Full Name: Carlee Riggs
Hometown: Felicity, OH
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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