Just be honest

‘Nah, it’s not that bad. Don’t worry, it’s not noticeable. It’ll be fine, hon.’ That’s what my friends kept telling me.

When I got my first bald spots, they were all I could think about. Were they getting bigger, were there more than before? I asked everyone around me how bad it was. Of course nothing would have made me happier than hearing that it was fine, but only if that was really the case. The truth was that it was getting worse and worse - I could see that myself. But my friends still tried to reassure me by saying it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Obviously, they did that with the best of intentions, but it actually had the opposite effect. I thought I was going crazy. Was I overreacting?

After a week or two of this misery, I asked a friend for her opinion. ‘Do you want an honest answer?’, she asked. ‘I really do’, I said. She was the first one who had the guts to tell me that my bald spots couldn’t be hidden anymore and that it wasn’t great. Hearing that did hurt at first, but pff… what a relief! I finally felt like my feelings were valid: I wasn’t crazy for feeling miserable, I wasn’t crazy for feeling ugly sometimes. I wasn’t crazy!

If she hadn’t made me face reality, I would’ve ended up in an even darker place

After a few months of being stuck in a downward spiral of smoking, eating, drinking, and trying to forget, I was lucky to have another friend who had the guts to be honest with me. At the risk of crossing a line, she suggested that I moved back in with my parents because I clearly couldn’t handle it by myself. She thought it would be a good idea to go back home and to process what was happening to me at my parents’ place. Looking back, I’m so grateful to her for doing that. If she hadn’t made me face reality, I would’ve ended up in an even darker place. And it would have been a lot harder to get out of it then.

At home, my mom treated me with her typical ruthless honesty too. In this interview, we talk about how our family handles hardship: come on, get your head out of the sand and face the facts, don’t whine, don’t pity each other, and instead work really hard and come up with a solution. Others might see it as blunt or harsh, but I’m so glad I was raised like this. My best friends are like this with each other too. It’s made me a lot stronger.

My new beginning started when I was able to stop wasting my energy on faking happiness

I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I think that bald(ing) girls and women would find it a thousand times more helpful to have parents and friends that give them strength, rather than sadness, pity or ‘it’s-not-that-bad’ kind of talks. I get messages on Instagram from young girls who want to get rid of their last strands of hair before it all falls out. It makes them so miserable to have to face the hair loss every day. It makes me sad when they say that they didn’t do it in the end because they wanted to spare their parents. Parents often don’t want that (yet). I understand where they’re coming from, they’re obviously sad too or scared of mean reactions and comments. But they’re forgetting something important: fear and sadness bring us down even more! Instead, give us courage and support us in making our own decisions. It’s actually a sign of strength when girls embrace the truth and consciously choose to be bald. It’s not an end but a new beginning.

My new beginning started when I was able to stop wasting my energy on faking happiness or keeping it together, and instead I could just be open about my sadness and about my needs. I felt so much better when my friends, family and I started looking for other ways to look good. We went on a nice little trip to the Albert Cuypmarkt for scarves and earrings, we tried on hats, went to the wig specialist to see what options were out there, tried on fake eyelashes and new makeup… By helping me look for different options, these strong women helped me come to terms with myself. It was a lifesaver. I wish everyone could feel that strength.