A month ago, I had one of the biggest scares of my life. As I was sitting in my room, getting ready for bed I had decided to take my hair out and piece by piece it began falling from my scalp, into my hands with ease. Handful after handful, I was losing my curls and gaining fear of the unknown. I had no idea what was happening nor why.
This wasn't dead hair or buildup from braids, I know what that looks like... but this was strand after strand of the healthy, curly locks I had been tending to for the past two years coming out in front of my eyes with no reasonable explanation why. As each minute, which seems like hours, passed by, I kept reassuring myself not to cry, holding back the tears as thoughts of chronic illness and death crossed my mind.
I should be strong, that's what I've always been taught. But in those moments, I felt powerless as the tears began to pour from my eyes.
After the initial shock died down, I had multiple doctor's appointments and blood tests to find out that before the age of 25, I had been diagnosed with Alopecia, an auto-immune disease that never goes away. The disease affects your hair leaving some people with bald spots, but in my case, a completely bald head. Despite what happened, I am grateful to be healthy and alive. I took it as a sign from the universe that this had happened so that I can reassess where I am in life and prioritize what really matters.
We know that the relationship between hair and black women is a very intimate one, but throughout this process, I've learned some very valuable lessons.
Three weeks before "the incident"
After the Shave
Allow Yourself Time To Heal
So often, when women of color face tragedy or hardship, we don't allow ourselves time to fully recover and reflect on what has happened to us or those that we love. We feel the need to consistently be strong for everyone else around us, to be the superheroes that the world needs. This situation put into perspective that we need to allow ourselves to be human too. We deserve to take our time, slow down and deal with our emotions.
Sometimes Hardships Happen to Teach Us A Lesson
Even though I've been diagnosed with something that will change my life forever, I've come to terms with it and learning how to live with it more and more each day. Everything happens to us for a reason, whether we're supposed to learn about ourselves through the situation or inspire others with our story. Hardships happen to allow us to reevaluate our lives and bring into focus what should really matters.
Even When We Think We Have It Figured Out, See A Professional
Whether it's a mishap with our body or struggles with mental health, there has been a long running stigma with people of color and seeking help. We can't do it all on our own and sometimes, seeing a professional will benefit in many ways. Even if you think you know what's going on and you've Googled it endlessly, don't be afraid to ask for help from a professional. Although it might be terrifying, having that security once it's all over will allow you to feel better.
Your Beauty Radiates From the Inside Out
When you feel comfortable in your own skin, anything is possible. After losing all of my hair, a wave of insecurity passed over me for a few days. I was nervous about if I would still feel desirable, if others would view me differently, how would I explain what had happened... and then I had a realization. I slay no matter what.
When you're full of life and have confidence in who you are as an individual, tedious details like what hairstyle you have (or lack of hair) won't matter. After taking agency and shaving off the rest of the few strands that I had, I felt in control of the situation. Choosing not to hide behind masks and fully embrace who I am had allowed me to feel even more beautiful and ready to take on the world.
No matter what situation you might be going through, the most important thing to remember is that you define your narrative. You have the power to take an unfortunate situation and to learn from it, coming out better than ever.
And also remember, like India Arie once said, you are not your hair. There is so much more to your intricate, beautiful self than what lies on your head.