Fearless in Seattle was the theme for the 34th Annual National Alopecia Areata Conference and my first EVER conference. When I heard the theme I initially laughed at the pun since 'Sleepless in Seattle' is one of my favorite movies ever. I NEVER imagined that this theme would completely fill my heart, body and soul. I was beyond excited to attend my first conference but nerves and fear started to take over as the conference drew closer. I was so worried that I would be an outsider being surrounded by so many others with Alopecia who are strong and confident as they are rocking the bald dome. I wasn't there yet in my journey. I still walk out in public with my head covered because my anxiety controls by mind and body with the mere thought of going out in public bald. Posting a picture of myself bald is one thing, but actually walking the walk is a COMPLETELY different story.
As my mom and I checked into the hotel a day early so we could venture around downtown Seattle and Pike Place I started to realize that I am not alone. A feeling I feel all too often walking around the mall or the grocery store wearing a hat to cover my head. People
constantly looking at me or just the mere feeling that they are. . . I soon discovered there were others JUST LIKE ME! People of ALL ages, genders and ethnicities. A sense of calmness took over and I started to feel 'at home.' There were SO many people wearing wigs, hats and/or rocking the bald dome. I thought I would feel out of place wearing my hat, but I was exactly in the right place. When I finally was in a good place in my journey of Alopecia and decided to start Googling about the autoimmune disease is when I discovered the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Never in my wildest dreams did I EVER imagine that this foundation would completely change my life. The NAAF has empowered me to live my best life hair or no hair. It has given me a purpose in life. . . to inspire others that regardless what battle they are facing they ARE STRONG ENOUGH to to get through it. We are ALL fighting something. . . some of our battle just happen to be visible. This is both a strength and weakness. I can't completely hide and I am finally learning that this is OKAY. I have learned that I NEED others to help give me the strength to believe in myself and fight every day. We canNOT do this alone. I met SO many amazing people over the few days at the conference that inspired my beyond belief. . . those who have areata, totaloris or universalis, parents of other Alopecians, some who I have followed on Instagram for a while, others who I just met that day. Some who have had it almost their entire life while others just lost in the past few years like myself. PLUS, I finally had the opportunity to meet all the wonderful people that work for the foundation to make it truly the life changing foundation it is.
I woke up on the second day of the conference and went to go workout. As I was working out
I kept thinking to myself, "today is the day." Today is the day that I am going to leave my room without wearing a hat or a wig. I was in the right place to feel 100% comfortable doing it. When in Rome, right? Now I am not going to lie. . . my anxiety was through the roof as I walked down the hallway towards the elevator. And OFCOURSE the elevator stopped at EVERY floor on the way down. I thought I was going to throw up. But I kept my head held high, said hello to everyone as they walked onto the elevator and kept my composure. . . As I walked off the elevator towards that Grand Ballroom for the Orientation Session I saw a few people I had met the day before who asked me where my hat was. I told them "it's in my purse" and they immediately gave me a huge hug. This reassurance gave me more strength that you could ever imagine.
Because of the NAAF, all the wonderful, life changing people that I met throughout the
conference and the support of my family and friends back home I continued the rest of the conference rocking the bald dome. I truly felt fearless. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me a home and purpose. I am forever grateful for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation and I can't wait for the 35th Annual Conference in Washington D.C. next year!! Find your tribe. I hope I can be apart of it! To learn more information on the NAAF visit www.naaf.org!