort zone.

I hadn’t had a haircut in months. I wasn’t trying to grow my hair out, but part of me hoped that the length would somehow help me cover up the slick piece of scalp glaring at me in the mirror. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t, but I kept lying to myself.

Looking at Pinterest for wedding ideas was horrendous because there were so many hairstyle inspiration photos. I didn’t even pick a hairstyle because I wasn’t even sure what would even work at this point.

We set a practice date before the wedding with my bridesmaids. I had already informed everyone in the hopes that no one would be surprised when two face appeared before them, but it still made me nervous. I would be vulnerable to others and felt so hideous as the day approached.

I still remember sitting in that chair in my kitchen. I remember being asked what I had in mind. I didn’t know what could be done to save my face for my wedding. I didn’t know that anything could be done. I remember taking deep breaths to try and keep my eyes from watering as the other girls smiled, giggled and planned their perfect ‘do.

I found some styles on the internet quickly that could include my side part and comb over so that it wouldn’t take a lot of work to make me look presentable.

We made a practice run and it looked better than I could’ve hoped.

After everyone left I took another deep breath and let the tears fall. I had watched as the once tiny piece of scalp grew to almost the size of my fist in a few months time. I still had a couple of months to go, and I had to hope that I didn’t lose any more hair that would completely ruin my wedding day.

I dreaded the wedding.

I didn’t want a wig. I couldn’t get a haircut. I didn’t know what to do.

I needed to see a doctor. I knew I did, but I couldn’t mentally handle finding out a dreadful answer before I was supposed to marry the love of my life.

As the day approached, I decided I would make a doctor’s appointment after the wedding was over. I dreaded that day too.

The wedding day came and everything worked out exactly how it was planned. Everyone looks at my wedding photos and notices nothing, but when I look at them I see thinning hair covering a massive bald spot on the left side of my head.

Luckily I was able to forget about it after we combed my hair to the side and pinned it down. We hair sprayed it until it was crunchy so that it wouldn’t drift and reveal my secret.

But my secret couldn’t remain hidden for long.


11 Comments

And Then It Appeared

Photo by: Jessica McBride

Photo by: Jessica McBride

READER WARNING: Content and photos in this post may be considered graphic by some individuals.

I remember the day, April 9, 2012.

I had spent the last 10 months to the day wedding planning. The excitement was both thrilling and overwhelming while trying to balance a full-time job and planning what everyone believes to be one of the biggest days in your life.

I woke up just like any other morning to go to work. I followed the normal, day-to-day routine. I showered. I dressed myself in a collared shirt and slacks. I put on make up. I brushed my wet hair.

My hair wasn’t laying right. I mean, I have strange hair that does its own thing, so I just needed to tousle it so it would not look like a cowlick. And then I noticed it.

Photo by: Jessica McBride

Photo by: Jessica McBride

…A round showing of skin about the size of a quarter on top of my head

I thought I had brushed my head too hard and pulled some hairs out. No clumps in the brush. I thought there might have been gum, or a huge tangle, or a culprit that pulled it out. No clumps on the ground.

There wasn’t anything wrong with me, right? Do I have cancer? Did I roll on it in my sleep and yank it out? No clumps in the bed. Did I accidentally and sleepily run my razor on my head during my shower? No clumps in the shower.

It didn’t hurt. It was straight bald. There were not the usual prickles of hair that had been broken off or shaved.

With tears in my eyes, I told my fiance. He told me not to worry. He was probably right.

How do you get a bald spot in the middle of your head? I brushed my hair back and pulled it in a ponytail at the back of my head, covering the spot.

It was nothing, right? I went through every scenario on my way to work like a typical hypochondriac. I wasn’t crazy, right? I touched my head. Yep, it’s still there.

When I arrived at work, I’m pretty sure I told everyone out of shock and paranoia that someone might notice it. I mean, it was a bald spot in the middle of my head that anyone would notice if my hair slipped away from it.

What in the world could this be? During my lunch break I took the above picture. I sent it to my dad in a text message saying,”I guess I got a bald spot lol.” But in reality, I was afraid.

I couldn’t tell the difference between laughing about it and crying. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I couldn’t stay off of Web MD at work. If you’ve ever been on the website, you probably know exactly what it pulled up when I searched random bald spot. EVERYTHING!

Researching didn’t help. I couldn’t find comfort in myself. I struggled to find comfort in everyone else’s opinions and thoughts.

“Go to the doctor,” they said. “It’s probably wedding stress,” they said. I couldn’t decide what to do.

So I did nothing.

It hurt my heart. With a smile on my face I laughed about it, but on the inside I struggled to hold back the tears. What happened? What did I do? Was it the shampoo? Was it something I ate? Did it just fall out?

My wedding was in five months. This would be fixed, right? This is all just a dream, right?

I couldn’t sleep that next night. I contemplated what I should do.