WHEN THE DIAGNOSIS COMES, LEARN HOW TO SUPPORT A SPOUSE WHO HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH ALOPECIA AREATA.
In our society hair is a sign of youth and vitality — which makes losing your hair a stigma most would choose to live without. Alopecia areata is really the black sheep of the alopecia family because it creates the most frustrating of all hair loss — loss that appears in patches.
When a spouse or partner is diagnosed with Alopecia areata, one’s initial reaction might be gratitude that this was not a symptom of something far greater or life-threatening. Yet its chronic, indiscriminate arrival, departure and return leave a person always knowing an uninvited guest may pop in at any given moment. This will tend to wreak havoc on a person’s mental and emotional state, especially for women. A man can choose to shave his head to create a look. Women, on the other hand, generally are not afforded that same luxury in our society. It’s often assumed that a woman who is bald is more than likely ill.
Couples who have dealt with this issue prior to becoming a couple are generally more likely to rise to the challenges because they existed upfront. When seemingly healthy couples are faced with something neither one originally signed up for, well, it starts to get a little tricky. The key is developing some strategies and tools that can support spouses or partners who have received the frustrating news from their health care professional.
Living together with Alopecia areata
- Education. Once the diagnosis is made, join forces as a team to find out everything you can about Alopecia areata. There are a variety of treatments, though not a one-size-fits-all by any stretch of the imagination. Seek out alternative modalities, both Eastern and Western, and see if there isn’t a combination of the two that can be supportive. Doing this jointly is a real sign of “I’ve got your back” and that you’re in this together.
- Seeking treatment is not something you want your spouse or partner to do alone. Do what you can to attend any doctor appointments and treatment sessions, even if it means sitting in the waiting room and reading a book.
- Discuss options that exist beyond medical choices. These include wearing wigs or scarves, shaving your head, or simply covering it up or over. Much depends on the size of the patch and its location.
- When we see ourselves as losing our youth and vitality, we assume that our spouse or partner sees us that same way. Be willing to keep the communication open and flowing. If your spouse or partner accuses you of not being attracted to her because of her condition, don’t try to defend yourself. Instead opt to be empathetic, reflecting back what she’s sharing with you, and the accompanying feelings. First assuring her you can empathize allows you to comfort and respond from your own heart that nothing could be further from the truth.
- Consider counseling. Support your partner in getting some outside support; also suggest that you be included as he feels comfortable in you doing so. This takes away the sting that this is his problem and he had better do something about it. Instead it’s a challenge you face together.
- Seek out ways to laugh about it. It may seem easier said than done, but I find that the couples who can laugh together more often stay together. Discovering perspective in all of this is crucial so that you don’t begin to find yourself slowly disconnecting from each other.
- Create check-in moments to talk about how you’re both feeling. It’s important that each of you knows that feelings don’t have a shelf life or an expiration date. They can come and go, and they are always welcome. Creating this space is crucial for the relationship to continue to thrive.
- Alopecia areata may be chronic, but it doesn’t pay your rent or mortgage. Don’t give it the power to run, or ruin, your relationship just because it shows up whenever it wants. Your relationship is between the two of you. When you operate as a team, Alopecia areata simply becomes a bump in the road that together you face head-on.
This may be happening to your spouse or partner’s body, but the greatest treatment starts from a place of “we” — the knowing that the lifting and healing power of two is twice the strength that any one person can generate alone.