She shares her story and offers advice on how you can, too
In our 2-part interview, Christine discusses her alopecia diagnosis in the shadow of her mom’s death, squashing office gossip and finding her “tribe” at the gym.
When asked what alopecia areata robbed her of that’s been tough to regain, Christine Wigandt, 26, of Boston, doesn’t hold back with her answer.
“I’ve lost an inner sense of peace,” says Christine. “I've come to terms with the fact that my mom’s dead, but I haven't completely come to terms with losing my hair secondary to my mother’s death, at age 21. That was a lot.”
Those feelings of insecurity still haunt Christine. She calls it her “daily internal confidence battle.”
“I find that I always have a weight on my shoulders regarding the alopecia and the fact that I can't change it.”
Christine has suffered numerous embarrassing experiences over the years. When she recounts them the pain is palpable.
“The first was during my extreme hair loss phase,” she remembers. “People would make comments about seeing brown hairballs everywhere, and about being able to see my bald patches. Those moments are what gave me the uneasy feeling in my gut because I had absolutely no way to control what was going on. I couldn’t even feel my hair falling out.”
But it’s not just the loss of head hair that produces anxiety.
“Going out without eyebrows—I only do that when absolutely necessary, like I’m rushing or I forgot my powder,” Christine says. “Not having them on gives me that nervous gut feeling.”
Now that Christine is completely bald, she’s endured other humiliating situations.
“I find it super embarrassing when people call me sir,” says Christine , who’s an EMT. “There was one shift I worked with a male partner. I think I was called ‘sir’ that day provably eight or nine times. My partner looked at me midway through the shift and was like, ‘Wow that must be exhausting having to deal with that every day.’”
Christine appreciated the honesty of the acknowledgement.
By now, she’s used to attracting attention—some of it unwanted—when she wears a headscarf or flashes her bald head.
“I feel lucky that I'm completely bald,” Christine says. “I have no patches, just some peach fuzz that you can barely see. There’s nothing to hide aside from my bald head. But I often find that people stare. More often than not, I'll just stare back.”
Even though awareness of alopecia is slowly evolving among the general public, individual reactions are slow to change. But how Christine feels about being bald has shifted.
“I find more humor in it now,” she explains. “Initially, I was like ‘OMG, why are they staring?!’ Now, I’m more like, well, I am a bald female, which is outside of the norm. Would I stare if I had no idea what alopecia is? Probably!”
In Christine’s alopecia journey, she has developed coping strategies. One especially effective one is to reflect on what she does have control over.
“I often find comfort in a stressful situation by reflecting on what I can change,” Christine shares. “If I’m feeling a little overweight, I can cook at home more this week. If I'm breaking out more this month than last, maybe I should drink more water.”
Christine has put some thought into why this tactic works for her—and why it may work for others, too.
“Usually this mindset works for me because I can set a goal for the problem,” she explains. “That ultimately takes the weight off my shoulders, especially when the goal can be accomplished. Otherwise, I fixate on the fact that I'm bald and I can't do anything to make my hair grow back!”
Surprisingly, sometimes Christine herself is to blame for the erosion in her own self-confidence. In those instances, she has found that controlling her own narrative provides relief.
“I struggle with compulsive thoughts over what I'm missing. Do I miss the old me? Absolutely! I miss my thick brown hair and doing my hair before going out. I also miss my mom and her advice. But am I going to sacrifice my current health thinking about something I can't change? Absolutely not!”
Sometimes an interaction is sweet, and Christine finds satisfaction—even pride—in that.
“Anytime I'm given a compliment about my ‘look,’ I usually just reply with, ‘Thank you, I have alopecia!’"