Melbourne woman with alopecia opens up about hair loss

2 months ago kakp2 Comments Off on Melbourne woman with alopecia opens up about hair loss

Stefanie Hodgson has never really known what it is like to have long hair.

The 20-year-old Melbourne woman was diagnosed with alopecia at six years old and spent years grieving the loss of what she described as her ‘femininity and identity’.

Her mother first noticed Stefanie was going bald after finding a patch while doing her hair before school – and it took another six years for it to completely shed.

‘As a 12-year-old to watch your own hair fall out so painfully slowly… it was tortuous,’ Stefanie told Daily Mail Australia.

Stefanie Hodgson (pictured) was diagnosed with alopecia when her hair started falling out at the age of six

Stefanie Hodgson (pictured) was diagnosed with alopecia when her hair started falling out at the age of six

Stefanie Hodgson (pictured) was diagnosed with alopecia when her hair started falling out at the age of six

The 20-year-old says she suffered years of denial and hiding in 'shame' during high school

The 20-year-old says she suffered years of denial and hiding in 'shame' during high school

The 20-year-old says she suffered years of denial and hiding in ‘shame’ during high school

‘It was so hard for my mental health because hair is so associated with your identity and femininity.’

During puberty, Stefanie says losing her hair was the hardest pill to swallow.  

The then-teenager felt like she was followed by images of long-haired models who she simply couldn’t relate to.

‘Having alopecia in this beauty-orientated world is very challenging. I was and am so noticeably different,’ she said. 

But while Stefanie opened up about the turmoil of living without hair, she also says her struggles have been a ‘blessing in disguise’ in many regards.

The ‘shame’ and ‘secrecy’ she felt obliged to hide behind during her high school years is no longer a barrier to being herself.

During puberty, Stefanie says losing her hair was the hardest pill to swallow (Pictured in a wig)

During puberty, Stefanie says losing her hair was the hardest pill to swallow (Pictured in a wig)

During puberty, Stefanie says losing her hair was the hardest pill to swallow (Pictured in a wig)

The then-teenager felt like she was followed by images of long-haired models who she simply couldn't relate to (Pictured before total hair loss)

The then-teenager felt like she was followed by images of long-haired models who she simply couldn't relate to (Pictured before total hair loss)

The then-teenager felt like she was followed by images of long-haired models who she simply couldn’t relate to (Pictured before total hair loss)

While Stefanie opened up about the turmoil of living without hair, she also says her struggles have been a 'blessing in disguise' in many regards (Pictured middle)

While Stefanie opened up about the turmoil of living without hair, she also says her struggles have been a 'blessing in disguise' in many regards (Pictured middle)

While Stefanie opened up about the turmoil of living without hair, she also says her struggles have been a ‘blessing in disguise’ in many regards (Pictured middle)

‘During school I felt so much shame, but in year 11 I decided to put on a presentation about alopecia for my peers to show them who I really was,’ she said.

‘I felt like there was a whole other person banging on my rib cage trying to get out.’ 

Also suffering from chronic fatigue, Stefanie has harnessed her medical anxieties and turned them into a career.

She now works as a motivational speaker and storyteller and recently featured in a virtual reality video series where she spoke about confidence.

‘Having a sense of purpose has kept me so buoyant,’ Stefanie said.

Also suffering from chronic fatigue, Stefanie has harnessed her medical anxieties and turned them into a career

Also suffering from chronic fatigue, Stefanie has harnessed her medical anxieties and turned them into a career

Also suffering from chronic fatigue, Stefanie has harnessed her medical anxieties and turned them into a career

Stefanie (pictured) now works as a motivational speaker and storyteller and recently featured in a virtual reality video series where she spoke about confidence

Stefanie (pictured) now works as a motivational speaker and storyteller and recently featured in a virtual reality video series where she spoke about confidence

Stefanie (pictured) now works as a motivational speaker and storyteller and recently featured in a virtual reality video series where she spoke about confidence

‘I’ve always needed to feel worthwhile in my worst moments and when I’ve been my sickest, so being able to be listened to and to share my stories is amazing.’

Stefanie’s reservations over embracing baldness have also been made easier by a selection of wigs which she wears according to her mood.

‘I have an entire wardrobe for my hair… scarves, wigs, hats. It’s a way of expressing myself,’ she said.

‘My wigs are kind of like my mood ring. Sometimes my friends see me out wearing something new and they don’t even recognise me!’

The young woman now wants to help inspire others who are grappling with health, self-esteem and confidence issues.

Stefanie's reservations over embracing baldness have also been made easier by a selection of wigs which she wears according to her mood

Stefanie's reservations over embracing baldness have also been made easier by a selection of wigs which she wears according to her mood

Stefanie’s reservations over embracing baldness have also been made easier by a selection of wigs which she wears according to her mood

The young woman now wants to help inspire others who are grappling with health, self-esteem and confidence issues

The young woman now wants to help inspire others who are grappling with health, self-esteem and confidence issues

The young woman now wants to help inspire others who are grappling with health, self-esteem and confidence issues

She is planning to launch a business gathering a collection of speakers, artists and other sources of inspiration at empower young people and use stories as ‘agents of change’.

‘If I knew what I knew now, I would never have felt so isolated and ashamed growing up,’ Stefanie adds.

‘I wish I could go back and tell my younger self: “You are not the only one feeling thing way”.’

Sophie chronicles her journey on Instagram and welcomes any speaking enquiries at her email address stefhodgson10@gmail.com.