Alopecia, Love, and The Pursuit of Self-Confidence with Devon Carrow

5/4/18

(Featured Photo of Devon Carrow)

7:16 P.M.

Mood: relief.

Thoughts:

What is Alopecia?

Well, according to the Alopecia UK website, Alopecia is hair loss, and can be caused by different things, which is why there are also different types of alopecia.

Some of the most common types of alopecia that people commonly get are:

  1. Alopecia areata, which (still according to the same website) “is understood to be an autoimmune condition which causes patchy hair loss. It can result in a single bald patch or extensive patchy hair loss.”
  2. Alopecia totalis is a more severe form of alopecia areata. It can cause “total loss of all hair on the body, including eyelashes and eyebrows.” It’s still thought to be caused by autoimmune issues, but doctors aren’t entirely sure about this just yet.
  3. Androgenetic Alopecia (or AGA) is most referred to as “female or male patterned baldness”. It’s basically hair thinning, and can be caused by genetics. Though, according to the Genetics Home Reference website, in men, it can be associated with “several other medical conditions including coronary heart disease and enlargement of the prostate”. Diabetes or high blood pressure can be related to it, too, but there is still more research to be done on it. For women, it can also potentially be related to hormonal imbalances or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
  4. Traction Alopecia happens due to excessive tension on the hair, especially around the edges. Of course, you’ll see this in cultures where it’s common to have hair tied back into tighter hairstyles, such as braids or ponytails.
  5. And then, we have Anagen Effluvium, which is the type of hair loss you’ll see in people who are going through chemotherapy. It’s typically reversed once chemical treatments are no longer being used.

As you can see from how often I’ve had to mention that doctors still have to speculate on the causes, alopecia is not very widely understood. It can be hard to understand exactly why the hair loss is happening, and it becomes even harder to cope with it because society doesn’t have a pronounced sense of awareness that this is actually a very common thing!

So, when someone begins to experience it, not only are they having to come to terms with it themselves, but they also face the potential of bullying and harassment from others who are assholes and not willing to understand. This, of course, can be quite a doozy for self-esteem, confidence and mental health. People who experience alopecia can feel absolutely isolated and like no one could possibly understand or help.

Luckily, there is one young woman that has turned her heartbreaking struggles with alopecia into a heartfelt movement of spreading love and alopecia awareness!

Gather ’round, one and all, for the lovely Ms. Devon Carrow! At only 23 years, she’s already had years of experience in coping with alopecia. According to her website, she was diagnosed with alopecia areata at only sixteen years old. “This was a shocking time for me, and I went through periods of depression and anxiety. I was angry, self-conscious and confused”, she says of her experience.

“After months of cortisone injections to my scalp, countless nights of crying myself to sleep, and hours of scowling the internet for sympathy, I was ready to help myself; I created The Love Spreader, an online positivity platform, with over 15,000 global followers, by encouraging self-love and happiness”, she continued.

I actually found out about Devon through this YouTube video on The Skin Deep’s channel:

I just had to know her secrets to becoming so comfortable and confident in something so many others struggle with. She’s become a role model for others, old and young, who struggle to cope with alopecia, and I’m super excited to say that she was happy to share her insight with me! So, here’s how that went:

When you first began to experience alopecia, how did it affect your life/self-esteem at first?

“It started as a little patch of hair missing, and then turned into complete hair loss within six months [after I was diagnosed]. At first, I was TERRIFIED. I cried all the time, and was so scared to go to school. I was made fun of a lot, people would stare at me, and were pretty rude. It was harsh. Then, one day, I decided enough was enough, and created ‘The Love Spreader’ to spread ‘love’ to other people, and spread alopecia awareness. I learned that, by spreading positivity to other people, I would in return make myself feel better. It was a win-win, haha!”

“I also learned that, by spreading awareness of alopecia, I was taking the shock factor out of the disease. The more people knew about it, and knew I suffered with it, the more comfortable and confident I felt. I didn’t have to worry if my wig was noticeable (etc) because people already knew what I was dealing with and that I wasn’t afraid.”

Has your view of self-confidence changed since experiencing alopecia?

“I think the biggest thing that changed for me is that I learned that confidence isn’t just about your looks, but about your personality and what you can do to help others. I feel 10 times as confident when I know that I’m making a change in someone’s life, or doing something positive to affect the people around me. I also learned that confidence comes with time, and that although I don’t have my real hair, I can wear wigs and do other to cover up my insecurities (if I want to!) But, insecurities should be embraced.:)”

What would you say to others who are suffering with [alopecia] in silence?

“I would say that, from hard times, comes a lot of strength, and you will find a lot of strength you didn’t even know you had. I never would have had the courage to talk to people all over the place about such personal issues without alopecia. It gave me the ‘umph’ to do the things I love and get out of my comfort zone. I think that goes for anyone! If you have something that breaks you down, it gives you the platform to build yourself back up.”

As a side note, now that I’m looking back at this, I realize that I didn’t expand on this like I really should have. Even though I came up short on my end, Devon handled it like a TRUE champ, and gave us all the insight we wanted about becoming strong within the face of alopecia/hardships. I can’t thank her enough for it!

The point she made about her experience with alopecia giving her the platform she needed to do more of what she truly loved is very true. That really hit home with me. Though I don’t experience the devastation of alopecia, I still cope with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and depression day by day. Without those things, though, I would have never even started this blog. I would have had no base to start it with. And now, it’s become something that I can really be passionate about. Isn’t it weird how sucky things bring such beautiful things around at times?

I truly admire Devon for coming to terms with her alopecia like she did. It sounds like a freakin’ superhero story to me, and I’m so grateful that we have heroes like this to share with the world. The fact that those 15,000 (and more) have connected with her in this way truly shows that she worked her ass off to make a difference, and she made it in her own way. Now, all those people have a beautiful resource to connect with others who are like them, learn to love themselves, and to spread love to others.

AND she’s making a children’s book to spread awareness and positivity about alopecia for the little ones who may experience it, too (so, watch out for that)!

I love this all so much, oh my God.

Do you guys happen to have any questions about alopecia, the causes, or how to cope? You can send them my way, or find your way to Devon “Love Spreader” Carrow to connect with her using her social media outlets:

Devon’s website

Devon’s Facebook page

Devon’s Twitter page

Devon’s YouTube channel

Devon’s Instagram page

And, as always, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to read this. You are just so great. I don’t deserve that greatness, but you’ve brought it, and I am grateful.

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