How I Realized to Love My Bald Self

As instructed to Liz Sauchelli

Because the elevator descended, my nerves obtained worse with each ground we handed. However I knew I used to be prepared. 4 years after I used to be identified with alopecia, I used to be about to seem in public for the primary time with no hat, head protecting or wig. I used to be on the Nationwide Alopecia Areata Basis convention in Seattle, and it appeared like there was no higher time to do it than after I can be surrounded by individuals who have been going by the identical factor I used to be.

After that second, I by no means regarded again. It was an unbelievable step in my years lengthy journey with alopecia.

I began noticing my hair loss 4 months after my youngest was born. At first, I believed it was simply postpartum shedding. It appeared a bit extreme, however I did not turn into involved till November 2015, once we took a household {photograph}. My hair was extremely skinny. Every week and a half later, it began to fall out in clumps. I stood within the bathe with my fingers filled with hair, sobbing. By the second week of December, it was 90% gone.

Throughout this time, I consulted specialists. I visited quite a few dermatologists who would prescribe topical lotions and weekly injections to stimulate hair development. Nothing labored. I wore headbands, hats and pulled my hair up, utilizing make-up to fill within the bald patches that would seem. Ultimately, I obtained a wig, which made me extra comfy.

I am very blessed to have a husband who loves me unconditionally, however he did not absolutely perceive what I used to be going by. He stored saying, “McKenna, it is simply hair, it is simply hair.” However generally I might wish to shout, “It is greater than hair, it is my identification.” It is one of many causes I had bother accepting what was taking place at first.

I did not notice how a lot I relied on my lengthy, thick, hair to find out who I used to be till it was gone. After it fell out, I could not take a look at myself within the mirror and would not even see my mother and father with no hat on. I used to should plan my weeks and nights round washing and drying my hair as a result of it took so lengthy. With every strand that fell out, I felt my identification falling away with it.

Reitz along with her daughter, Karsen, in 2014.

My mother understood how deeply this affected me. After my analysis, she would say “McKenna, I do not understand how you are waking up every single day.” And I might reply, “There isn’t any different selection. I’ve a three-year-old daughter who’s watching each step that I take. I’ve a five-month-old.” I knew I could not cry in entrance of my then-three-year-old particularly. I needed to present power as a result of alopecia is genetic. I stored pondering, What if this occurs to my daughters? I wanted them to know that if it does occur to them, they might get by it, similar to they witnessed their mother do.

I grew up figuring out the values of exhausting work, dedication and challenges. I discovered that you just should be resilient. It was that resilience I relied on after I hit low factors. There have been positively days I’d come house from work as an AP psychology trainer and crawl into mattress, however these moments did not final for lengthy. I nonetheless had duties. I used to be nonetheless a mother. I used to be nonetheless a spouse. I wanted to deal with my household.

Pals who noticed pictures of me — or strangers I noticed within the grocery retailer — requested me if I had most cancers. They supplied to wish for me, which made me really feel worse. That is after I determined to be upfront with everybody about what I used to be going by and settle for that my alopecia was right here to remain.

For months, I had been targeted on discovering a solution to make my hair develop again. Once I started to just accept that it wasn’t going to, I finished all remedies. I not seen alopecia as an issue that wanted to be fastened: It was my mindset about alopecia that was the issue and — extra importantly — it was one thing I knew I might repair.

One of many hardest issues to grapple with was the why. I might ask, “Why is that this taking place to me?” There was no rationalization. With a bodily ailment, there’s normally an evidence: You could have a virus, you’ve got micro organism, you’ve got one thing that may be handled. However with alopecia there’s nothing: It is simply an autoimmune illness that assaults your hair follicles and says, “We do not like them” and would not permit hair to develop.

Social media, TV and society all subconsciously inform us how we must always look, how we must always act. I wanted to point out them we have now the facility to outline magnificence and should not let different individuals determine that for us. For me, bald is now lovely. I have never worn a wig in additional than a 12 months. I do not hesitate leaving my home with no hat, having my image taken or wanting within the mirror.

The Reitz household in 2020. (Photograph/Tracy Disbrow)

Changing into concerned in advocacy work has additionally been an awesome outlet. I will give attention to educating individuals about alopecia. Now, when somebody within the grocery retailer approaches me, I reply, “No, fortunately, I haven’t got most cancers. Please pray for many who do. I’ve an autoimmune illness known as alopecia.”

I’ve the facility to vary individuals’s perceptions a few illness that impacts almost 7 million individuals in the US. My mother all the time stated to me, “God offers the strongest individuals the hardest challenges.” I am so honored and blessed that I used to be given this situation as a result of it has allowed me this lovely perspective. It is made me perceive that each individual has their very own story. Mine simply occurs to be seen.

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