Every day I am messaged by alopecia sufferers asking for a cure. In the past I would avidly respond, keen to share my experience of the AIP paleo diet and any other health tips I could offer. Today I no longer preach the same message. The truth is nobody wants to hear the answer I give now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not negative. In fact it’s beaming with positivity and healing guidance; it’s just not the easy answer.
I’ve come a long long way with my health and I would attribute that to multitude of factors. When I began my healing journey I took an 8 week course of steroids to heal the inflammation in my bowels – a symptom of Crohn’s disease. The effect of steroids is not specific and in my case they could have also encouraged the regrowth of hair following alopecia areata, another autoimmune disease. I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible. I maintained my remission from both Crohn’s disease and Alopecia Areata with a paleo diet for 9 months and during this time I practised yoga, meditation and learned to become a calmer person in general. I thought I was cured. Medically, I was.
Despite these efforts my hair began to fall out again around the 9 month mark. This was before I had fully reintroduced foods and reverted to a standard gluten free diet. I couldn’t understand why. It couldn’t possibly be food. I wasn’t stressed either! I wasn’t suffering from Crohn’s and my gut was perfectly fine. Why? Why was alopecia back to haunt me? I had already decided that I was ready to eat a normal diet again and I wasn’t about to go back on that decision for some hair loss.
The appearance of the bald patch was incredibly slow yet persistent. I even developed additional patches. During this time I came to the realisation that there is far more to disease than gut integrity, diet and drugs. We bang on about mind-body balance but how many of us really step back and look at how our emotions are running the show? Despite “not being stressed” and having a “healthy” body, I realised how unhappy I was. But why was I unhappy? It was an ominous question with an elusive answer.
I had to dig deep and it wasn’t pretty. I’ll never forget there was one night I was so angry with myself I couldn’t sleep. There was this critical drivel was playing over and over in my mind about how I wasn’t good enough. It terrified me. I’ve never been depressed but the strength of those feelings was so overwhelming that I leapt up from my bed gasping for breath. I had to do something. I had to let go of this pain. I never normally write a diary but I grabbed a book and wrote a vow that I would never be so cruel to myself again. I had to be my own mother, be kind and treat myself as I would others. I would never be so hard on anyone so why on earth was I torturing myself this way? I then noted all of the things I was grateful for and made promises to love myself. I drifted off into a deep and peaceful sleep as soon as I closed the diary.
Following this episode a friend of mine coincidentally recommended a brilliant self-help book by Jen Sincero; You are a badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. I came away feeling TOTALLY LIBERATED. Holy shit had I been putting a lot of pressure on myself to basically, not be myself. I am awesome. Why wouldn’t I want to be me? I can be and do whatever the fuck I want so why am I still following everybody else’s crappy path and being such a people pleaser. Oh man. THIS is key. There’s really something to be said for this kind of thinking and although it would be absolutely vital to my behaviour going forward, I was fully aware that there were old wounds that I still needed to heal. I hadn’t entirely found the root cause of my illness. I was totally bent on uncovering it so I followed up with another book that Jen refers to for inspiration, You can heal your life by Louise Hay.
Louise’s book is a fantastic guide to reconnecting with yourself and she highlights the connection between disease and its counterpart emotional cause. The most essential takeaway from this book is the absolute necessity to truly and wholly love yourself. That doesn’t mean being a big-headed narcissist. It means recognising your idiosyncrasies and weakness and being ok with them. It means helping yourself to improve or deciding that it’s what makes you unique and use it to your advantage. Or quite simply, deciding not to give a fuck. Personally, I like the latter. Just as importantly, you need to stop giving a fuck about your hair. Have you ever thought that maybe alopecia could be your greatest test to overcome? Something that will actually force you to let go and be yourself for real?
I’ve been putting all of this into practice and would you believe it, my hair is all growing back! No diet. No lotion. No steroids. It could just be part of the natural ebb and flow that is typical of AA but I believe I’m getting a hold on it. I’m not perfect, managing the way I think is still a hard task but over time it’ll get easier and I’m certain that alopecia will be a distant memory but also a stark reminder of the power of our own minds. I’m not saying that everybody with alopecia has exactly the same root cause but I’m pretty sure you’ll find that there is something that is psychologically holding you back rather than physically. I don’t care what you say about how you don’t give a damn about anything, how you’re totally yourself and how you think you’re awesome, if your hair is falling out for no damn reason, I’m pretty sure you’ll find the reason is you.
P.S. I would just like to explain that I no longer answer questions regarding alopecia because I receive so many emails, it’s too much for me to answer them all. I also firmly believe that it’s important to switch off from thinking about alopecia and get on with life. I can quite easily forget I have AA (which definitely encourages regrowth) but if I have to spend every day writing messages about alopecia it will forever be at the forefront of my mind and not the distant memory that it should be.