A couple of days ago I shared the picture above on the blog’s Facebook page. The picture was from the Humans of New York page and it was captioned with the following:
“Alopecia is a weird disease to wrap your head around. It causes your immune system to turn against your body, and your hair falls out. I used to have a big blond fro that was a big part of my identity. It was hard to not get depressed when it disappeared. I started to think: ‘What value do I have if even my body doesn’t like itself?’ As I lost more and more hair, I kept trying to comb my remaining hair over my bald spots. Eventually I had to embrace it. On my 20th birthday, I decided that instead of having a bunch of little bald spots that I don’t like, I’m going to give myself one big one that I do like.”
His words hit me hard. When he says “What value do I have if even my body doesn’t like itself?” he asks the question I’ve asked myself many times over the years.
Just like Alopecia, Hashimoto’s causes your immune system to attack your body. Hashis causes symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, inability to get warm, difficulty getting pregnant (seeing that one first-hand right now), hair loss or thinning hair, as well as a variety of other symptoms. Coupled with PCOS, which causes hair growth on the face, menstrual issues, acne, etc. and it begins to feel like you’re trapped in a body that hates you.
And when your body hates you, you begin to hate yourself. In a society that tells you that you should be a size 2, have perfectly clear skin, and be hair-free from your nose to your toes, it can destroy you when your body refuses to do even one of those things.
I wish I had been stronger. I wish I could’ve been like the guy in the picture and learned to embrace it much sooner. I wish that I hadn’t allowed society to dictate my self-esteem. But for nearly 10 years, I did. I hated my body. I hated what I saw in the mirror. I was self-conscious every time I left the house. I felt like everyone could see that one black hair on my chin that was missed when I did my weekly facial hair-removal cream, or that they were wondering why I still had breakouts even though I was in my mid-twenties, or that they were judging me for not losing those twenty pounds because how hard is it really to lose that little bit of weight? (And since I’ve regularly asked myself this, I figured others were definitely wondering the same thing).
Turns out, 99% of the people I know or meet never notice any of these insecurities that I have. And as time has gone by, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really care if they do. If they judge me based on a few perceived imperfections, I don’t really want them in my life.
Also, as I have figured out some treatments for Hashis and PCOS that my body responds to, I’ve started to feel like I’ve taken back some control which has enabled me to not hate myself so much. I’m beginning to like myself again and realize that I do have value. I won’t lie to you and tell you that I’ve been able to completely shed those inner demons and that I wake every day thinking I’m the most amazing human being to walk the planet. FAR from it. But I don’t wake up most days hating every minute I spend in the mirror.
There are several other factors that have allowed me to get to this place, but that’s for another day. I’m hoping this post hasn’t sounded too “woe is me” because that is not my intent at all. I am extremely lucky to have a disease that is relatively treatable and I know there are so many people on this earth that are living with issues or going through trials that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. But I wanted to share some of what I’ve been through in case there is another person out there that just needs to hear that they are not alone.
No matter what your circumstances, whatever life has thrown at you, whatever cards you’ve been dealt, YOU ARE VALUABLE. Don’t ever forget that.