It's a different case though, when you start losing your hair--and not just the normal average of 100 strands a day, but more than 500 strands per day. It was frightening.
Growing up, I never paid much attention to my hair. I remember my grandmother would always tell me to comb it, because it was never a habit for me to brush it constantly--the only time I would was after taking a bath, then I would just tie it once I feel that it's all messed up. The next time I'd get to touch a hairbrush is the next bath time.
Don't get me wrong though, I love my hair. I'm just not the type who would go to a salon weekly or monthly and would try all hair products. I didn't put too much attention to it.
I started to get depressed and was stressing out over my locks, which I was literally losing by the minute.
It's a different case though, when you start losing your hair--and not just the normal average of 100 strands a day, but more than 500 strands per day. It was frightening. That's what happened to me in the beginning of 2010, when I started noticing so much hair fall every time I took a bath. Eventually, even when my hair wasn't wet, strands fell one by one with just a simple blow of the wind.
When I’d wake up in the morning, I'd pick up more than a bunch of hair on my pillow, on the bed, or on my night shirt. Then the baby hair on my forehead was suddenly gone, and my hairline receded. I also noticed that the skin within my hairline has smoothened, just like that of a baby’s without hair or that of a bald person's.
I would cry at times, especially when I’d get frustrated when fixing my hair in the morning.
I started to get depressed and was stressing out over my locks, which I was literally losing by the minute. When I went home to our province, Bacolod, for a visit, my best friend took me to a quack doctor, who believed I was getting cursed. The “Doctor” crushed a lot of ginger and rubbed them all over my head, then magically small rocks or pebbles fell from my head, so both my friend and I literally looked up at the ceiling, wondering if they came from there. Creepy!
Of course, it was a totally bad idea to go to that lady, but at the time--especially when you are feeling desperate and hopeless--you try anything just to be able to get better. I couldn't forget the smell of fresh ginger all over my head, and it was emitting some heat that was causing my scalp to sweat. The old lady told me not to take a shower for 24 hours after my session with her, so, I'm sure you can just imagine the stench that I was stuck with. But, as I said, I was desperate and was willing to go through anything just to put a stop to the rapid hair fall.
My best friend took me to a quack doctor, who believed I was getting cursed. The “Doctor” crushed a lot of ginger and rubbed them all over my head, then magically small rocks or pebbles fell from my head.
When I got back to Manila, I went to a dermatologist. The doctor discovered that I had more than 20 Alopecia Areata, a condition that caused round patches of hair loss or bald spots. My bald spots were about 25 centavos in diameter each. The doctor had to inject steroids on my scalp with at least 3-4 shots per bald spot, so that was a total of about 60 shots per session. I can still remember the painful pokes of the needle until now. The most painful shots were the ones near the nape area. I would just close my eyes and hold back my tears everytime I went through each session. I went back every 3 weeks for 3 months.
The doctor discovered that I had more than 20 Alopecia Areata, a condition that caused round patches of hair loss or bald spots.
Aside from the steroid shots, I had to take steroids and vitamins orally. I also had to apply steroid cream and minoxidil on the bald spots religiously, with the help of my husband or our nanny, every morning and nighttime.
While undergoing treatment, I also went through a series of medical tests to check what was causing my balding. However, everything came back normal. According to the doctors who checked me--aside from the dermatologist, I also went to an internist--my bald spots were caused by stress. I didn't know what caused the stress at the time, but according to them, I may have experienced the stressor at least 2 months prior to the first manifestation of the hair fall. Their advice was not to think too much of whatever it was that stressed me out, and to do a lot of relaxation techniques.
I will never forget the second attack, because I was angry, in denial, and refused to go through it all again.
It was impossible for me not to stress out at that time, as it was agony for me everyday to fix my hair, to make sure that the bald spots didn't show. Only my closest friends and a few of my officemates knew what I was going through, so I always kept a brave front. As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, the steroids I was taking was rapidly causing me to gain more weight. So there I was, balding and getting bigger, my face bloated, and my hairline receding.
I did get affected and depressed for a while, but I always put up a happy face. I would cry at times, especially when I’d get frustrated when fixing my hair in the morning. I grew my bangs out so that I had more hair to cover my bald spots. My most treasured necessities then were strong-hold hair sprays and black hair powder to sprinkle on areas that didn’t have much hair to cover the spots. The hassle though was, since my hair was starting to grow, my scalp would itch all the time, so after I scratch a bald spot, my fingernails would get all black from the powder.
As I mentioned, I got depressed, but not for long. I knew I had to allow myself to feel it or go through the emotions, so I don't keep going back to it. Once I was done with that stage, it was time to let go--and get well.
With a lot of patience, a whole lot of steroid shots, plenty of massages, a lot of leaves from work, a family vacation, many prayers, tons of support from family and friends, my hair started growing 4 months after my first doctor’s visit.
Life went on, and I thought that the worst was over. I had another attack 2 years after, in 2012. This time it was twice worse than the first attack. The bald spots were bigger, and my head looked like a map of several barren lands. At a certain point, two big bald spots met and overlapped to become one big bald area at the back of my head. Then there were small spots near my temples, and also one long strip of bald area near my nape.
Life went on, and I thought that the worst was over. I had another attack 2 years after.
I will never forget the second attack, because I was angry, in denial, and refused to go through it all again. It was more difficult for me, emotionally, because I pretended to everyone that I was not bothered by it anymore and that I can handle the second attack--but deep inside I was so affected because I couldn’t understand why it had to happen again. But, since I am not one who will sulk for too long, I went back to the dermatologist, did the whole routine again, but this time around, I felt I needed to address my mental health so that I can manage stress better.
I read a lot of self help books, changed my mindset, believed in positive thinking, the law of attraction, and truly believed that I can manage this disease this time. And yes, I was right--by the grace of God, my healing was faster this time around.
After the 2012 attack, I had one more in 2017, with two bald spots, but it didn’t progress anymore because the moment I discovered them, I took control right away. I took higher doses of Biotin, bought my Gugo and Lauat shampoos, and believed it wasn’t going to progress. The spots faded quickly the same way it appeared, and I didn’t even need to go to the doctor anymore to get the steroid shots.
I read a lot of self help books, changed my mindset, believed in positive thinking, the law of attraction, and truly believed that I can manage this disease this time.
The moral of the story is, whatever it is that stresses us out, it is not worth it. Mental health is as important as physical health. I leave you with 5 thoughts that I now live by:
Choose your battles. Save your time and efforts only for the things that matter.
Learn to compartmentalize your thoughts and your feelings.
Always manage your expectations, and let go of the things you cannot control.
Stay away from negative people, or if you can’t, shift your attention to something else when they start being negative--or just don’t listen to what they are saying.
Lastly, don’t depend on others for your own happiness. Love yourself. Make it a priority to make yourself happy, so everyone around you becomes happy, too.
Love yourself. Make it a priority to make yourself happy, so everyone around you becomes happy, too.
This is me now, with very healthy hair, a positive disposition, and always grateful to God and to my family who have been witnesses to what I went through exactly 10 years ago.
Story By Pinky Tady-Angodung