AN inspirational Limavady girl, who has been living with hair loss for five years, has spoken out about her experience, living with a condition that has completely changed her life as well as her appearance.
Following a trip to the hairdressers,Emily McClelland, 21, was alerted to the discovery of a tiny bald patch at the back of her head.
She told the Northern Constitution: “Because of where it was, I wouldn't have seen it myself so I wasn't too bothered about it at the start.”
However, following a visit to the doctors a month later, Emily was given the shocking diagnosis of alopecia at just sixteen years old.
Alopecia, also known as spot baldness, is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.
Often it results in a few bald spots on the scalp, each about the size of a coin.
Emily recalled: “I remember sitting in my bedroom googling more information about it and then being in hysterics to my mum crying because I didn’t want to be completely bald, I wouldn’t suit it and I didn’t want to wear a wig - I just really didn’t want to have it at all.”
She continued: “The doctor said it could most likely be stress related which made sense as I had also found out I was anaemic and I would let myself get very stressed out for no reason.”
Following her diagnosis, distressed Emily began searching for home remedies in a bid to prevent any further hair loss.
She went on to say: “I tried everything from eating an onion to rubbing a lemon on my head - my granda also swore that iodine cured it but obviously nothing ever worked.”
Just recently, n a bid to beat her condition, brave Emily took the plunge and decided to shave her head.
“It got to the stage where my hair was coming out in my hands and would be lying on the pillow when I woke up in the morning,” explained Emily.
“I didn’t want to feel like my alopecia was something that was in control of me and how I felt so when it got to the stage where I had to wear a hat everywhere I went, I demanded to my mum to shave off whatever hair I had left - that way I wasn’t left wondering if it would get better or worse, it could only get better from there.”
According to Emily, who is also a self taught make-up artist, her skills in beauty have helped her to overcome her alopecia.
She told the Northern Constitution: “I have always loved make-up from no age and just kind of fell down that route without meaning to - however I find good wigs so hard to come across, and for a proper wig it can be a few hundred pounds.
“Wigs are all different and some of them don’t feel comfortable on at all - sometimes I have to glue them down which is so bad for my skin but it gives me the confidence to know that it won’t fall off.”
Since commencing her blog, Emily has served as an inspiration for many young people living with alopecia and has received immense support from the community even making friends that write to her daily, keeping Emily up to date with their condition.
She said: “Because I have come to terms with it and a lot of people haven’t yet, I want to be able to help others.
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“People are now coming to me for advice and I love that because I want people to know they shouldn’t feel sorry for me.
“ I love people being able to ask me questions about it, there’s nothing I won’t answer.”
When asked about the advice she would give to someone who has just been diagnosed with alopecia or is currently living with the condition, Emily advised:
“Let yourself be annoyed about it and feel sorry for yourself but don’t let it last too long.
“Give yourself a shake and see the positives such as not spending a fortune at the hairdressers.”
She continued: “If you find yourself struggling, I am more than happy to talk to anyone, may that be for one day or even over a few weeks.
“ I would just love to help more people even if that is just for a chat.”
According to brave Emily, she is determined to beat the condition which once made her miserable.
She continued: “Only recently my eyelashes and eyebrows have fell out - I feel like I would have been devastated at that happening, but I just kind of took it in my stride as it happens.
Emily concluded: “Anyone who does have it, obviously wont want to show it like I did for the first few years but I think I just learnt to deal with it over time as there’s no point getting stressed over something I can’t do anything about.”