As you’ve read in other posts, I lost my hair when I was younger. This means going to middle school with no hair, which was terrifying. Kids will be kids, they will bully, they will find differences and if they can’t understand them they can be negative towards it.
I always went to private schools, I think it had partially to do with my personality as a child, and the religious background of my family. So I wanted to experience a public school, just to see what it would like. I had no idea how that choice would still affect me today.
I went from classes of 10-12 to a middle school in a big city with classes of 30 and more. There were hundreds of students in the school; I had to walk far distances up and down stairs to get to class, and lunchtime would give me anxiety. This was all topped with the fact I had a gigantic bald spot on the crown of my hair. Luckily, at the time, all the girls were wearing tight high ponytails, so that’s the look I went with so the little hair I had was able to cover the spot. Then the worst happened, I lost the rest of my hair.
Here came my first wig. It was from a small salon near my house, the woman didn’t have wigs for children and looking back it was soooo bad. It was a curly Tina Turner hairstyle on a 13 year old lanky skinny girl. But I needed something, my mom didn’t have a ton to spend, and we didn’t really know how to do research on finding where to buy wigs and what to look for.
So there were whispers day to day about the wig that completely freaked me out, but I figured I’ll just go to school every day, talk to the few friends I had, and just get home where I feel ok. Near the end of the school year the worst thing at the time I could think of happening happened. I was walking in the hallway from one class to another and was looking down like always. A girl came up behind me and yanked the wig off and yelled “see I told you it was a wig”, tossed the wig back to me and walked away laughing with her friends. I went to the closest bathroom, found an empty stall and put my wig back on. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe, and for a brief moment, lost my memory and feelings. I consider this my first major panic attack. I slowly became unblurry and had no idea how much time had passed. I missed my whole class and it was now lunch. I went to the nurse’s office and explained how I was feeling and she called my mom to come and get me. I went home and was like a stone; I lost all feeling and felt like I would never ever be happy again and I’d always be scared. The quick ramifications of this moment in my life were bad, like really bad. I was homeschooled the next year because I could not physically be around people without panicking; I tried many different treatments to maybe get my hair back, and I absolutely hated everything about myself to the point I was ready to just give up and die.
After this, small things here and there happened that would freak me out, but a few years later I was slightly getting over it and ready to do more social things. I decided to go to a church camp that was a sleepover week-long trip. I was scared before going thinking, do I leave my wig on while I sleep (I did), do I hold it with me in the shower (I did), do I tell my bunk mates (I didn’t). Then one of the last nights we were having a huge church session and the next night was a “dinner” that people would be allowed to bring “dates” to. I saw it as “oh you want us to date but why not make us pick people from church camp instead of heathens”.
So I saw these group of girls talking to this one guy in their group, they were pointing at me and clearly talking about me. I had a bad feeling in my gut that this wasn’t a good thing. The boy comes over and asks if I’d go to the dinner with him and I said I’d think about it. He says that I should come over and sit with his church group (the girls talking about me) and I said no thank you. He went back and one of the girls (seemed like the most outspoken one) and said: “I know that’s a wig and we just wanna know why a non-black girl is wearing one, let me see your real hair”. By the way, I’m biracial. I stood up and started to walk up the stairs really fast and feel her hand on my back. I start panicking, I try to leave the church meeting but the counselors wouldn’t let me. I started having a panic attack and they realized now something was wrong and took me to the medic building. I explained what happened and was allowed to skip the dinner and other major events or sit in the back with the counselors instead.
I got dirty looks from those girls the rest of the week and never told the people from my church about it. This was the beginning of my loss of the Christian faith, which changed the rest of my Christian education and life after moving out at 18.
Bullying for ANYTHING is just bad, there’s no justifying it. These and other events hurt me to the core and had a permanent effect on me. To me, stopping bullying can come from all angles. This includes media, parents and family, teachers, administrators, and kids.
Thanks for reading a snippet of my experience of bullying. While I can’t pretend to know how to fix it, I can hopefully help others with their bullying by sharing my path and being a person to talk to. Living with Alopecia is hard at any age, as a child it can be so confusing since there are so many other things you’re going through. I get it, I really do, and I’m here to say that it actually is just a phase, it will get better and it will give you strength for the future.