Why it’s me, Lady Alopecia, bearer of a bald head and 1.5 eyebrows. To those of you loyal followers, I’m sorry for being offline for so long. Visiting Ireland for the summer and introducing Baby Sunny to family was wonderful…but as you can imagine, chaotic!
So I took an extended break from social media and Lady Alopecia until returning to Vietnam last month. Thank you for your comments/emails and apologies I didn’t get to respond to each one personally – this update post is for you!
(Psst…If you’re new to the site, well then, you won’t have missed me at all. But you’re very welcome all the same, thanks for stopping by!)
Head: A little dark stubble at the crown, a few longish white hairs.
Eyebrow: My right one was completely gone.
It’s probably the least hair I’ve had since my on-again/off-again relationship with alopecia areata. (Read more about how I first got it here).
I couldn’t understand why I’d lost so much hair, so quickly. I was in good health, having gotten back to regular exercise. I was eating well: mostly home-cooked meals but when I didn’t have time to prepare them, Vietnamese food offered a healthy fix! I was getting enough Vitamin D with summer in full swing. And while I no longer enjoyed a decent sleep every night, I did try and get an afternoon nap in. I practised yoga a few times a week, went for a massage every fortnight, meditated when I could (although probably not often enough!)
But despite these measures of self-care, my hair was at an all-time low. Was it anxiety about the impending visit home, the first time I’d be seeing family and friends in 3 years? The first time I’d see any of them as a mother? The reverse culture shock I’d no doubt experience? Or was it the postpartum hair loss I’d heard so much about?
Whatever the cause, the effect it had on my hair was pretty dramatic. And yet, the funny thing was, when I went home and faced many of the challenges I’d expected (plus a few more!), my alopecia actually started to improve. Go figure.
Jetlagged, sleep-deprived and near hysterical was this bald lady for much of July and August. The transition had been tough; any routines we’d built over the past year with Sunny fell apart and with all the moving around, staying in a different room every few nights, she was scared and agitated, far from her usual sunny self!
There were a lot of night wakenings, taking hours to resettle. I’d always loved breastfeeding but during those weeks, began to see it as a chore – especially when I got mastitis a few weeks after returning home and had to deal with the fever, the pain, ontop of all the exhaustion.
I felt completely drained. My headaches were back. And anxiety was clouding my maternal instinct until even the smallest decision had me frozen.
Of course, there was a lot to love about going home: like music festivals and hanging out in parks, in the middle of the day, without diving for shelter from a blistering sun. Catching up with friends. Introducing Sunny to her family, after all the WhatsApp calls and videos that could never be enough.
But still, moving around so much wasn’t sustainable, for any of us. So in September, we stayed with my husband’s parents in Scotland and caught up on the rest we’d been missing out on. They were more than willing babysitters and we were happy to offload our increasingly mobile/energetic daughter for a few hours!
As we settled in and readjusted to life in the West, I started feeling more human again. But the biggest improvement came in the form of a little box of supplements. Having neglected to take any vitamins over the past few months, I went to the pharmacy to ask about supplements for breastfeeding. The pharmacist gently told me that I needed to take better care of myself. “You really need to be taking extra vitamins, you know”, she said, “Breastfeeding takes a lot out of you!” Ain’t that the truth…
All my focus had gone into making sure Sunny was getting fed enough; I’d forgotten how important it was for me to look after my own nutritional needs, too. Having seen progress from an autoimmune diet before and all the supplements that went along with it, for me to stop taking any extra vitamins wouldn’t have been the smartest move anyway. Let alone the fact that I was delivering a chunk of nutrients through my breastmilk; I needed a top-up!
So I got a multi-pack of breastfeeding vitamins that day – and noticed a substantial difference in my energy, my mood and even in my hair growth over the next few weeks.
Head: A few more stubbly patches, a fine white fuzz over much of my head.
Eyebrow: My right one had almost filled in completely; two days before flying back to Vietnam, I had enough there to get it tinted – now my two brows almost match up!
As I’ve said before, I don’t think there’s a miracle cure for hair loss. And I doubt those supplements alone helped my eyebrow grow back, or even the Vegamour eyebrow serum I’d been applying on and off during the summer.
They certainly contributed to regrowth; but so too did the element of distraction. Not stressing so much about the state of my hair, what I should be doing to help it grow, what I was doing ‘wrong’ to make it worse. Being on the move so much had its advantages: like less time for me to overanalyse everything!
When I was home, I was on holiday. I ate plenty of gluten and dairy, and didn’t skimp on the alcohol or sweet treats, either. All the stuff I’d stressed about while on my AIP diet were fair game. And you know what? The world didn’t end. And my left eyebrow didn’t drop off either. In fact, I started to see an improvement in my hair loss, for the first time in months.
If you’ve read my other posts, you may know that I’m a yoga teacher who’s always banging on about mindfulness! It’s helped me accent my alopecia over the years, whatever state it happens to be in. Mindfulness teaches us to sit with what’s going on. Be aware of it, stay present, without trying to change anything. But sometimes I have a tendency to “sit with it” for waaay too long: to worry about every little part rather than doing what I know I should be doing and letting it go. (Which makes me worry more!)
So sometimes, in the short-term at least, you might need a different approach. For me, staying busy was what I needed to get on with things this summer and to enjoy my time at home: making memories with family, not caring about what I ate or how I looked or whether I’d get sleep that night or whether my hair would grow back.
And the offshoot was that I did get to sleep again. And my hair did grow back – not all of it, you understand, my head is still very much bald aside from some tentative patches of white fuzz. But that’s ok.
Going home was a tough but valuable experience. And I realised a few important things…
I’m not confident enough to bear my baldness out in public, like I once did. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation and constantly being on edge/hormonal but I think the first curious look might send me into floods of tears!
I’ll get to a braver place again; but right now is a time for being kind and easy on myself. For the moment, that means wearing headscarves.
I also realised that living in Ireland or the UK isn’t for me. I noticed the old anxieties, ones I haven’t had in years, coming back. Of course, there’ll always be things that challenge us but at the same time, we can make choices that reduce this stress while helping us live with more meaning and joy.
So we’ve made the choice that our little family belongs in Vietnam, for the time being anyway.
Finally, I’ve realised how grateful I am for you, the lovely people who have followed and supported Lady Alopecia over the years. After a long break away, I was nervous about starting back; especially as I haven’t been keeping up to date with the latest treatments or alopecia news.
But your messages checking in, thanking me and encouraging me to keep going, have helped me do just that. And no matter how difficult the journey ahead is, I’ll remain grateful for all you inspirational and kind people who cross my path.
It’s good to be back!
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Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!