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'Going bald as a 40-year-old woman was the best thing that ever happened to me' – MSN UK

I found the first patch as I was getting ready for my 40th birthday party in October 2017. As I ran my fingers through my hair, I discovered an area of bare scalp the size of an egg, just above my ear. 
I put on a brave face for the party, but it was absolutely terrifying. Later I went to a doctor, who diagnosed me with alopecia, an autoimmune condition where your body turns on itself and destroys your hair follicles. The GP had no idea what could have triggered it, but suggested it might have been stress. 
I was prescribed steroids in the form of shampoos, tablets and creams. But they did nothing, except make me gain weight so I was even unhappier with my appearance than before. 
My family were so supportive: my husband always told me how beautiful I was, my eight-year-old twins constantly said they loved me, and my parents helped by paying for private medical appointments so I could be seen faster. 
But no matter what anyone did, by December – just two months after I found the first hairless patch – I was completely bald. And not only was the hair on my head gone, it fell out all over my body, including my eyebrows and eyelashes. 
At first, I was completely devastated. I had always struggled with accepting how I look: I’d had my teeth whitened, wore lots of make-up, and had been dieting on and off since I was 17.
I launched myself straight into thinking about how to hide my bald head, worrying about what the other parents in the playground would think. My wonderful grandma bought me a realistic wig, which looked good but felt hot and itchy. I watched videos on YouTube about how to tie headscarves, but when I wore one to the school gates one of the dads shouted at me: “All right, Mystic Meg? Have you come to read our fortunes?” I never wore one again.
I remember that Christmas vividly: my whole family gathered at my aunt’s house. But with so many people there and the heating on, it started to feel very hot under my wig and beads of sweat started to drip down my neck. I looked around the room and saw all the people I care about most, and realised how silly it was that I was making myself uncomfortable to hide how I looked from them. 
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It was nerve-wracking, but I whipped my wig off and instantly felt much more comfortable. And absolutely no-one minded a bit. 
Although that moment gave me a boost of confidence, it was months before I felt able to show my bare head in front of other people. Over the next few months, I was still praying that my hair would grow back, and trying anything I could to make it happen. 
My lowest point was one morning in February 2018, when I looked in the mirror and burst into tears. I got back into bed and lay there sobbing for hours. It felt like everything was spinning out of my control, and I had no say over even my own reflection. I couldn’t get over the fact that I had wasted so much of my life trying to look like models in magazines, and yet here I was without even a strand of hair on my head. It had all been for nothing: all that time, effort and money that I had spent on beauty treatments and exercise classes. 
When I managed to get out of bed, it was like something had clicked. I suddenly realised that I could just stop worrying about my looks. The dream of looking like a perfect woman was well and truly over, so I could just focus on doing things that actually made me happy. 
I realised that I had to be brave in showing my bare head around more people, and not just my family. I decided to debut my new look at dinner at a friend’s house shortly afterwards, and texted her to let her know. 
But halfway there in the car, I realised I had forgotten to bring a bottle of wine, and I would have to stop at a shop. I felt extremely nervous, but as I got out of the car a man looked me up and down and winked at me. I felt oddly pleased: it had been a long time since anyone other than my husband had shown interest like that.
Over the next year or so, my confidence only grew. I started going out with my bare head more and more, until one day I decided to ditch the wig once and for all (although I do have to wear a woolly hat in winter to keep warm). So many other things began to fall into place: with increased confidence, I started to choose the clothes and make-up that I personally liked, rather than what would help me to fade into the background. 
I wanted to share what I had learnt, so I qualified as a coach (www.lizijacksonbarrett.com) so I could help other women to become more confident, and I wrote a book called How to Feel Beautiful. This work is so fulfilling to me, and not something I would ever have done had I never lost my hair.
My children are now 12, and I am so proud to be showing them how to feel confident in their own skin. I’m short, fat and bald and I feel beautiful, so why shouldn’t they? 
Of course, some people do still find it odd. I’ve had strangers assuming I’m going through chemotherapy and asking me how long I’ve got left. Once a little boy in a supermarket thought I was a character from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and asked to see inside my mouth to check whether I had blue spit. I was more than happy to comply. 
The doctors have never found a solution to my alopecia. Only a small patch ever regrew on the back of my head, which I have to shave off. Honestly, with everything that has happened, I hope my hair never grows back. I am so much happier without it.
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