As a junior in high school, I thought that my dark blonde, shoulder-length hair meant everything. My morning included nearly 30 minutes of trying various hairstyles until the right one looked nearly perfect. I did this every morning—until one day when my routine changed forever.
The day began like any day. I woke up, washed my face, and put my contacts in. Then I sleepily glanced in the mirror and caught sight of something terrible—a small bald spot on the top of my head. I looked closer and ran my fingers across it to make sure my morning eyes were not fooling me. They weren’t.
I began to panic, and in tears I searched for my mom. Together we discussed the possibility my hair got caught on something while I was sleeping. Or maybe I was not eating enough vegetables. But with no definite answers I finally parted my hair to somewhat hide the bald spot and rushed off to school.
From that day on, I continued to lose patches of hair. These spots varied from the size of a coin to the size of a fist. I went to numerous doctors who examined every part of my head. I also spent a lot of time on my knees in prayer, seeking comfort and strength to handle what the doctors would tell me.
In September 2000 I found out I had an autoimmune disease known as alopecia areata. I can still hear my doctor’s voice when he explained this meant “total hair loss with no known cure.” Immediately my mind filled with thoughts of doubt, thoughts like “What’s next?” and “Why me?”
After seeing a specialist the next month, I shaved my almost-bald head. Without my hair, I felt like a completely different person. My sense of self plummeted, and it was almost impossible to drag myself to school. “What would everyone think? What would everyone say?” I wondered.
Scarves became my everyday hairstyle. Instead of spending a half hour every morning on my hair, I spent five minutes carefully tying a scarf around my bald head. The scarves were colorful and comfortable, but they weren’t my hair. At one point I tried wearing a wig the same color as my hair. This only brought constant worry of it falling off in front of everyone at school. I went back to scarves.
School was a challenge. I knew my Heavenly Father loved me and I could count on Him to be there when everyone else was turning away. But that was hard to remember when my peers gave me quick, odd glances. It was also hard when rumors began to spread, and I knew I was the topic of conversation. I didn’t understand why, of all times in my life, I had to deal with this during high school—a time when I wanted so much to be accepted and liked by those around me.
I made it through my senior year only because of certain things I made myself remember as I walked the halls of my high school. Each morning I prayed and thanked the Lord for the blessing of being alive and for the beauty around me. I prayed for strength to endure the day ahead and to remember I was loved by many. I also thanked my Heavenly Father for the things I was learning from this experience. It seems simple, but it made a difference. Whenever someone gave me a funny look or made a cruel joke, I simply remembered my motto, “It’s just hair. It really doesn’t matter.”
I knew I had no control over what was going to happen with my hair, but I also knew I had complete control over how I was going to face it. I could make it a blessing and an opportunity, or I could look at it as a punishment and simply give up.
It has been almost three years since the morning I found the small bald patch on my head. In that time I have had to shave my head five times because I still have small patches of hair. Each time I have shaved it with a little more enthusiasm and appreciation for life.
I know I couldn’t have done it alone. The Lord has become the one I trust. He does not judge me or laugh at me; I know He loves me just as much without hair as He did when I had hair. I have also relied on the love and support of my family.
I know we are all children of God with divine potential. We are all here to learn and grow in different ways with different challenges. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us for who we are and for what we can become. He is there in our darkest hours. I am thankful for the atoning sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ and for the comfort the Atonement brings. I know He lives and has suffered and endured even more physical and spiritual pain than I have felt and will feel in the future.