Alopecia areata is a type of hairloss that occurs when your autoimmune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, which is where hair growth begins.
Isn’t this exciting? That your immune system chooses to attack your hair follicles leaving you with a patched hair or resulting in total baldness?
What is more exciting is the fact that a lot of Nigerians do not even know what Alopecia is, (it could sound like a type of food to some people you know).
This is not the part where i throw shades at my fellow Nigerians or anything of sort. It is however painful that some medical situations are thought to be spiritual battles and people with these conditions far worse, are stigmatized.
It’s 2017 and if you’re still drooling on your pillow waiting for every piece of information to be served to you on a plate like Ewa agoyin, then you’re doing yourself and the society no good.
You can do better.
It’s a happy fact that the damage to hair follicles is “USUALLY” not permanent and experts do not fully know why the immune system attacks hair follicles.
It’d be nice to let you know that Alopecia areata is most common in people younger than the age of 20. That being said, anybody can still be affected.
Alopecia usually begins when clumps of hair fall out and this could result in totally smooth round hairless patches on the head or other parts of the body.
Before this gets too heated; here’s a story of a young lady.
Graduation from high school then was like the greatest thing that could happen. Final exams were done with and a girl is a big girl now. Everybody must know.
Dunni who had cut her hair back in SS2 is now an highschool graduate. What a better way to go into the new world than to make fancy braids and begin to look real chic.
Oh yes, my hijab would cover it all but I still have to look good, she said to herself.
On this not so fatefully fateful day, Dunni headed for her friends’ house where she would get her hair done and flip it into her new life.
Perhaps if she had known it was the last time she’ll have a full hair on her head, she wouldn’t have left home very early in the morning to return home late at night just to look good (like it was in her head) *it’s all about the hair*
It felt so good how the hairdresser caressed her scalp with her fingers, gently twisting strands of hair together, hair that would eventually make her feel less of the girl she so loved to be. It felt so good.
Fast forward to two days after Dunni had her hair done, feeling all good, her neighbour friend asked her what she was hiding under her hijab.
“What a stupid question” , she thought, but she smiled not to seem rude;
“It’s my hair”.
“No. Your head is swollen”, she said. “Can’t you feel it?”
Dunni who was so surprised rushed home to look into the mirror. Lo and behold, it wasn’t some small swelling. The shape of her head was synonymous to the upheaval of going on a bridge. This is not good. At all.
It took just about an hour before the whole room started smelling; of what? Dunni’s hair.
Gosh! Her kid sister ran out of the room as she was left with her neighbour friend who helped her undo her braids.
Her hair was falling off as each braid came off. So lost, she didn’t know what to think or say. She didn’t understand what was happening. It was just a tight braid…
Long and short, she became partly bald; she still is.
Months were counted while Dunni’s head tried to heal. Eventually, it did heal, but never recovered her hair. She had unknowingly damaged the hair follicle on that part of her head and it was real painful.
What was more painful for her was the week to week pain she had to go through in the hands of so called family and friends and whenever she had to get her hair done.
The too much questions of “omg, what happened and how, does it hurt?” usually accompanied by the disgust on their face or by smile and laughters they tried so hard to hide. It was the worst time of her life yet.
She’s known what it feels like to have full hair and now, to be partly bald. Terrible!
Her sisters would tease her, they called the bald patch “centre molu” because it was at the middle of her head. Whatever that meant.
They asked questions like, “how will your future husband feel when he finds out you have a bald patch?”.
They would watch out for when she wasn’t looking and tap her bald patch and make fun of how she got herself into her situation because she tried too hard to look good. Like it was a bad thing.
She smiled through it all, that was all she could afford. It’d be useless getting angry at people who didn’t even know what they did hurt her. It would be a total waste of her emotions.
This story is one that took all courage to tell, all in the spirit of alopecia awareness. How have you been treating people with medical conditions you know nothing about? Have you been the insensitive one driving other people to depression? Check yourself and do what is right.
Let us give people the courage they need to own their struggle without fear of being labelled. Let us watch out for ourselves.
I am Dunni, and it was not easy. At all!
Because our beauty isn’t just in how we look on the outside, it’s mostly in how we treat others.
Photo of Moshoodat Adedeji
Kindly share this post for alopecia awareness and stick around for the second part featuring 24year old Moshoodat who lives with alopecia totalis. Someone who could have lost it all just because she lost all of her hair.
Use the hashtag #alopeciaawareness #alopecianotcancer #ilostmyhairnotmylife #baldandbeautiful on various social mefia platforms to create awareness or share the story. Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @meedah_ and on twitter @meedahh_