My name is Lorraine. I am 29 years old and live in Aberdeenshire. I have had alopecia areata since I was 13.
My Mum was the first to notice my hair loss when I was combing my hair one night after a dance competition. At the time I didn't really understand what it meant, it was a small area at first so I didn't know what was going to happen. My memory of my GP experience is that they weren’t very helpful. They basically told me to get on with it. I went down to London to see a dermatologist with my parents. The dermatologist tried to be helpful but basically said it wasn't going to get any better. I tried Minoxidil which did seem to help a little with some regrowth. I also used Mane hair spray to help disguise the patchy areas. Once it started falling out it fell out pretty quickly but I was lucky in that it was mostly around the back of my head so the top layer or remaining hair, along with the Mane colour spray helped cover most areas of hair loss. It started the size of a 50 pence at the very back of my head then spreading to new bald spots over the rest of the back of my head. I did start losing hair from the front of my hair line so I wore hair bands to cover these areas and bandanas were fashionable at the time so used those to accessorise. Also I cut my hair short into a bob because it was very thin once the patches increased in size. It took around 4 years but I started to have regrowth around the age of 17 and had full regrowth over the following few years. On a couple of occasions since, a few bald spots redeveloped but nothing compared to that first episode. I think the biggest struggle was that I was a teenager when it started so I was just getting used to my identity at that time and while everyone else was playing about with hairstyles, I was unable to do anything with mine and felt young for my years having to try and make hair bands fashionable as a teenager. The other big struggle was that I was very into dancing and at competitions my confidence was at rock bottom because I looked different. I was unable to put my hair into a bun like everyone else and felt different and untidy with my hair down even though it was short. It was around this time that my dancing places fell in competition and I think this was certainly due my confidence being badly hit. It has taken me many years to come to terms with my alopecia. I am now 29 and only really now have accepted what happened when I was a teenager and those years that it affected me. I now realise that it has shaped the person I am today and I definitely feel a stronger person because of it. Many people did not know about it when I was younger because my mum did such a good job of camouflaging it and it is only now that I have started to tell people about it because I feel I have finally accepted it. It sounds like such a cliche but it has definitely made me a stronger person. I am still involved in dance and actively competing and have worked my way back up the placings over the past few years, regaining that confidence that had been so badly knocked when I was younger. Having alopecia has shaped who I am today. At school it made me more determined to succeed at something and by doing that academically I felt I wasn't a total failure. I did succeed at school and went on to medical school and now working as a doctor. I think my early experiences of health care influenced this career path. To anyone struggling with their alopecia, I would say don't let it affect the person you can be. Don't try and hide away from it, accept that it is part of you but stand proud about that. It's not your fault this has happened. Use it as a positive to fight for things you want in your life, focus on goals and use that fire in your belly to achieve.