A common fact of Alopecia is that it is unexpected. Many of us have lost our hair in a very short space of time with not much warning. I had a very small bald patch at the back of of my head for a couple of months – looking back now, it was hardly worth mentioning. I would often feel it to check it was still there and to see if there was any regrowth.
The day I felt it and a clump of hair came out, was a shock. I was sat in a car park, talking to Liz on the phone. I felt it again and another clump of hair came out. I swapped my audio call to video so I could show Liz – it must have been worrying for her to hear my panic.
A couple of weeks later – well you know the story.
My Alopecia does not appear to be a condition brought on by anything medically ‘wrong’ with me. I have had various blood tests – all of which are normal and so, like most Alopecians, I am left with no answers as to why this happened, other than a seemingly ‘default’ diagnosis – Stress.
I wouldn’t have put myself forward as a stressful person. It is true, certain life events I have encountered more than qualifies me to be so but as Liz puts it, I do tend to make lemonade at every opportunity.
Despite my positive disposition, I find myself pondering on the what ifs…
- What if I am actually a stressful person and because I don’t vent in a certain way, this is how my stress has manifested?
- If that is the case – how am I meant to know when I am stressed and how do I manage that?
- Will the ‘stress’ show itself in other ways?
Stressful huh!? 😱
I have a dear friend who is a retired doctor. He turns 80 in November and has a ‘whatever’ approach to life. He inspires me in many ways not least as he is still a well travelled chap, zipping off to far and distant lands such as the Serengeti “just to see the wildlife” or popping to Switzerland to see the Eiger from a helicopter! With no other responsibilities to anyone else, he embraces his life to the fullest.
On one of our trips out for lunch the other day, I was sharing my ‘what ifs’ with my friend – his response? “Just live your life with no stress. Stop worrying about what will be, you can’t change it if you don’t know how.”
These words have helped me enormously. He was right. No-one knows why Alopecia is what it is. The label of an “autoimmune” condition is a medical way of of saying we have no idea why this is happening. There are over 100 Autoimmune diseases and The National Alopecia Areata Foundation highlights some of the clinical trials that focussed on Alopecia which is amazing.
I see Alopecia as a particularly difficult condition for some to deal with because the consequences are visible. As such it can be hugely demoralising. However, in most cases, we are not ill, thank goodness, and because of that, I am grateful for any research being carried out but more so for having enough time and energy to continue living my best life. One way in which I can do this is to stop thinking about what might be and continue to live with what is.
One of Liz’s most common phrases is “it is what it is”. So true.
One must simply take the days of their lives as they happen. If you spend time worrying over what is to come, which may or may not happen, then you will only be wasting precious days you will wish in the future you could have cherished a bit longer.
― R.J. Gonzales,
Sylvia Boorstein writes (in her foreword to Toni Bernahrd’s book How To Be Sick) about a friend who was suddenly stricken with a serious and debilitating illness. His response was “This isn’t what I wanted – but it’s what I got”. Such an admirable and wise accommodation of the realities of life can be seen as a fundamental truth which, as Boorstein goes on to say, presents us with a core challenge: to deal with things that ‘we wish were other, and [do] it with grace’.
This is, of course, simple but not easy. Toni Bernhard, in the main body of her book highlights an important aspect of the human condition: ‘anything can happen at any time. Life is impermanent, uncertain, unpredictable, ever-changing’. Her wisdom is echoed by Khalil Gibran: ‘Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.’
Does this mean we should avoid striving to achieve more in our lives, to raise our standards? No absolutely not. A wish to improve, learn, find ways to live our best life can only be fulfilled if we face the reality of our starting point, whatever that is here and now.
Rachel is absolutely right to take a ‘what will be, will be’ approach to life. This is something we could all usefully remember to practice.