Alopecia is an indiscriminate condition that can affect either sex at any age and can result in patchy hair loss or even total baldness. Needless to say, this can be very traumatic for women because the conventional female beauty ideal in most cultures it tied to having long hair and hair loss can induce feelings of shame and reduced femininity. But for one woman, shaving her head helped her reclaim that femininity.
Meningitis caused my hair loss
This was true for a Brisbane woman, Bianca Young, 41 who was diagnosed with alopecia 12 years ago. The condition was triggered after she contracted viral meningitis when she noticed that her hair was starting to thin quite dramatically.
Alopecia is thought to be an auto-immune disease whereby the body’s defence mechanism begins to attack healthy hair cells, causing shedding. There is no single trigger for the condition and it can be caused be a variety of environmental factors, from stress to diet. In Bianca’s case her immune system started to “fight” everything, including her hair.
Bianca really struggled with the hair loss saying “I felt like there was a huge part of my femininity missing” and she avoided swimming or going out in the rain and wind, all of which could emphasise her hair loss. After a while her hair slowly started to thicken, which is also common to the condition and she picked up her life again.
Shaving felt like positive action
Alopecia can disappear as fast as it came but sufferers frequently get repeat bouts later. Unfortunately, this happened to Bianca and about 4 months ago she noticed her hair was thinning again. After initially going through a traumatic few weeks she eventually decided to take some positive action and tackle the problem head on.
Rather than hiding away and feeling ashamed of the hair loss she chose the option of shaving all her hair off.
This can have an empowering effect on someone who has long suffered with gradual hair loss and it certainly worked for Bianca who summed up the feelings of taking back control from alopecia by saying “After we shaved my head for the very first time my sister said ‘let’s get a photo’, and for the first time in 12 years I turned around and took a photo without being self-conscious of my hair, I had nothing to hide.”