My little yogini and I outside of Stanford Children’s Hospital after teaching a little yoga session for the Children’s Alopecia Group of Northern California. “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Alopecia areata and anxiety. One small spot or handfuls of hair falling out in the shower… so very traumatic and an instant source of stress and anxiety. Since it is inflammation of the skin, there’s also that soreness of the scalp that occurs before shedding, yet another source of stress and anxiety with the anticipation of a new spot appearing where it’s achy. I see my daughter scratching the back of her head now and then… and I can’t help but to feel sadness and guilt for passing this autoimmune disorder to her. However, I’m reminded that as difficult as this experience has been, it’s been a beautiful, transformative one as well. I know deep in my heart that my daughter and I will inspire others as we continue to choose to not suffer from this disease, but embrace it as our life’s journey.
“…a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
It has been a little over a year and a half since I began wearing a wig. At first it was really fun… I had a bald/shaved head for almost a year and suddenly I had a bob. I started to feel like my old self. Then one day I received a lovely handwritten letter from a guest at work. She had taken the time to reach out as she noticed I was wearing a wig. She shared that two of her girlfriends were currently suffering from cancer and that she was praying for me and my babies. She ended the letter with a polite, ‘excuse me if I am wrong, but I had to let you know that you have been in my thoughts and prayers since I met you.’ I was very touched by this, but also didn’t know if and how I should respond. I decided to ask for my manager’s opinion…
I explained that I have alopecia areata and currently shave my head. I handed her the letter to read and sat awkwardly awaiting her response. After finishing, she looked up and said: “You know, if I were you, I’d think about getting a better wig.” I was stunned, like I had been punched in the gut. I was in shock and disbelief. I somehow composed myself and kept the tears from flowing and asked what made it look unnatural? I thought that would give her the chance to realize that her comment was rude and inappropriate. I gave her the opportunity to redeem herself. Instead, she looked up examining my wig and said: “Well, it’s the part… and it doesn’t move right… and there’s a shininess to it.” I could feel my face getting red, my heart racing, but took a breath and replied: “This is a new wig. It was $800 and human hair wigs are thousands of dollars. With two babies, this is what we can afford right now.” She could tell I was upset, but still no apology.
As you alopecians can imagine, this comment hurt deeply. It angered me and I lost all respect for her. I shrugged her off as unkind and miserable, oblivious to others’ feelings as I witnessed many other situations where she put people down. I wasn’t going to let it get to me. In the end, they were just words from an ignorant person. Fortunately, shortly after I was able to move on to a better place and had the opportunity to address her comments. I accepted her apology. I recommitted to being very open about this disease for not only myself, but for my daughter. In a way I am thankful for this incident because it truly made me stronger. If my daughter experiences anything like this, I will share my experience with her. Otherwise, moving forward and focusing on all of the wonderful, compassionate people that have only provided love and support.
I truly believe in the power of moving meditation – yoga! If you are struggling with anxiety and alopecia, I highly recommend the two videos by Dina Amsterdam: InnerYoga for Stress and Anxiety AM and PM found on Gaiam:
Take good care. XO