They say that we learn the most from adversity, when we are plunged into a situation over which we have no control or direct influence.
This, we are told, allows us to seek out positives during times of hardship and become stronger as individuals.
That’s all well and good, but try telling it to a 17 year old who has just begun to lose his hair!
I was not even an adult when I first began to go bald. Let me tell you, at the time I was not able to see positives in adversity, nor could I even begin to consider that it would actually change my life for the better.
It is only with hindsight that I am able to put my hair loss into the correct perspective, and appreciate the positive impact that it had on my life.
So if you find yourself in a similar position and have absolutely no time for positive soundbites, I completely understand where you are coming from. I am also here to share my own experiences, and show how embracing hair loss can ultimately transform the way in which you approach this challenge!
So, What happened to me?
Picture the scene: I was a happy and sociable 17 year old, and after suffering with breakouts of acne throughout my teenage years my skin was finally clear!
My sense of euphoria was short-lived to say the least, as my rock-star meld of short, long and thick hair began to fall away in huge clumps. While my trademark, wavy fringe remained intact, the hair on the top of my head and crown the crown began to thin alarmingly, while the volume of hair loss quickly became too large to ignore.
So as quickly as my confidence had rebounded, it had rapidly begun to dissipate once again. Looking back, I almost began to grieve for the loss of my hair, experiencing feelings of denial, anxiety and bewilderment that this had happened to me.
I began to wonder whether my choice of shampoo or hair product was responsible, and even considered if my own, unique sense of styling was the issue. These questions drew circles in my mind, creating a continued cycle of isolation and depression as they went unanswered.
Hitting Rock Bottom and Accepting My Reality
As with every grieving process or period of depression, there was a nadir that eventually provided a turning point in my life. After trying every conceivable shampoo, hair product and over-the-counter remedy for hair loss, in my desperation I decided to invest in a then-revolutionary hair thickening treatment at a clinic in Manchester.
In my mind, I was hoping for some sort of miracle treatment that would magically restore my thick and flowing locks, but in truth I was kidding myself that I was fighting a winning battle.
Sure, the treatment worked for a while, as my remaining grew slightly thicker and served the purpose of hiding my problem from those who did not know me well. Any sense of hope or optimism was quickly snuffed out when hair began to fall out in clumps once again, with every loose strand reinforcing the idea that my hair loss was permanent and irreversible.
Not only this, but the treatment cost thousands of mine and my parents hard-earned cash, and the sense of guilt that I felt caused my to lose even more sleep at home.
It was at this point that something began to change. There was no doubting that my hair loss was permanent, and that sooner or later I would have to embrace this.
There was also no more money left to pursue radical and ineffective treatments, and these simple facts forced me to gradually accept my new reality. Don’t get me wrong, I was not exactly thrilled about this and my feelings of anxiety did not just disappear, but I had at least reached a point where I could begin to move forward and put my challenges into perspective.
I then made the heart-wrenching decision to have my head shaved, to remove any sense of lingering doubt and challenge my fears. My sister kindly arranged for a mobile barber to visit me at home and remove what remained of my hair, and as the cold, hard steel of the clippers were dragged across my scalp I suddenly had a sense that a new and more confident me was about to be born!
What Did I Learn from my Hair Loss?
That, in a nutshell, is my story. In many ways I look back on it now as a new beginning, and one that helped me to become a strong, confident and driven adult.
It definitely shaped my career, inspiring me to launch The Bald Gent website and use my experiences to help and educate others!
So all that is really left for me to do is to share some of the lessons that I learned from going bald at 17, in the hope that they can help to cope better as you begin to lose your hair.
Lesson one: Perception is always worse than Reality
When I look back on my late teenage years, all I can remember is being anxious and depressed at the thought of losing my hair. Hindsight tells me that my fears and insecurities were not rational, nor were the based on anything other than a series of negative perceptions and the way in which I underestimated everyone around me.
Perception is often worse than reality, especially when you approach challenges with a negative mind-set. This forces you to focus on all the bad things that could happen in any given scenario, no matter how unlikely they are or how convoluted they have become in your mind.
In my case it left me feeling as though I would suddenly become unattractive to women if I was bald, while I also has a strange and unfounded idea that those close to me would somehow begin to treat me differently if I lost my hair.
Trust me, these fears and anxieties are often totally unfounded, while they also represent the single biggest obstacle to dealing with hair loss. You will quickly find that your loved ones rally around you and that you are still able to attract women (especially in today’s age when baldness is considered to be a sign of strength and masculinity), so trying to think with a rational and logical mind-set from the outset will help you enormously.
Lesson two: Be Bold and Tackle your Hair Loss Head-on
As I sat down in front of a mirror and had my head shaved, I began to feel a strange sense of empowerment. I guess at the time this felt like a brave and decisive move, and from a psychological perspective it was good to be proactive and shave my hair deliberately rather than waiting for it to fall out in clumps!
If you take on lesson away from this article, this is the one I would recommend. Being bold and tackling your hair loss head on is extremely therapeutic, as it instantly creates a change in your mind-set and forces you to consider the problem from a more positive perspective.
Rather then wasting time, money and energy by pursuing short-term of ineffective treatments, you are accepting your reality and embracing it with tenacity.
The process of actively shaving your head becomes symbolic of your new mind-set, marking a turning point from which you can only move forward.
In my own experience, this is also the moment that everything changes, as you suddenly develop a sense of perspective and realise that your new reality is completely different to what you imagined!
Lesson three: Talk to your Loved ones
Losing your hair as a teenager or a young adult can be one of the most isolating experiences imaginable, as those nagging doubts and false perceptions prevent you from opening up from others.
I know that my battle against hair loss would have been much easier if I had let my loved ones in a little earlier, while it may even have saved me thousands of pounds in questionable treatments!
The biggest benefit of this is that it allows you to talk through your fears, giving those who mean the most a chance to reassure you and provide you the strength to face your premature baldness.
I have no doubt that this can provide a huge difference to your mind-set, as it forces you to face your fears and consider them in some sort of perspective.
I have found that there is always strength to be found in numbers, even in an individual battle such as this. So let your loved ones in on your deepest fears and anxieties and create a support network that empowers you to positively embrace your hair loss!
If I Can do it, anyone can!
Ultimately, hair loss is a personal journey, and one that will affect you in a number of different ways. I also know that you may be deaf to any kind of positive or constructive advice when you first begin to go bald, as at that stage you just want someone to tell you that they can reverse the process!
Hopefully, my experience will help you to cope and move forward, or at least begin to challenge the way in which you think about hair loss. If I can emerge from this a better, stronger and more confident person, there is no doubt that you can do the same and turn a daunting challenge into something that has a positive influence on your future.