Student Anna tells of living with alopecia
A young Cairncastle woman has told of her experiences of living with hair loss condition, alopecia.
In a story featured on the website of national charity, Alopecia UK, Anna Agnew (20) described how the she first began to lose her hair as a child.
"The earliest memory of my alopecia brings me to sunny Spain - eight years old on my summer holiday with my family. I remember my mum scraping back my hair into a bobble and following the brush were strands of my own hair, slowly falling out," Anna said.
Within weeks of arriving back home, she was almost completely bald, and was later diagnosed with Alopecia Universalis (AU).
AU falls under the broader term of Alopecia Areata which understood to be an autoimmune condition, according to the charity.
Day-to-day Anna usually wears a medium length wig, but tends to go without one during summer holidays or warm weather.
"Throughout my hair loss journey, I have been extremely lucky to be surrounded by a supportive family and a group of friends to help me through the lows of growing up with alopecia," added Anna, who is currently a student of Early Childhood Studies with the aim of becoming an Early Years teacher.
"My parents were always there to remind me that I am not my hair, or hat, or wig - that I am Anna. My friends were always there to support me through the awkward social situations of being a teenager wearing a wig. For these people I will be forever grateful.
"Although I wouldn't be the person I am today without the support of my family and friends, I knew growing up that in order to be happy and content with myself, I had to take on a mindset that my hair (or lack of it) doesn't define who I am.
"This is something I had to do by myself and it wasn't easy. Like most teenage girls growing up, you want to fit in or look like someone on your Instagram feed. This was especially difficult when you're 16 and everyone knows you wear a wig.
"I think I can speak for most girls (and boys), when I say it's hard to not compare yourself to the Kim Kardashians and Zac Effrons of Instagram. When this type of ‘self-comparison’ mindset started to kick in, I talked to myself like I would talk to my best friend. My alopecia was not an abnormality or making me any less 'pretty' than the girl on Instagram with thousands of followers and a head of luscious locks."
Key to maintaining a positive outlook on the ups and downs of hair loss is connecting with other people who have alopecia, Anna advises. "It is comforting to connect with someone going through a similar experience, and to know that you are not alone. Some of the ways you can connect with people include the Alopecia UK website and lots of other online blogs of people sharing their alopecia story.
"Talk to your family and friends when you're feeling low about hair loss. Be reassured that these people are there for a reason, they would not want you to bottle up feelings that are making you unhappy. Please make use of the support links around you.
"Unfortunately there is no 'official' cure for alopecia; your hair loss is something you cannot change. Therefore, it's important for your own happiness that you work on self-acceptance. A great way of doing this is reaching out to others with alopecia.
"Remember: tell yourself what you would tell your best friend. Would you tell them they're not 'pretty enough' or they don't look 'normal'? No, you wouldn't, so why would you tell yourself that?"