From South Korea, With Love

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How cool is this?

Lisa contacted me to do something a bit out-of-the-box. She’s been seeing a therapist for a few issues, one of which is her hair loss. Her therapist suggested she do something different to help her cope—her “different” is sharing her story with all of you.

I don’t know about you, but, quite frankly, I’m flattered!

Lisa and I have a lot in common, and I’m sure many of you will relate to her story. For me, I completely identified with her belief that birth control caused her hair loss. I also experienced major hair loss while pregnant (boo!).

Have a read through her story and let us know what you think in the comments section, below.

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Hello, my name is Lisa and I wanted to share my story with you.

I am a military spouse and mother of a wonderful three year old boy. I am also a hair loss sufferer. I have been seeing a therapist for almost a year now to deal with my depression and anxiety over a variety of issues, including the trauma of hair loss. During my most recent session, I complained to the therapist that I was not feeling any better despite the hours of therapy I have undergone.

His response still resonates with me.

He said:

Sometimes it is not a matter of feeling better. Sometimes it is just about feeling and acting differently.

He likes to start his sessions with a basic question: “what are you doing differently.” Most of the time my response is, “not much.”

I guess I just keep waiting for my problems to go away. Maybe I am hoping one morning I will wake up and my hair will have magically grown back overnight. Well, suffice it to say, that’s not happening. I think it is finally time I start doing something different. So this morning I decided I would write about what has happened to me and find some way to share it with the world.

I hope that by sharing my story I will help at least one person to feel and act differently, even if it is just to feel like they are not alone.

So here it goes!

I have been through hair loss twice in my life. Yes, you read that right. TWICE!

The first time was in my early thirties. I had been on the birth control pill for many years. I curse the day I ever opened that first pack. I have read lots of hair loss stories and one common denominator I have seen is the birth control pill. Doctors hand them out like candy and really seem to have no clue the problems they cause. Unfortunately, many women, myself included, know all too well the havoc those stupid pills can wreck on your life.

I think I lost hair the whole time I was on them.

When I look back at pictures of myself, I can see how the hair on top of my head slowly thinned over the years. However, the loss I experienced on the pill was nothing compared to what happened when I stopped taking it.

My hair practically melted off my head in a matter of six months.

I still remember the day I saw that first patch of scalp in the mirror. I was NEVER the same after that.

Like most women who go through hair loss, I was in a full-on panic.

I went to every kind of doctor I could think of: gynecologist, dermatologist, endocrinologist. I went to see several “hair loss” experts. I spent so much time crying in doctors’ offices and giving blood.

The only thing that came back abnormal was my thyroid. I found out I had Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid (I blame the pill for that too!!).

I went back and forth for years, trying different medications, different shampoos. I tried Spirolactone for a year. I even went back on the pill for a while, hoping it would fix things. I was on and off thyroid medicine.

Nothing seemed to help.

Finally, five years after going off the pill, my hair slowly started to regrow. I could see tons of regrowth all over my head and my sparse hair began to fill in a little at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, I never regained the hair of my twenties.

It was probably 80% back to normal and that’s pretty much where it stayed for several years. The top was much thinner and the hair at my right temple never grew back.

But, I felt like I had enough hair to feel “normal” again.

Things began to change again in my late thirties.

I met my husband and love of my life. I got pregnant at age 39 and was thrilled!

Everyone always says your hair gets thick and wonderful during pregnancy and so I was looking forward to having plenty of good hair days.

Boy was that a load of crap!

My hair began shedding like crazy and didn’t stop the whole first trimester. I was devastated once again.

I complained to my doctors but no one listened. They just chalked it up to all the pregnancy hormones. I spent the first three months of my pregnancy freaked out about my hair instead of enjoying such a special time in my life.

Eventually, the shedding stabilized.

By the time I entered my third trimester, the hair loss had almost completely stopped (like maybe one or two a day in my hair brush).

As my due date approached, I was very worried about the postpartum loss.

Sure enough, the first shower after having my son, my hair started shedding like crazy. It settled down after a few months and seemed to go back to my pre-pregnancy shedding. I guess I am lucky that I didn’t get a horrible shed after giving birth. Maybe I am just one of those who loses more hair in pregnancy than after.

Who knows?

By the time my son was six months old, my hair seemed normal again.

Fast forward to my early forties and once again, hair loss has reared its ugly head!

After my son was born, my husband and I tried very hard for baby number two. We tried many different fertility medications.

I lost three pregnancies in just over a year.

I also moved to South Korea with my husband who is in the military. The environment and water quality here is just terrible. Lots of pollution and hard water.

Talk about a perfect storm of hormonal fluctuation, stress and bad environment! I was here for maybe six months when I noticed my hair thinning again.

On top of the shedding and loss, my remaining hair became dry, brittle and frizzy from the hard water and toxins.

I was surprised how quickly I fell back in a deep depression over my hair.

I did the usual round of doctor visits again but no one had a solution.

I did find one dermatologist who seemed to care a little. He did a scalp biopsy and sent it to a colleague back home in the States.

The results were consistent with Telogen Effluvium.

No signs of miniaturization, just too many hairs in the shedding phase.

Doctor said that was “good news” and sent me on my way.

Well, I really don’t care what kind of label you put on it. My hair is falling out and it is not coming back!

I started pumping myself full of vitamins in hopes it would help. I even changed my thyroid medicine from Synthroid (a known cause of hair loss in some women) to a natural thyroid drug like the one I took in my thirties.

Things actually got worse on the new drug.

I was all set to switch back to my old medicine when I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time in less than two years.

Of course I am thrilled to be pregnant and this one seems to have taken. I am almost eleven weeks along and things are going well.

But once again, pregnancy is wrecking my already thin hair. I am shedding like crazy and I can see more and more scalp each week that goes by.

I sat in my OB’s office yesterday in tears but he said there was nothing to be done and that it was probably just hormones again.

So here I am, pregnant and losing my hair for the second time in my life.

I know I should stay focused on the positive and not let this get the best of me again.

My husband has a really hard time understanding why this is affecting me so badly.

He has been to war and seen people killed.

He says I have to find a way to get through this.

He says if a person can find a way to be happy in life after losing an arm or a leg, then I should be able to find a way to get through life with hair loss.

Deep down I know he is right.

I am not dying of cancer like many people I know. I can put on a wig and get on with life. But somehow I still struggle with this situation.

I tell my husband that when you lose a leg or an arm, it is usually instant. Unless you have some rare flesh eating bacteria or something similar, you normally don’t lose a limb one tiny piece at a time.

Something bad happens and it is gone. Just like that.

You have no choice but to deal with it in that moment.

With hair loss, it is different.

For most of us, we lose our hair slowly and painfully.

Every day I watch in anguish as handfuls fall out in the shower, in the comb, in my brushes and on the floor after styling.

It’s like a slow, painful torture.

When I try to explain this to my husband he just says he will get the clippers out right then and solve my problem. All my hair can be gone in minutes he says and then I will just have to deal with it.

Honestly, his solution sounds more and more tempting each day.

If I were back in the States and had better access to wigs and hair pieces, I would have done it a long time ago.

Being stuck in South Korea, I don’t have too many options for hair replacement other than the internet. It’s not like I can walk into a salon over here and ask for help. Most of the stylists don’t speak much English and I don’t think they would be much use in helping me find a wig.

I did order a wig and a topper online but they will take weeks to get here and then I may not like them. The restocking fees on those items are just ridiculous!

Luckily, my husband and I are going back to the States in September. There are several nice wig shops near where we will be living and I am hoping I can make it until then.

I never thought I would be able to bring myself to wear a wig or hair piece.

I am so thankful to Lauren and her blog for giving me hope that a hair piece may finally give me some peace.

I am so tired of agonizing about my thinning hair. It’s exhausting and robs me of my life.

I spend more time thinking about my hair than my family and that is just wrong.

That’s not what life is supposed to be about.

I know deep down I will always be sad about my hair loss.

But I hope that someday, I can find some peace and acceptance with it and get on with my life.

28 thoughts on “From South Korea, With Love”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story Lisa. I think you’re right about it being an excruciatingly slow process. I’ve been tempted by the clippers too and sometimes think it would give me some control back, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Finding Lauren’s blog has been life changing for me. To know that other people are going through the same thing and can deal with it on a practical level, even making it a little fun, has made me feel less anxious about it all. I know how desperate I used to feel and although that probably never goes away completely, over time you are able to learn how to deal with it better.
    It does make me a little sad that some people on here are judging other people’s comments. Emotions like these can make you feel and say things you don’t necessarily mean, but we should be able to say them here without judgement. If not here, then where?
    And eternal thanks to Lauren for being a star!

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  2. Hang in there!! I have noticed a lot of loss in the past few years, especially compounded when I see pictures of myself from 6-7 years ago. It is totally depressing. One woman once wrote (about hair loss) that we all have different levels of what we can put up with/accept/etc with our hair situations. Whatever solution that you find makes you most comfortable, do that. I really hope you like the helper hair coming your way. I think it will help your mind a lot too. It did for me. I don’t spend hours on my hair masking the thinness anymore, I just throw on a topper and out I go. Some days I think wearing hair is kind of a weird thing, and then I remember that it is just a solution that works for me. Some people get Botox, tummy tucks, wear loads of make up, whatever! I just wear hair and that’s no different than any other sort of cosmetic enhancement. We are here to support you! You aren’t alone!

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  3. Hi everybody, I’m a total newbie here but have been reading and digesting this site for the past week or two. I’ve started shedding about 1 year ago and the past 2 months have been full of fear, feeling lost and helpless, and worry that’s different from the other trials I’ve experienced.

    The parts of this post that most resonate with me are living with the anxiety of what’s happening, feeling like I’m in a place geographically (in the US though) without resources, and the particular kind of hell that comes from the day-in, day-out process of losing one’s hair. I do feel there is a certain kind of pain about this, and I’ve been trying to figure out what it’s about (which hasn’t really helped my suffering, but I’m trying to find a way through what’s going on). First of all, it feels like a punishment, like being branded somehow for everyone to see, and it also feels like I’ve been given this huge sign that something is terribly wrong in my body and I didn’t see it coming, don’t know how to fix it, etc. It’s a constant reminder that something is wrong.

    I’ve been dealing with chronic illness for a long time but it never really touched my hair. I’m angry that after all I’ve been through, when I need to do basic things, that my ability to pass as normal has now been taken away too. I miss the privacy of my difficulties not being for everyone to see. I’m not a superficial person so I know this isn’t all about looks or perceptions, but this hits somewhere else that I haven’t been able to name yet.

    I’m really glad I found this site and It’s so helpful just to “hear” these conversations and know there are smart & safe places to talk about it freely.

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  4. Lisa, thanks so much for being brave and speaking out to share your story in all its honesty. Noone can judge us for how we feel and I can totally relate to many of the things you’ve expressed; the panic, the disappointment, the sadness and for me the feeling of being stuck – something has to change. I’ve been trying to find my happy hair replacement for about a year now and I must say, it has not been as easy as I thought. There are a lot of choices out there but it seems I have made some bad ones.

    I hope you find a way to move on and relish what is precious in life.

    I totally get where your husband is coming from. My husband has made the ‘shave it off comments’ too. One, this comes from wanting to provide a solution for me – most problems I present him with he figures he’s expected to come up with a solution, a fix. Two, he’s trying to express how much he loves me anyway, hair or not. Three, he hates seeing me with such sadness. Four, he’s also been a trouper and got on a plane, yes a plane, to go wig shopping with me. My husband has now come to realize that what I really want for him is support, listening, hugs, etc. There’s no way he can fix this for me. Heck, if doctors can’t, why should he? It took a while for him to come around to realizing he didn’t need to be offering me solutions like ‘why don’t you shave’ but more of the ‘hold my hand when I’m scared’.

    Good luck Lisa. Hope you can keep us posted.

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    • Bayareagirl – would you mind sharing where you’ve looked for supplemental hair? I’m in the Bay Area as well and am wondering about my options.

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  5. Hello, this is Lisa. I replied to some of the comments individually but wanted to leave a general comment on my own. First, thanks for all the kind words of support. I truly appreciate it. Second, I am sorry if my words made some think my husband is not sensitive and supportive. He is the most loving and supportive husband I could hope for. He only tries to get me to see that hair is not as important as life and being with family and that he will love me with or without hair. Third, as for some of the harsher comments in response to my story, I will just say that we are all entitled to our feelings and my point was just to share how I felt not to make an argument why I was justified in feeling that way. I know life could suck a whole lot more and I think that was the point I was trying to get across in the end. . Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to ready my story and respond!!

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  6. Hi Lisa…I can totally relate to your story! I’m also in Seoul, South Korea…and feel so lost here! The doctors here don’t speak English or even try to understand the problem! And the water sucks here…I never knew how the water could affect my hair. If you need to talk or looking for someone who understands…just email me.

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  7. Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it helped you feel empowered and helps you on your journey to peace.

    After all, we are all here looking for support, understanding, or perhaps an avenue to make us feel like ourselves again. We are all searching for something or we would not be here reading this.

    Thanks Lauren for all you do for more ladies than you will ever know.

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    • Tiffany, beautiful comment! Thank you for that, and I concur!

      Lisa, much love is going out to you. You have a whole “sisterhood” here!

      And Lauren, continued thanks…just thanks 🙂

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    • Thanks! It did make me feel better to share my story and to read some of the comments from folks going through similar situations

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  8. Wow I can relate with you lisa. I feel your pain. I have two kids and also been suffering with hair loss. For me I have yet to find the cause. Doctors look at you like your crazy. And when I was pregnant with my first child I also lost hair during then after. I blame the fertility drugs but when I got pregnant a second time without them I didn’t know what to think, perhaps it was the birth control pills I had to taken when I was trying to conceive the first time as instructed by my doctor. I’m not sure. My baby was born last year in June. After the 4th month it began again the shedding, at time it seems to slow all down a bit,but it’s still shedding. My baby is almost a year n I’m hoping it’ll stop soon. I see baby hairs growing, I hope I’m just seeing the end of this. I have bald spots n it’s embrassing. The worse part is that I have no one to talk to.im not close with my sisters n one even insulted me regarding this very problem. I was hurt n couldn’t believe she would do that. Knowing very well What I was going through.
    Well I just had to comment. Stay strong. 🙂

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  9. Girl I feel your pain! I didn’t actually notice my hair loss until after my second daughter was born, but I was DEVASTATED! Hair to women is almost vital, which in reality is ridiculous, but it’s the truth. Us women love our hair, spend hours and hundreds of dollars on it, where as men on the majority don’t really care too much, and most of them figure they’ll lose it when they get older anyway.

    I researched and went to all of the different doctors and tried the vitamins, etc etc. Though I’ve drawn a line at medications and things like Rogaine. Nothing was working and eventually I was drawing the conclusion that this is just Adrogenetic Alopecia (I’m losing my hair due to genetics basically) and had to accept the fact that nothing I did would or will grow my hair back.

    Admittedly part of what helped me get over my hair loss (which is currently happening, I have maybe half of my hair still but I notice more is gone every day) is other medical issues that popped up that were far more stressful than my hair. But what really did finally help is when I set my mind to the fact that eventually I would wear wigs all the time. I made a conscious decision that that is what I would do and immediately felt relief. Right now I can still get away with hair products, but my guess is by winter I’ll need to have found a wig I like. I still have some major worries (what will I look like when I take it off every night? what will I do when I want to swim? etc etc) but I’m glad I’ve decided and I think once you get an opportunity to find a good wig you’re going to feel so much better. 100%? Probably not for some time, it’s a process, but I’m betting you’ll get there. You’re being proactive and that is great!
    Having a supportive husband helped too, but he also had a few tough love moments similar to your husbands. No I’m not dying, there are worse things, none of that helps us feel better though. BUT! The fact that he doesn’t care if you’re bald is AWESOME!! Could he have been a little gentler and more understanding? Definitely, but if he still loves you and thinks you’re still the sexy wife he married then thats what counts! 😀
    I’m really glad you’ve shared your story, because I’ve started being very open to family and friends about my hair loss and what I plan to do about it and it’s really helped. I don’t feel like I have to hide it or constantly worry about if they can tell or not.
    I’m sure I’m still going to have more crying bouts and days that I am just oh so down about it, but hopefully when we both find the wigs that work best for us we’ll find our confidence returning and along with that our happiness and ability to really enjoy life!

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  10. It’s so sad to me that we as women place such importance on our hair. I completely understand why, society is what it is. It just makes me sad. I wish that it didn’t make us feel like we’re less of a person because we don’t fit society’s standards. I broke down and had an extremely emotional conversation with my guy and his response was a dream come true. First of all, he said that he couldn’t even tell my hair was fake (lol) yay for Lauren and her tips! And second, he said that there was nothing I could tell him that would change how he feels about me. Who knows about the future…but for now I’m glad he supports me, understands, empathizes and at the end of the day.. doesn’t care! I too saw her husbands actions as sensitive. He’s saying he doesn’t care what her hair looks like. That’s how I took it at least.
    As far as pregnancy and genetics, idk it scares me. I don’t know about how it’s passed on to kids from the mother. I don’t care about shedding during pregnancy though, at this point I’m not holding on to too much anyways 🙂 that all remains to be seen i guess.
    Thank you for being brave and sharing your story with us!

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  11. I have been reading this blog for a while now and I have to say that parts of this story and a few of the comments afterwards have made me sick. I can not even believe that people here think that hair loss is comparable to death or loss of a limb. I only hope that people were extremely upset when they wrote that and looking back can see how silly and somewhat offensive it is. Maybe it’s because I’ve been losing hair since I was a teen (yes, a teen) that I’m more comfortable with what I don’t have and grateful for what I do. I’ve never had beautiful hair so perhaps I’ll just never know what it’s like to have something like that taken away. But because I have been dealing with this for so long (over 10 years, I’m only in my 20s!) I think I may have a bit of insight. Believe me, I have had those days where I looked in the mirror and cried. But those days are getting fewer and fewer because I’ve stopped caring. It’s not something I can change, there’s nothing I can do. Here’s what you can do: Love yourself. See yourself through other’s eyes. Hair is only one part of us; think about all the other traits that make you who you are, like your smile, your laugh, your personality. We are not our hair. The world does not judge us for our hair, even if you think it does (I managed to get into a good college and find someone who loves me “even if I were completely bald” he says). And we are clearly not alone in going through this.

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  12. Thank you Lisa! Our experiences are so very similar. I too am pregnant,16 weeks and the 1st trimester shed stopped about 3 weeks ago. Yay!

    I hope you do consider wearing a topper or wig. It was life changing for me. I no longer cry or have anxiety every time I venture outside the house (without a hat on). I know my hair is extremely thin, but once my topper is on I don’t give it any thought. I just move on with my day. And it makes doing my hair so so much faster and easier.

    Best wishes to you and thank you for sharing your story. Like Lauren, in sharing your stories you help us feel like we’re not so alone with these struggles.

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    • Thanks so much for your encouragement! I am hoping this shed will slow down soon. I remember it was right after my first trimester that the shedding slowed down. Only a few more weeks to go (hopefully!!!!!)

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  13. I’m only 22 & I’ve been suffering from hair loss since I was 20 (also from birth control). I’ve already made the decision not to have kids just because I know it will make my hair worse, when the time comes I’m going to adopt (I have a major phobia of pregnancy anyway).

    I think hair loss is such a difficult issue to deal with, more so than seeing someone die or losing a limb, because it effects who you are/how you feel down to your core. If you loose an arm, you’re still you. When you lose your hair, you don’t feel like you, your outside doesn’t reflect your inside and that really messes with you head. Anything else you can face, because you’re yourself. But when you lose yourself, it’s hard to deal with anything, if that makes any sense at all.

    Guys don’t really understand because they mostly have short hair and don’t place as much emphasis on their looks as we women do. All I can say is, helper hair/toppers/wigs have saved my life. It takes a lottt of experimenting, but I would never go out with my natural hair looking the way it does. I look a million times better with the wigs. I never thought I would wear a wig either, but I actually can blend it with what’s left of my bio hair to make it look nearly undetectable, even to me.

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    • I would much rather give up all of my hair than my arm or leg and I would give up my arm AND leg rather than seeing someone close to me die (which happens in war I believe). My indentity is not that connected to my hair or any part of my body for that matter, I am me with or without hair. I dont feel good about myself with my thin hair, I dont feel pretty but that can be resolved with supplemental hair.
      I think most women with hair loss tend to make light of other problems or even the same problem in men. It is difficult for men too. But lets be honest – its just hair. Its dead and loosing it is not the end of the world, though it may seem like it at first.

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  14. I am disgusted at how horribly insensitive Lisa’s husband is towards her. I’m sure we’ve all been shrugged off by docs who don’t know how to help us or are indifferent to our situation, but by YOUR HUSBAND!?? My husband would never be so cruel to me, especially over my hair loss. This was a sad story. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sorry that people have lost their limbs in battle, it’s tragic, however when you are married, you should have more feelings for your spouse (and children) over anyone else. Hair loss is a serious issue. People have committed desperate acts of suicide over self image, some of them even children. I believe the reason I am handling my hair loss well is because of my supportive husband (I have bad days where I cry out of frustration, and he is always there to pick me up). Lauren has shown many times that she has a supportive husband as well. Perhaps the reason Lisa’s therapy is not helping her is because the “therapy” she truly needs is empathy from her husband… Best of luck to you, honey. One day it will get better. 🙂

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    • I read it from a different way, Patti. I see it as someone who is breaking it down into terms he understands, and applying logic that way. He just sounds like a very pragmatic person, who sees things in black and white.

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      • A man who tells his wife he will get out the clippers and solve her problem is not pragmatic. He’s insensitive. That is cruel.

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        • I too interpretted that completely differently! I thought he was saying I love you with or without hair, let’s get rid of it, wear supplement hair and keep on keeping on! I didn’t see it as insensitive.

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          • I read it the same as Lauren and I was cheering his response as I read it. I thought he sounded fabulous and supportive.

          • Hi ladies, I feel like my husband would respond exactly the same way as Lisa’s. How Lisa’s husband reacted really resonated with me, because my husband absolutely hates how obsessed I get with my hair loss, and he tells me that I look beautiful pretty much every day (with or without a topper). I always get excited when I hear about other women whose husbands understand and encourage them through this terrible hair loss ordeal (sometimes it’s tough love, other times it’s just being there). I honestly feel these husbands deserve a medal for who they are– they are the unsung heroes of our stories, because generally, they have to keep everything we go through a secret, out of respect for us. Yay for awesome husbands, who love us no matter what we look like!

    • Hi Patti. I can see how some may read my story and think my husband insensitive. He is actually the most loving, supportive husband. He would do anything to fix my hair situation for me but there is nothing he can do and it kills him to see me so unhappy. He just wants me to be strong and try to find the good things in life. As for shaving my head, he just wants me to know that he will love me bald or with hair…it does not matter to him.

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  15. I have exactly the same condition as you, after spending thousands on specialists etc, I am on Armor Thyroid as underactive, diagnosed 5yrs ago. Feeling better but continually losing hair, using regaine and viviscal, as yet no effect, on 2nd month. I have a hunch there could be a connection to adrenals but no doctors tend to explore this, high levels of stress are the triggers etc which could def link with the adrenals, try Stop the Thyroid Madness website, they are very good, but results are extremely slow it is like a long process to balance the body and numerous testing 🙁 .

    Reply

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