Carlee Riggs Doesn't Let Alopecia Areata Make Her Insecure

Carlee Riggs

Full Name: Carlee Riggs

Hometown: Felicity, OH

Age: 17

Tell Me About Your Strength!

Every single day, I would wake up and couldn't wait to brush my hair ever since I was old enough to do it on my own. I loved to put it in pig tails, a pony tail, or just leave it a big mess.

Then, when I turned 12, I wanted to start to style my hair to make myself feel beautiful. Starting at that age, I was self-conscious about my hair. I didn't like it because I tried to curl it and it wouldn't curl. I tried to straighten it but it wouldn't even do that really well. Soon enough, though, I was straightening my hair every single day until I turned 17. 

One day, when I was 17 years old, I was getting ready for homecoming and I looked at my hair and saw a big bald spot. I just covered it up, thinking I was dealing with the stress over homecoming and moved on.

Then, on Christmas Day, I got up and looked on my pillow and my whole life changed. I woke up to four clumps of hair on my pillow. Then, I started having some medical issues in January with weight loss, which I had always had a problem with. In the hospital, the doctors told me that my hair was falling out from the stress of weight loss, and I believed them because it was stressful.

But two weeks out of the hospital, I found bigger and more bald spots. It got so bad, I couldn't look at myself anymore. I called the doctor and she referred me to a dermatologist. When the dermatologist walked in, she was so shocked to see me with my hair like that at the age of 17.

She sat me down and I could tell it wasn't good news. She said "You have Alopecia Areata." I didn't understand what that meant at first, but then she told me it is a type of hair loss where your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles. I just froze. All I could think about was, "What am I gonna do? I love my hair!" I didn't want to look in the mirror ever again. 

For school, I would tease my hair up so high so you couldn't see my bald spots at all and I tried to keep it a big secret. But people stared, asked about my hair and gave me dirty looks. I couldn't handle it, so I had to leave school.

But then one day, I stopped crying over the loss of my hair and found a reason to love it. Before, I wouldn't even walk around the house with my spots showing because I didn't want to look at them myself. But that morning, I decided, "It's your day to shine. It's your hair, but you're beautiful just the way you are."

I stopped being insecure. I showed up to school with my best friend by my side, and I got through the day. Then the next day. And finally, through the rest of the year. I went from the girl who only cared about her hair and would spend hours and hours fixing it, to the girl who suddenly loved herself. I started to realize I'm beautiful in and out even without all of my hair. 

A few weeks later, my eyebrow hair started to fall out. I felt knocked down again. But I knew if I could get through my hair loss, then I could get through this. School started again and a couple people started to ask what happened, and I would just smile and tell them I have a hair disease.

They are always saying, "I'm sorry!" but I'm happy. I'm happy I went through this because losing my hair partially was the best thing to ever happen to me in my life. I began to love myself more on the inside instead of trying to fix the things on the outside that made me feel so insecure. I began to be so happy with the way I was living life.

Sometimes, I still don't have enough strength to see how beautiful I am, but I have such an amazing support group to help me through that. I believe I have strength because God gave me this hair disease to show me nothing on the outside matters, everyone is insecure, and everyone wants something more.

But for me, I'm happy with myself. I'm happy to have almost no eyebrows and bald spots because I can look at them and think to myself, "That was the first battle that broke you into pieces, the battle that made you depressed, but also the battle you beat because you admitted that you are worth loving, even without your hair."

Carlee, I'm amazed at your strength. You have climbed a mountain of a challenge with courage and grace. Thanks so much for sharing with us! XOXO - Kelly

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Stage Fright? Not for Mallory!

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Full Name: Mallory Wellbrock

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

Age: Almost 12!

Tell Me About Your Strength!

I've done over 20 plays and been singing since I was two.

I feel like my strength is being able to get up in front of crowds and being able to entertain them without being frightened.

Mallory, that can be a real challenge, for sure. Thanks for joining the "Strong Young Women" team! XOXO - Kelly

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Cameron is Mind, Body, and Soul Strong.

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Full Name: Cameron Siler-Nixon

Hometown: Tampa, FL

Age: 13

Tell Me About Your Strength!

I am strong in every way. I am strong in my mind, maintaining an A+ average in middle school helps me prepare for my goal of attending UNC or Washington-U. I am already beginning my high school grade point average in 8th grade by taking 4 high school credit classes. I expand my mind to think globally by traveling around the world with my Spanish teacher. 

I am strong in my body. I play volleyball, basketball and run track for my school. In my spare time, I take CrossFit classes with Ms. Kim at the Bob Sierra YMCA and volunteer around the community. I believe that it is important for girls to keep their bodies healthy and strong, so they will be able to take care of themselves and be prepared for any situation.  

I am strong in my soul. I love the Lord. He is the source of my strength and I know that I can always rely on him to show me the right path in any situation.  Growing up in this world is not easy with all of the standards we are held up to.  I know that I am beautiful and strong in God's eyes.  Because of this I know that who I am is all I need to be. Ultimately, strength comes from the inside and we can be and do anything we chose. I am strong and you can be too.

Cameron, your confidence shines through in your writing, and I'll bet it inspires other young women to believe in themselves, too. Thanks for adding your story to the "Strong Young Women" series! XOXO - Kelly

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Kira Noel Stays Strong, Even With a Life-Changing, Chronic Illness

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Full Name: Kira Noël

Hometown: Ottawa, ON, Canada

Age: 17

Tell Me About Your Strength!

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a type of dysautonomia, called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS); an incurable and life-changing chronic illness. I went from overachieving student, to bedbound overnight. The medications barely helped. Any self-confidence that had managed to survive middle school crumbled away. I became depressed, anxious, and suicidal--as if chronically ill wasn't enough.

Little by little, my condition improved and, with it, my mental health. I returned to some semblance of my old life for nearly six months. The thing about chronic illness is that it's chronic; it doesn't stay gone. But when my health took a turn for the worse again, I didn't let it take over my life. There are still days I cannot walk or stand, and others where my brain fog prevents me from speaking in complete sentences, days where I cry for the life that I could've had. Even on good days, I cannot stand for long, but I refuse to let this illness define me or my life.

Today, I am at the top of my class, an advocate for youth, especially girls, in STEM, and an author. I know that I can never win against POTS, but I don't need to; I just need to keep on fighting.

Kira, thanks for writing such an eloquent piece for the "Strong Young Woman" series! Keep fighting. You've already done so much in your seventeen years; I know you can make your life whatever you want it to be. XOXO - Kelly

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