Hair is an essential part of our appearance. It can be a way to express a state of mind, a connection to our ancestors, a means to make a statement, and even a channel to see ourselves and feel good.
Alopecia, a benign disease and autoimmune characterized by the sudden absence of hair can generate overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger, confusion and loss. But why should hair loss have a negative connotation?
We talked with Gina Ortiz (@ginaortizoofficial), a psychotherapist who was diagnosed with alopecia since childhood. She lost her hair at three different stages in her life but she found herself and she shows us that her hair—and the loss of it—doesn’t define us.
baldness is boldness
For as long as the world has existed, society’s beauty standards have told us that women with thick hair and waist-grazing locks are the picture of femininity and elegance. But actually, female baldness is more than just beautiful: it’s synonymous with boldness and self-confidence, a complete redefinition of societal norms.
All Things Hair: For you, what is it like to live with alopecia?
Gina Ortiz: I would have to speak to you from three facets, because I have been living with her for a long time. I separate my process into: victim, bridge and protagonist. I lived each stage differently. At the beginning, as a victim, I had a terrible time, I felt that what was happening to me was a punishment. Then I had a confrontation phase and, finally, the leading stage —which is what I am experiencing—, where alopecia no longer defines me in a painful way.
ATH: How did you receive the diagnosis of alopecia?
GO: The first time my hair started to fall out I was a girl and my mom, as a beautician, already knew what was happening to me. Then my hair grew back completely and it wasn’t until just married that it fell out again.
One of the worst feelings is to notice the amount of hair that falls out. Before you’re diagnosed, you don’t know what’s going on and you think you’ll wake up bald the next day.
ATH: How did receiving this diagnosis affect you?
GO: It was a duel and a great lack of control with many processes at the same time. The second time I had alopecia I had a lot of anxiety, which made me shed more hair. On that occasion I did many treatments and saw several dermatologists, but I did not attend to my emotions and I was not constant.
On the third occasion you can take actions. I went to a specialist, informed me and consumed content in networks of people who taught me tools on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.
ATH: How did you cope with hair loss?
GO: For me, when I was in the victim stage, hair was everything to me. The loss felt angry, as if no one understood me. Today I can tell you that it’s just hair and I’m more than a bald woman. But coming to this conclusion took me many hours of therapy and work.
When I was in the victim stage, hair was everything to me. Today, I can tell you that it’s just hair and I’m more than a bald woman.
ATH: Have you noticed that others look at you differently since you lost your hair?
GO: Yes, but today it doesn’t hurt anymore. For me it’s an opportunity to show the world that a bald woman can go out and nothing happens.
ATH: Did social networks affect your process?
GO: Yes. I started in the networks for my work and I knew it was important to show myself, but it took me a year to be able to do it. Little by little, people felt identified with what I had to offer and the look of my audience gave me acceptance of the process and what I was experiencing. Being recognized helps.
In addition, social networks mark us how we should see ourselves and feel. It is important to live our process at all stages and know that, if we want, we can get ahead.
ATH: And not everything we consume is bad…
GO: Definitely. Periodically we must review what we consume and from where we share it. It doesn’t do me good to consume and connect from pain.
ATH: Do you feel that alopecia affected your contact with your sensuality and feminine energy?
GO: Yes, big, with bold and with lights [risas]. In my case my sexuality was completely linked to the body. Imagine going to bed with your partner without an arm, because for most women hair is just another part of their body in bed.
Observe how many times a day you grab your hair, adjust your bangs, make a ponytail… and there is the answer.
ATH: And did it also affect your relationships?
GO: Yes. The third time I had alopecia I had already divorced and I knew that the fall [del cabello] it was imminent, so he had to buy time for baldness. I decided to go to therapy to feel safe and be able to shave my head.
By the time I shaved, I already felt confident in showing myself, and during this stage I used a dating app. All those who gave me like they already knew how I looked and accepted it.
ATH: Have you thought about wearing a wig?
GO: Wigs that look real come at a high price, so it’s not always feasible to own them. The ones I had were given to me as gifts and they were very uncomfortable, they didn’t look like the hair I knew.
ATH: What would you recommend to someone who has just been diagnosed with alopecia?
GO: He works in three fields. The physical field, hand in hand with a specialist, if you have access to a trichologist is the best. Follow the instructions and trust the process.
The emotional field; working on your emotions, because they are going to support the biological process that you are experiencing. And the spiritual field; since it will give you the security, certainty, peace and confidence to accept what you live.
ATH: Your page is full of positivity, is there anything else you would like to add about working on yourself and taking care of your mental health?
GO: We are much more than a body. If your identity is based on the physical body, you’re going to have a hard time, because your physical body is transforming and we don’t know how long it will take to stop.
If your identity is based on who you are, what you contribute to the world, your values, your ability to love and be expanding, there are more chances that this situation you are experiencing will be lighter.
And remember, we are not the body we carry. If you work inside you are going to build those bases that make you go out into the street how you have to be. Any emotion you experience is welcome. It doesn’t matter where you are in the process. If you want to be well and feel peace, you will get it.
ATH: Did you have to adapt a special care routine for your scalp?
ATH: Finally, what did alopecia teach you?
GO: One of the greatest lessons that Mrs. Alopecia left me -That’s what I call him- [risas] it’s not It’s not what happens to me, but what I do with it. There is hope. It seems that when you have alopecia, the world ends, but it is not. If you keep moving forward and want it to change, the landscape changes.
It seems that when you have alopecia, the world ends, but it is not.
Seeing it from a spiritual point of view, thanks to the hair loss I was able to work on myself to feel fully. Today this disease leaves me great messages and allows me to touch other lives and connect with myself knowing that I am more than a scalp.
And I would give all my empire [risas] for going to the beauty parlor and letting them cut my hair. When I am chipil I would like to spend four hours there. Then I shake the tears and continue knowing that right now it’s not time to have hair. Maybe tomorrow yes…
The post To the roots: How alopecia changed my life | Learning to live with a hair disease appeared first on All Things Hair Mexico.