My name is Elaine and I live in Stroud, Gloucestershire. I am 73 years old and have Alopecia Universalis. I had a single patch of alopecia when I was 18 years old and experienced some body hair loss in my early adult years but it wasn't until the age of 62 that I lost all my hair and was referred to a dermatologist.
I first noticed my hair loss with a half-crown size bald patch at the back of my head. I wasn't very concerned initially. The bald patch re-grew and I didn't think any more about it. As I progressed through my twenties, I grew to understand that I had very sparse hair on my legs and I had no underarm hair. I accepted this without any concern. In fact, it was useful not to have to shave at that stage of life. I still had a good, strong head of hair. Straight, glossy and very fine but lots of it. I had beautiful hair and was a hair model, for cutting, throughout my life.
At around the age of 60, I began to realise that I was losing hair. I found it on my pillow each morning. It took me about 18 months to realise that it was serious hair loss but simply thought that it was associated with a change of dosage for the medication I take for my Hashimoto's (thyroid condition). Eventually, over a period of three days all remaining hair fell out, very quickly followed by eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair. I remained totally bald for at least 8 years, possibly longer.
More recently I have experienced very fine, downy new growth for approximately three years now. I do not like this current state of affairs. I would prefer to be totally bald than have hair that doesn't develop into 'proper hair'.
Sometimes I find it difficult to 'dress'. What I mean is that I sometimes don't feel presentable because without my hair, I feel my outfit is incomplete!
I don't feel that I have really struggled with my alopecia. My experience is that my friends suffered on my behalf far more than I did. After I lost my hair in just three days, I went to a party two days later. I have always hated parties but I braved it out. The shock of friends and acquaintances to my appearance was palpable. But I was calm. I found within a week or so that my confidence was becoming stronger rather than diminishing. I held my head even higher and smiled at anyone who stared. I did get a wig and wore it occasionally but would whip it off in irritation. I wore scarves and hats sometimes but was, and still am, more often without any head covering. I feel very strongly that I am an advocate of being different, and the more different there is to be seen, the better society will be.
I think what has helped me cope with my alopecia is having a positive attitude and strong body image. I'm lucky that i've always had a strong personality. From childhood, I have always been my own person and never wanted to be like everyone else. I have had Vitiligo from the age of seven and so have lived with 'being different' from an early age. Having alopecia was, for me, just a little bit more to cope with. Being different has always been normal to me.
My advice to anyone struggling with alopecia would be to accept yourself for you who are. If you can accept yourself, others will have no problem in accepting you, no matter what is happening on your head!