So a friend suggested I see her dermatologist located in Santa Monica. Dr. Greene* was a pretty woman with dark, shoulder-length hair and a somber tone about her. Or maybe there was just something somber about telling someone they had alopecia areata?
Yes, Dr. Greene was the person who told me I had alopecia areata. I had never heard of alopecia in my life. But I quickly learned that it was an autoimmune disease that effected 2% of the entire world population.
Dr. Greene asked if I had been stressed lately. I didn’t even know the answer. As far as I was concerned, I was just living life. So she followed her question up by asking if I had just gone through a big change, a move, a breakup.
A big change? I graduated from law school the year before and decided not to partake in on-campus interviewing because I didn’t want to be swayed away from my dream by things like big paychecks. My job at WMA paid about ten dollars an hour. That’s ten bucks an hour living in LA.
A move? I had moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to unexpectedly Phoenix, Arizona to LA within sixteen months. I had already moved three times in the two months since I arrived in California.
A break up? The whooper of all break ups. I ended my engagement to my Italian fiancé, Carlo, just three weeks before our romantic wedding in Rome. Evidently, he was a total loser and I was too naïve to see it. Since my family couldn’t talk any sense in me by repetitively calling him a loser, they refused to come to the wedding. I couldn’t take the pressure anymore. I started to see the flaws they saw in him and I baled when I started to hyperventilate on the way to the airport. As I recounted these events to Dr. Greene, it occurred to me that I did just endure a lot of major events in a short period of time.
If that wasn’t enough, I didn’t save nearly as much money as I needed to move to LA. But I had wanted to get out of my grandmother’s house in Phoenix badly, where I moved when my original plan of marrying Carlo and moving to LA in wedded bliss fell apart. Plus, I had charged things for the wedding on my credit card thinking I was going to pay it off with the money we received from wedding gifts. Making those payments made it difficult to save anything. At the rate I was going, I’d never get to LA so I moved with barely any money.
According to Dr. Greene, it was this relentless litany of stressful events that triggered the alopecia. My body decided to send me a message by freaking out and attacking me or, more specifically, my hair follicles. Dr. Greene recommended steroid shots directly into my bald spots and advised that I try to not stress myself – whatever that meant.
If I knew I was subjecting myself to such extreme levels of stress that it was causing my hair to fall out in chunks overnight, I wouldn’t be doing it. The problem was that I didn’t know any other way of being. I was just being me. Regardless though, it didn’t matter whether or not I knew how to change because I chose to once again do nothing.