So I’m sure you’re wondering…why and when did Brittany chop all of her hair off? But I’m here to tell you, it’s all been an illusion and I’m ready to share my story with all of you.
(click to read the full story, but be warned: it’s lengthy)
I’m usually reserved about getting too personal on here, but as my life has been shifting all around me in so many ways—I’ve had a change of heart that has inspired me to show you who I really am.
When I was 18 about to graduate high school, I was diagnosed with alopecia areata. Now don’t freak out…it’s not life threatening or contagious. One thing I would like to make completely clear: I am not sick. Alopecia is just an autoimmune disorder that came out of nowhere and tried to take control of my life.
I had always had long thick hair growing up and never really paid too much attention to it. I was never one of those girls who dyed their hair after every breakup or had a new style every season. I started noticing a lot of hair falling out after I showered or whenever I brushed my hair. At first I completely blew it off and just reassured myself that it was completely normal to lose hair everyday and that it wasn’t a big deal.
Then one day as I was packing up my room to prepare for my freshmen year of college, my mom noticed a small patchy spot of hair loss, that I was completely unaware of. While my mom freaked out and hounded me with questions of how long it had been falling out, I remember thinking that my life was over. I had just turned 18 and entering my first year of college, this was supposed to be the most exciting time of my life.
Next came the doctor visits, tests, and various treatments meant to stimulate hair growth. My hair started falling out in small patches and eventually I had very, very thin hair. When most kids were worrying about what major to pick, I was spending the majority of my freshmen year worrying about how I could hide the spots. Hats became my most treasured accessory.
At first I saw my hair loss as something that was a fluke, and maybe it would grow back. I felt empowered to not let it control me. I had always wanted to go into medicine, and maybe this was a sign that I should follow that dream after all. After trying the ambitious biology/pre-med route (like every other freshmen) I realized that I wasn’t happy with my classes and by the end of my freshmen year I had the inevitable mid-college crisis: WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?
Luckily, a roommate of mine had mentioned that our campus offered an apparel studies program that focused on fashion merchandising. Now, I had always loved fashion but never thought of pursuing it as a career—especially in Arkansas. I spent time looking into the program, going back and forth in my mind. I tried convincing myself that maybe I should just stick out the pre-med route and do what I had always thought I wanted to do and try to become a doctor. I mean if everything happens for a reason, maybe my alopecia was supposed to challenge me to become a doctor; maybe I could help find a cure or help others with alopecia (ambitious right?).
But then something hit me. I was seeing it all wrong. I could still help others, even in the fashion industry. While some people discouraged me with plights that the fashion industry was brutal, frivolous, and all about looks I saw something more. I was ignited with this passion to show that beauty can be found in everything, that fashion is not solely meant for the 6 foot stick-thin models, the rich and famous, but could be inspired by everything and everyone.
Fashion has this amazing ability to make people feel beautiful and powerful. It allows everyone to show the world who they are and how they wish to present themselves. Fashion can be the most powerful tool for confidence because it can encourage people to embrace their own unique style and accentuate their flaws.
I began seeing my alopecia as a way to represent others like me and as a way to encourage others going through similar obstacles, to challenge their flaws and embrace them as unique identifiers of their true beauty. So I decided to major in fashion, and like the headstrong person I am I wanted to grab my alopecia by the horns and use it to make a difference.
But by sophomore year of college I had lost around 80% of my hair. It was devastating and a complete blow to everything I had been trying to convince myself of: that my hair would grow back, that I could make a difference, and that my hair did not define me.
Losing that much hair really set me back, as it would for any other young woman my age. In a culture where long hair represents femininity, youthfulness, and beauty, losing my hair made me feel like I had lost a huge part of who I was. I felt like a freak and wanted to crawl under a rock. I went through a very long grieving process.
So after sitting down with my mom, I finally decided to invest on my first wig. GASP! Yes, I have worn a wig for the past (almost) 3 years. Finding the right wig was a trial and error process at first, and I wanted one that was similar to my “real hair” before the alopecia.
I can’t count how many times people would tell me that if they had alopecia they would wear a bunch of funky and wild wigs. And even though it would make light of the situation, I never wore crazy wigs because I didn’t want to be taken as a joke. For me wearing a wig wasn’t because I was ashamed or embarrassed of my alopecia, but was simply because I wanted to be taken seriously and not just be known as “the girl with alopecia”. I didn’t want my alopecia to be my first and lasting impression. But for those who would embrace the situation with a purple Afro or to those who would shave it all off, I commend you.
My wigs provided temporary relief that allowed me to feel a little more confident so that I could continue on with a normal life. Eventually, my wig became a part of me. So much so, that I would forget I was even wearing one and most people were shocked once I told them.
Wearing a wig was only supposed to be temporary because my scalp had started showing signs of re-growth after treatments. But once I started seeing the slightest amount of re-growth, another patch would pop up and the cycle would continue for another two years. I felt defeated that it hadn’t grown back as quickly as I had hoped and started coming to terms with the fact that it may never come back. So I stopped putting so much focus on my alopecia and tried to move on.
But let me tell you, wearing a wig is NOT fun. I know it sounds like a girls dream—you wake up and your hair is perfect. Except for the fact that you have to put it on and worry about it all day long. Walking to class became more difficult, especially when it was over 80 degrees. Worrying about windy days so I could prepare accordingly became a daily task of mine. It’s pretty funny to think about actually, but I became my own weather girl, I could tell you how windy it was going to be for the entire week and how you should dress to accommodate such weather. Any winds slightly over 10 mph had become my own personal nightmare.
Around the time I started losing my hair, I became an avid reader of fashion blogs. I was so enamored at the courage these, that blogging became a secret goal that I wanted to pursue. But of course, the What If Monster struck and convinced me that I couldn’t do it: what if everyone knew I was wearing a wig? What if no one reads it? What if someone says something mean about my hair? What if people think I’m ashamed of who I am?
It eventually took a year later for me to build up the courage to actually do it, and BOOM—ittybittybomb was born.
This blog has been such a huge part of my growing and healing process and for that, I would like to thank each one of you who have spent the time to read my posts, encourage me, inspire me, and support me. Little did you know that every single comment, tweet, and email from you was just the motivation I needed to get through it all.
All of this leads me to now: my hair grew back enough to where I could finally get it cut (Thanks Sunshine! ). I decided to toss the wig and embrace my new re-grown hair. So here I am—completely exposed and loving it. I’m still the same Brittany, just living life with nothing holding me back and it feels so good to share my story with all of you.
I’ve gone through a sort of rebirth, and with a fresh new start in New York City I think it was the perfect time. And if moving to New York and getting a new hair style isn’t crazy enough, I just got engaged to the love of my life (that dorky dude above) who has been nothing but supportive and encouraging throughout this whole process. And thanks to my family who never let me give up—especially my biggest encourager (Mom) and to the friends who knew the truth and didn’t judge, and thank you for taking the time to read this and letting me share my story. To those of you dealing with your own struggles, just know that there is SO much beauty that can be found in each and every struggle.
I hope you stick around for all my new adventures to come!