Updated: Jul 31, 2019
As of recently I have been reaching out to others with chronic conditions that have altered their appearance and/or transformed their lives in various ways. The intention of this is to create an open dialogue about these conditions, some of which are often overlooked or forgotten about. Repeatedly people such as myself and millions of others suffering from these underdiscussed illnesses can feel isolated -which is what I am aiming to change. By reaching out and sharing the stories of people suffering from chronic conditions we can raise awareness, help others who have just been diagnosed see how someone with the same conditon has coped all the while creating a possitive space and supportive network.
Whilst on my quest I discovered the Instagram account of the lovely Supriya or her Instagram handle @baldieboo back in February. Supriya has alopecia which to over simplify is hair loss. I immediately contacted Supriya after scrolling through her feed and reading her posts. The unapologetic way in which she shares her condition with others is exactly what we need more of in the world. She is a positive, funny and beautiful woman. Thankfully she agreed to answer my many many questions which brings us to this post. I hope you enjoy this story and maybe learn something you didn’t previously know.
Supriya's Story | Skindeeply
Tell us about yourself! What is your story? What do you? What do you enjoy? What defines your badass self?
"My name is Supriya. I’m a Cleveland, Ohio gal who has spent the last 8 years living in Denver, Colorado. I love my cat, the gym, my friends, my family, brunch, and weekends filled with reality tv show binges. My 8 years in Denver have been the hardest of my life. I was in a relationship and it was bad…really bad. We broke up (thank goodness) but the aftermath was worse. I was at rock bottom and then I lost all of my hair to alopecia. I somehow found a layer below rock bottom and settled there. Then somewhere along the way, I said F ALL OF THIS and started crawling out of my deep dark hole. It took a ton of a work, an amazing network of friends and family, lots of laughs (Gilmore Girls reruns? Yes please!), and a little drive inside my body (that I didn’t even realize I had) to do better, to do more, and to go out in this world and live my best freaking life!"
What is the name of your condition? How long you have had it? What does it do to your body physically? How did you feel when you first got it? and how has it impacted your life?
"I have alopecia. Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes you to lose some or (in my case) all of your hair. Your immune system views your hair as the bad guy and goes on the attack taking out hair left and right and stopping it from growing back."
"If my immune system was Ariana Grande, it would be singing ‘Thank U, Next’ to all of my hair follicles."
"Alopecia hit me in two phases. In 2013, it showed up as a few small bald patches on the back of my head. The spots were easy to cover, making it easy to forget anything was wrong.
May of 2015 is when EVERYTHING changed. While styling my hair one morning, I wound up with a pile of hair in my hands. From that day forward, it fell out by the handful and didn’t stop until it was all gone 3 months later. I was completely crushed. I have fought against anxiety and depression for many years and within the first week of this loss, my mental health had completely spiraled. I felt like my body had turned against me, jumped ship, and taken my physical identity and femininity with it."
How have you "wrestled the beast" that is Alopecia? What steps did you take to cope with and manage your condition?
"At first, I felt like I had no outlet to cope. Exercise had always been my go-to stress relief, but my hair was transforming me into a Golum looking baldie. Instead of enjoying a good workout, all I could think about was—“Was that more hair falling? Is that person staring? I have so much sweat dripping down my balding head. I hate this, I hate everything”.
As time passed, my mentality changed. I started to find a happy medium between coping with this disease and finding joy in the things I once loved."
"I found a wig/hat solution that I felt comfortable in. This made me feel confident in the gym again and allowed me to use exercise as a true stress relief. I stopped focusing on my hair and started focusing on my gainz."
"I FINALLY sought out a therapist. I was stubborn about this one for a long time. One day I realized I was coming home every single day and bawling my eyes out for hours and hours on end. No matter what I did, I could not stop it or shake it. It had become clear that my alopecia had caused my anxiety and depression to take over my world. Going to therapy was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was able to work through so many emotions-- pain, fear, loss, anger, disappointment, inadequacy, sorrow, and many mores. If there is an emotion that made me feel like crap, I was feeling it, and therapy helped me push through and find happiness again."
"I went public with my disease. I made a decision to share an emotional post and photos about my struggles with alopecia on facebook. I had no idea how people were going to react, but the response and support completely blew my mind. The weight of this secret had been on my shoulders for sooo long, and suddenly I was free. Free to talk about it. Free for people to know about it. Free to accept love from others who had my back. This decision was the catalyst to me changing the way I lived my life. It helped me transform from a recluse who constantly pitied herself and her hair loss, to a gal who was so happy to go out in the world and live her most basic B life! "
What toll did Alopecia take on your self-esteem? What ways have you been learning to love and look after your body?
"With each strand of hair that fell, a piece of my self-esteem went with it. To be honest, I didn’t have a ton of self-esteem when this all started. I was still putting the pieces back together after going through that breakup. What little self-esteem I had left, was completely lost.
Learning to love my body again has been a challenge. I’ve always been tough on myself for my looks. I became a gym rat long ago because I was a bit obsessive about wanting to look a certain way. I had to find a way to make peace with the new Supriya. The bald Supriya. Again, therapy helped a lot with this. A few months ago, I started blogging about my alopecia journey and sharing my story on Instagram. It may sound silly, but posting photos of me without hair, made me realize that others love me without hair, and slowly started to teach me how to love myself without hair. It is and will forever be a work in progress."
How well do you feel the media and popular brands represent people who live with your condition day to day? Do you feel there is enough representation of chronic conditions or Alopecia in the media?
"I do not think alopecia is represented well. I can’t tell you the number of times people have told me that they hadn’t heard of alopecia until they met me. Yet there are millions in the world who suffer from it. Being a bald female and being feminine are not things that go hand in hand in media. Typically, bald either means sick or means weird. “Who would shave their head?!” I can’t think of a single media outlet or company that represents alopecia in a beautiful, powerful, strong way."
Finally what advice would you like others with your condition to know? and what information do you have for people who don't understand your condition?
"Take it day by day and NEVER let go of hope that things will get better. Will your hair grow back? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Regardless, things WILL get better. Your hair coming back won’t be the thing that makes it better. You finding your happiness again without tying that happiness to your hair is what will make it better. You have to make conscious choices to surround yourself with good, kind people who support you. You should ALWAYS seek out therapy when things feel too tough for you to figure out on your own. You can feel free to tell people to screw off when they tell you “at least it's just hair” LOL. The truth is, it's not just hair. It’s a part of you that you lost and it's totally okay to grieve it. Keeping holding onto that hope and taking baby steps each day until you find your happiness again."
Massive thank you to Supriya for sharing her story with everyone here on Skindeeply. For anyone out there with Alopecia I hope you found this post helpful, I feel like Supriya’s words can connect with a variety of chronic conditions (I know I related to this one quite a bit and have some positive notes to take away from it). If you want to hear more from Supriya follow her Instagram @baldieboo which she updates regularly or you can go check out her blog www.baldieboo.com.
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If you have a chronic condition or illness and would like to share your story you can get in touch on the contact page or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).