the monster under the bed [eating disorders and alopecia]

a big trigger for alopecia is STRESS.
 

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i feel comfortable enough now to share what i believe was the trigger for June bald spot (which promptly filled in): i made it to the final round of TEDx talks in Buffalo, and was waiting for the results.

if you've never heard of TED TALKS, i urge you to take some time to visit their YouTube page- under the slogan, "ideas worth spreading," TED TALKS are influential talks that are recorded infront of audiences that seek a deeper understanding of the world. i made it to the final round, and i lost.

a bummer yes, i put a lot of myself into my audition, with a focus on my own alopecia story and how i cope with the disease, how i found so many positives and learned others' stories, how i learned to LOVE myself again... i lost the TED TALK, but i had this really amazing experience in the midst of my submission and auditions- 

i auditioned while wearing one of my wigs.

putting my wig back on was a cathartic experience- it brought back a lot of pain, memories, and at last, it brought me relief- not because i think i'll never have to wear my wigs again (they're awesome), but because i know i will never be in the same state of unwellness that i was in two years ago.

so i'm going to get real with you right now- and i mean REALLY real with you, right now.
i've mentioned in many posts how i've suffered from poor self esteem, body image... many women (men, girls and boys) do...so here's me getting REALLY real with you:
my former "coping mechanism" took its' form in the shape of a monster. 

a monster.

an eating disorder.

i suffered from an eating disorder for years- there were ebs and flows to the monster's influence in my life, but it was there, and it's still difficult for me to talk about it with other people, it's difficult for me to write about it now.

the monster hid under my bed at night, and stood behind me in bathroom mirrors, telling me that i will never be good enough for anything, for anyone. 

i'm going to share with you a small piece of my personal journal, i wrote about a year and a half ago:

 

...i stand and look in the mirror at my watery, bloodshot eyes and my blotchy cheeks and i can’t help but think
what happened to me?
what happened to me.
here’s the thing. everyone struggles. everyone has had bad things happen to them- i have too. but what happened to me?
i’ve endured some bad experiences during my [short?] life [everyone has], but that’s the thing... i’ve ENDURED- i came out of it, as alive as ever. i was beaten down, bullied, but i always came back invogorated, hopeful. i fought back, i fought back with LIFE inside of me. when i was young, adults used to say i had spunk, i had spirit. always have. so what happened to me?
i stare at myself in the mirror and i stare back at empty eyes. i don’t even see a spark. only a dim glow, embers of something that used to be there.
maybe if i trace it all the way back, i can figure out why i am the way i am now... maybe i can figure out why i want to disappear...
i used to appreciate beauty. i’d wake up early every single morning just to thank God and enjoy the sunrise, a different unique sunrise every morning. i’d appreciate the simple beauty of sitting with my mom and drinking a cup of coffee or having a glass of wine with my dad by the fire. when i’d go out to bars or coffee shops or work, i’d compliment everyone i could because i truly believed that everyone just wanted to be appreciated and genuinely loved by someone else. i complimented them because of their amazing, unique beauty. I took the time and effort to appreciate beauty, despite weird looks and confused reactions. I knew that deep down, people truly do appreciate being appreciated and i LOVED reminding people how special they were, it made me happy! i think i was able to admire purely because (although it’s hard to believe now,) i do think at one point, i LOVED MYSELF..... So what happened to me now? Why do I wake up and cover my face and cry, instead of enjoying a sunrise? Why do I look at people now, and the only thought i have is:
“i will never be beautiful. no one could ever truly love me. i am alone”.
i spiral every time there’s a plate of food infront of me.. until my face breaks out in hives and my hair dries up. maybe if i trace it back to the beginning, i can figure out why i hurt myself this way; maybe i can figure out why i forget to appreciate beauty in life, in myself.
right now, i am too afraid to dig that deep. there is a lot of darkness that i am afraid to uncover. all i know right now, is that i am afraid.
i am afraid to be alone.


[this was a hard segment of my old writing for me to post, but there it is.]

you see, the monster took my confidence, my self-esteem. the monster tricked me into believing that my value depended on others' opinions of me. the monster convinced me that i didn't know who i was, that i lost the unique beauty and energy that made me, ME. 
the monster's presence became stronger and stronger as the years went by...

until i lost my hair.

until i lost my health.

it took losing my hair to turn around and face the monster that whispered words of hate in my ear. it took doctors telling me in tiny white rooms as i slipped off my wig that my health was declining, that my STRESS LEVELS mirrored that of someone in a car accident, that if i did not face the monster head on, that my body would eventually (slowly and painfully) shut down.
the monster was never alopecia- my diagnosis was a gift, my diagnosis forced me to look in the mirror at the monster behind me,

the monster was the voice that told me i wasn't enough.

When i slipped my wig on for my TED audition, i looked in the mirror.

and i smiled.

i remembered. and then, i took a deep breath and let go. 

if i were to  audition again for TED TALKS, i think i'd tell a little less of my story, and spend more time urging my audience to PLEASE, please, don't listen to the monster, no matter what form it is taking in your life. it will steal your joy, and diminish your self worth. 

tell yourself:
i am enough.
i am more than enough- i am unique, i am special.
I AM LOVED.

whether my hair falls out again or not, i will never be the girl wondering why she spirals infront of food, why she can't appreciate beauty in others... in herself. there is only one me, there is only one YOU. how amazing is that?

dad and i sat by the fire on the Fourth of July and laughed with my brothers. i sat with my mom and our dogs the following morning with a big cup of coffee and we just talked and talked... and it was just beautiful.

i make it a point to wake up early every morning, to get outside and see the tremendous, incredible sun rise. what a glorious gift. 

what a privilege it is to be alive. 

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xo,

Clarisse

facing obstacles HEAD on

as i look back on this past weekend, i realize that 

i definitely thought my hair loss battle was over.

things have been good for a while now... i've transformed my lifestyle over the past year- i follow a balanced meal plan, i practice meditation/prayer, and i've inserted an exersise routine to manage my anxiety. my thyroid levels and prolactin (which cause pituitary problems,) leveled out. things have been GOOD.

i thought my hair loss battle was over.

that was, until

i found a NEW BALD SPOT on my head this past weekend.

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yikes.

it was a GOOD day, too. my (wonderful, handsome, incredible etc etc) boyfriend Cory and i got all gussied up for our first wedding of the summer season and had a relaxing drive with his family to the venue in Rochester. i made a mad dash to the restroom before the ceremony began, and noticed that my poodle-hair was sticking straight up from the wind. i moved closer to the mirror with my hairspray and made an effort to flatten the curls when i saw IT.

there IT was.

IT was hiding under the thick new hair growth on the left side of my [formerly bald] head.

IT was stark white, just like the patches from my nightmares, a white circular patch that the sun has never touched.

i don't know how long i stood infront of the mirror, staring at IT.

i must have been standing there for a while, because a sweet old lady walked into a stall and said, "pretty dress, sweetie, hurry up now, the ceremony is starting soon!"

i felt like i was walking on jello when i approached Cory, who had been standing in the hall, waiting for me...

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"i need to tell you something."
"IT is back."

i don't know what's harder- the initial trauma and shock of losing my hair, or, the shock of losing hair after it's grown back after hard work and effort...after doing "all the right things". 

all i know, is IT sucked.

 

and IT took a toll on my boyfriend, too. Cory was there for the initial loss, the diagnosis, the journey, the recovery...Cory was there alongside me the entire time, for two years of emotional ups and MAJOR downs. and here he was, again, standing there as i moved some pieces of hair aside, and showed him IT.

i saw the tears in his eyes for a moment, but then he SMILED.

"IT'S OK!" he said.

"it's OKAY, it's GOOD," he said.

"Clarisse, we've gone through this before, we know how to handle this and you are stronger than ever. you are beautiful with or without your hair, and i will be there holding your hand the entire time. you are STRONG. this is GOOD, you are going to get through this even better than the last time! we got this!"

i am lucky to have an incredible support system in the form of family, friends, and especially Cory, but the strongest message that i carry with me as i reflect on Cory's words to me last Saturday (words that he may not even realize he said...)

"this is GOOD."

GOOD.

what a strong message to place on someone's heart.

GOOD.

think about it. 

what if we ALL started to practice that mindset?

failure in life is inevitable and there WILL be moments in our lives where we just DON'T have control, as much as we want it.

GOOD.

seeing the GOOD allows us to see the OPPORTUNITY that those failures and moments truly provide us in our lives- opening ourselves up to GOOD means that we are taking OWNERSHIP and RESPONSIBILITY. 

so, i found another bald spot on my head...

GOOD.

more opportunity for me to share, to write, to work on a healthy lifestyle, to research, learn, LOVE, to talk about it, to help others, to HOPE.

GOOD.

wedding 3.jpg

 

Cory and i had a wonderful time celebrating love and companionship with his family, we ate, we drank, we danced all night. yes, i shed some tears this weekend, and had moments of wallowing in self-pity... i mean, i think that's totally OKAY, IT'S NORMAL- but, i carry Cory's words with me:

GOOD.

the tough moments in my life are an OPPORTUNITY for me to grow, to learn.

and no, i am not always miss positive, TRUST ME (ask Cory, haha), but the important thing is i TRY. i put in an effort, every single day, to stay positive no matter what situation i am in, because let's face it, LIFE isn't easy. and my alopecia is just a blip in the grand journey of my life... there will be loss, pain, failure. but that is where the opportunity comes- you have a CHOICE in tragedy, failure, loss. you don't have to be a hero. but you do have a choice.

choose the GOOD.

keep going, keep trying. 

xo,
Clarisse
 

mother knows best - health, hair & life lessons

this mother's day, i was sitting at my parents' house by the pool with my backwards baseball cap on. 

"take off the cap," my mom said. 

so i did.

underneath my cap was matted, thick, extremely curly hair, similar to that of a poodle.

"AWESOME, just BEAUTIFUL," my mom said. 

earlier this morning, i did a meditation on what a beautiful day yesterday was, and how much joy i felt in celebrating my mother. i thought about where i was this time, last year.

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and i thought about where my mother was last year, holding my hand, steadfast.

as i meditate on my former self and look at who i have become, i realize how thankful i am for the guidance my mother provided me this past year.

here are some of mom's tidbits of wisdom:

1. every challenge is an opportunity to grow- be thankful for the chance to grow yourself and expand your perspective on life. every bump in the road is there for a reason, and if you are steadfast in your faith, you'll know that those bumps will make you a better version of yourself- you will forge through and overcome.

2. love yourself- love your brain, love your heart, love your body and NURTURE the parts of you that make YOU who YOU are- YOU are a unique and special individual, appreciate yourself because your body, heart, and mind are your own- you don't get anyone else's. Nurture yourself, teach yourself new skills, take time for self-care and exercise, get fresh air. 

3. stay thankful always- remain consistent in thankfulness every day, even on bad days when there's little hope and little happiness, because there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. the catalyst for contentment is GRATITUDE- when you feel things aren't going YOUR way, stop and think of what you are thankful for in your life. THIS IS NOT EASY. practicing gratitude is a mindset shift in a society that sometimes centers around instant gratification- we want things NOW (i am impatient daily, i wanted my hair back instantly and there's a lot of things i want right away...). practicing patience through thankfulness is not easy, but it has the power to transform your life if you take the time to grow in that mindset- create a new perspective for yourself, be patient with yourself. be thankful.

4. love- over the past year, i began to take an hour each morning (from 5-6 a.m.), to pray (yes, at five in the morning, i know you all think i am a crazy person, but i was crazy before i started doing this, ask my boyfriend Cory). i ask God to please keep my eyes open to see the inner goodness in every person i encounter. my mom has done this for years- she runs with our family dogs every morning, and prays the rosary, or just "talks" to God and asks to see the goodness in every person. THAT is LOVE. whether you sit and meditate, practice the art of yoga, or pray like i do (& it doesn't have to be at 5 a.m.), work on the ability to see goodness in every person, it can change your life. if you wish to be happy, focus your energy on the GOOD in people's hearts. it changes everything. 

my mother's tidbits of wisdom are endless and i am THANKFUL for her spirit and her sunshine, and i'm grateful for the other women in my life who inspire and challenge me to be the best version of myself, especially during times of turmoil and impatience. 

my challenge for you is to take some time today to sit down and think about the areas in your life where you're experiencing those "bumps" in the road- i challenge you to consider my mom's advice and start seeing life's challenges as opportunities to grow yourself- remember to be thankful for YOU (your beautiful heart, mind and body,) and for the people in your life who give you HOPE.

you are a unique and incredibly special individual. 

be patient with yourself.

most importantly,

love.

 

xo,
Clarisse

the BEAUTY of acceptance

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If everyone could please take their phones out for me, and if you could, please open your Instagram app. Start to scroll through your newsfeed, and take note of what pictures you're seeing.

Now, raise your hand if you have a feed full of delicious food, adorable puppies (GOLDEN DOODLES, OMG), & maybe some pictures of people you don't even know...people who represent society's standard of "BEAUTY".

now, as you are scrolling through that newsfeed, let me tell you a little story about myself:

on Sunday, February 5th, 2017, i woke up like i did every morning, covered in blankets of anxiety, insecurity and depression.

i can still remember the very first thing i did that morning..

i rolled over, and opened my instagram.

MY feed was filled with a lot of women i didn't know- women with thick, long hair. 

five minutes in bed turned into an hour, and then two hours as i scrolled through my feed.

i remember the feelings of envy and jealousy all too well-

i wanted their hair. 
i hated mine.

and i remember even moreso feeling that i was pathetic, ugly, and
WORTHLESS
as a person.

eventually, i peeled myself out of bed and went into my bathroom to do my morning routine.

i remember this moment as though it were yesterday-

i stepped out of the shower and as i combed my hair, i noticed something very odd at the top of my head.

a circular patch of hair, the size of my fist, was missing.

as i look back on that morning, i can't quite describe to you the horror and shock i felt, standing there, looking at my reflection, a reflection i learned to RESENT, and seeing this shiny, white BALD SPOT smack on the top of my head.

this singular event, the discovery of MY first bald spot, and my eventual diagnosis of the autoimmune disease, ALOPECIA AREATA, would forever alter the direction of MY life and take me on a journey that has led me here, to tell you my story.

the past few mornings, i've been scrolling through my blog posts, reading my writing from the past year. 

how i've grown (and i don't mean just hair growth)...

the loss of my hair and the gradual return of my hair taught me very important lessons. Lessons that have taught me to stop stressing over that one hair out of place, and find the beauty of acceptance.

Lessons that taught me to have HOPE, to have FAITH.

 

lessons that taught me to LOVE, to PERSEVERE:


1. be thankful for what you DO have.

2. be brave- tell your true story, you'll be surprised what happens when you are honest with yourself & other people.

3. remember that you are NOT ALONE- i truly believe in the power of faith, it has helped me look at my personal struggles and say "what happened to me was MEANT to HAPPEN, and it is why i have made it here today"


Aside from learning about alopecia areata through MY story, my hope is that you find those reasons in your own life to be thankful, that you remember that you are not alone in whatever battle you are facing, and that you are BRAVE enough to TELL YOUR OWN STORY and to learn from others' stories. 

you have been assigned this mountain to show it can be moved.

life is a gift. embrace your own journey, because it is YOURS.
 

xo,

Clarisse

healing hair

a letter to my readers,

my dearest readers, 

I AM UNDER CONSTRUCTION, THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE.

i decided to take some time (without realizing it consciously,) to work on "healing"- not just from my physical diseases, but from the mental ones- my depression. my overwhelming anxiety.

i'm on a rollercoster that doesn't just go up, but twists and turns and loops upside down. it drops suddenly and sometimes, it breaks down.

so, after these few months, the answer is NO,  i am not "HEALED".

and this "in-curability" has lead me to ask: 

do we ever 'really' HEAL? or do we just learn from our pain, and create our lifestory by doing so?

the last few months, i took more steps to manage my stress and my autoimmune diseases. i dragged myself to doctors and sat patiently in waiting rooms. i took my thyroid hormone medication. i got my bloodwork done. i even rolled out of bed to try and do yoga in the mornings. 

i convinced myself that i was BROKEN if i did not HEAL- i believed for many months that my baldness, illnesses, and anxiety made me un-lovable and a burden to others. i felt that i would NEVER be loved, i could never truly LIVE, until i was completely HEALED.

so i stopped blogging, stopped sharing my story, and put a heavy focus on "healing"- i visited doctors, did my yoga, ate my apples, and continued to have breakdowns due to the immense pressure i felt to BE "HEALED".

here's the thing. after my year-long experience battling autoimmunes, i realize something exponentially important this morning:

i do not need to "HEAL" in order to be LOVED and i do not need to "HEAL" in order to take the next step in my life-  i should not feel pressure or guilt for existing within this journey that IS my life- the reality is that true mental and physical healing takes A LOT of time, actually, it takes a LIFETIME, because HEALING is the path we take on our journey to eternity that leads to peace, and that is a path we spend our lives on- i should never feel the need to pause my life or experiences to *hopefully* become a "healed" human, because we never truly HEAL, we GROW, and we LEARN, and that is the absolute beauty of LIFE.

the past few months, i felt i hit PAUSE on my life, on my blogging, on my feelings, to HEAL, HEAL, HEAL, and i failed time and time again, which sent me absolutely spiraling into a MAJOR depressive episode. i'd fake it through work and then drag myself home to cry in bed. i spent weekends under my covers actively calling myself an absolute failure for not meeting the high standard of being "healed". 

here's the reality.

all of my "flaws"- my bald spots, my insecurities and anxieties, my sometimes irritatingly childish personality, is what makes me, ME. every bruise, every tear and every bald spot is a part of my journey and a part of my story, and looking back, i realize that i've been looking at the concept of HEALING the wrong way. because we never truly HEAL- we take our experiences and GROW from them, LEARN from them. we allow them to move us or destroy us.

i do not need to HEAL. i need to continue on my path- to grow. to learn, with a thankful heart.
i've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about this past year, about the morning i woke up, showered, and found the first bald spot. and i know that there were many things i was doing wrong BEFORE that first bald spot that brought me to that moment, hands clasping the sink, staring in disbelief and horror at a shiny bald spot the size of my fist smack on the top of my head.

i no longer look back on that moment or the many terrifying moments after that in fear- we all know that the only time to look back is to reflect on everything you've learned. 

looking back on 2017, i couldn't be more thankful for all that i've learned.

i lost more than 75% of my hair over the course of eight months and as i sit here as i always do, drinking my morning coffee and thinking about my journey, i wouldn't have had it any other way.

i am NOT a failure.

without my experiences, without my flaws, i wouldn't have this story to share.

am i healed? again, NO. but i GREW. and i LEARNED, and that is MY STORY.

I'm thankful for every single struggle. because from it, i have found my strength.

life's greatest lessons are usually learned from the worst times- so be thankful for your life. don't think so much about BECOMING or HEALING, but practice just BEING- growing, learning, accepting, and believing in your journey, because it will lead you. breathe deeply. recognize your worries enough to let go of the anxiety that stores them. forgive yourself of your past and forgive others. build your life around what you love.

whatever you've been struggling with, know that you have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved. do not fear. recognize, accept, and learn.

live your story, and love all of it, the good, and the bad.

xo,
Clarisse
 

a Quarter Century & Balding

in about just one week, i will be celebrating my 25th birthday.

an entire quarter century.

as i sit contemplating these last twenty five years, i focus on this past year the most.

 

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this has been, by far, the hardest year of my life.

aside from losing my hair, i lost my health. my hair is just a physical sign of sickness. i've been in and out of doctors' offices, getting tests, blood work, ultrasounds, you name it.

i even lost some friends due to my absence and my inability to be the high-energy, fun-loving girl i used to be. 

as i sit by myself this morning watching the seasons and colors of the world change, i think about becoming a quarter-century old. but i do not feel dread.

i feel an overwhelming thankfulness in my heart.

as my birthday draws ever closer, i feel inclined to express my thankfulness, my genuine gratitude for the past year. the hardest times often lead to the greatest moments in life.

heartbreaking seasons can certainly grow me, but were NEVER meant to define me. the voices of anxiety, depression, condemnation & rejection can come at me, but they don't have to reside in me.

this year has been a battle with loneliness & anxiety... fear of the great and terrible "WHAT IF". 

i spent many mornings curled up in corners, dreading the next chunk of hair falling out in my hands in the middle of the workday ahead... paranoia in the afternoons having to run back and forth to the bathroom (sick) at work... and nights spent angry and frustrated with my body and with my self... and the worst feeling in the world: feeling completely and utterly ALONE in this battle.

i sit here and i know the reality. i close my eyes and quietly resolve with the peaceful, quiet voice of my consciousness:

What if God's plan is to change me through this, 
before He changes my circumstances in this?

so i place my thoughts elsewhere, and live from the abundant place where i am loved:

allow me to take the rest of this space to thank you (i am using "you" as a standalone for all the incredible people who remind me every day that i am NEVER alone). the term here, "you" represents all of you incredible people, who i hope read this, and know how truly thankful i am, that your love changes my circumstances and heals my mindset every single day... 

thank YOU for holding me and my heart when the first bald patch fell out, to now. 

thank YOU for being there physically, emotionally & mentally as i received diagnosis after diagnosis.

thank YOU for sending me good-morning texts to remind me that you are thinking of me, that you believe in me, that you wish me strength for another day. thank you for responding to the many texts, the 3 AM texts, the angry and miserable texts.

thank YOU for bringing me back to the present moment. 

thank YOU for being tough on me, for pushing me to forge forward. thank you for being there for me when i needed to change, wake up, or realize. for telling me to get over it, to keep going.

thank YOU for going out of your way to make plans, over and over and over if you had to, just to see my face, give me a hug, and remind me that this is only a season- that seasons do change.

thank YOU for showing me options, for helping me embrace myself, for teaching me to look at life through a different lens...thank you for showing me that wig shopping can be like shoe shopping!

thank YOU for listening to me, even if  you don't always want to, when it seems like it's problem after problem...thank you for not letting me use my problems as an EXCUSE. thank you for mentoring me and motivating me to be the best professional version of myself despite any obstacle in my path. thank you for not allowing self-pity, but thank you... thank you for listening.

thank YOU for the adventures, the memories & new experiences.

thank YOU for your time. because time is so precious and is never guaranteed. 

thank YOU for the support and for the acts of kindness and the words of love that i have plastered to my fridge door:

"keep being you"
 

"rock on you rock star! love how positive you are, stay that way & know we are all here for ya, darling!"
 

"to the girl who brightens everyones day, here is a little something to brighten up yours and to remind you that you have an awesome support system here, xoxo keep on smilin'"


thank YOU for sharing my story, for helping me make a difference, for opening doors for me to meet people who have much bigger battles than i do, for showing me that EVERYONE i encounter has a battle, a STORY, an incredible JOURNEY.

thank YOU for giving me the greatest gift: HOPE.

thank YOU for helping me be COURAGEOUS.
 

THANK YOU for what i know will be the best birthday yet.

xo,

Clarisse

just a HAIR out of place

as the seasons change, so do we.

 

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i had "grown out" of my synthetic wig, Jessi, and i was ready to make the investment in a human hair wig.

so there i was, back in the salon chair, enjoying the peaceful aura of Joanie herself & the welcoming warm presence of the salon. the wigs on the mannequin heads were no longer frightening, but hopeful to me. i sat in the styling chair with Ferrari in my arms as Joanie placed a beautiful dark haired human wig on my head.

but here's the thing- it didn't feel RIGHT.

this was something i hadn't experienced yet.something didn't feel quite right. i looked at myself in the mirror, and i didn't recognize ME. 

and that scared me.

i began to envision myself as a mannequin head, and the panic began to bubble up inside. 

one of the big devestations of alopecia is the absolute RANDOMNESS of the disease itself, and as i stared at this wig on my head, i felt that deep dark pit of despair grow larger and larger until i tasted metal in my mouth.

i sat in the salon chair with my mother by my side and sweet Joanie, quietly working on the hair saying "don't worry, sweet thing, there's just a 'hair' out of place". 

Joanie worked for hours on the beautiful head of hair in an attempt to reshape the reality that i saw in the mirror infront of me. the real problem wasn't with the wig at all.

"i can't do this," i said.

i stood up and looked at the two most beautiful women in my life.

"i can't do this".

i started to cry.

when Joanie put that gorgeous wig on my head, i didn't have an issue with the hair at all. the hair was soft, bouncy, rich and long. it wasn't about the hair. it was more than that. 

when i looked at myself in the mirror, i didn't SEE ME. i saw a girl who lost most of her hair. a girl who lost most of her energy due to illness. a girl who pushed herself to her limit every single day to retain her former cheerful, sunny persona.

i looked in the mirror, and didn't see myself anymore.

all i could do was cry.

the thing about alopecia is that it is AUTOIMMUNE. once the "door" is open for autoimmune diseases, it opens ALL the doors. throughout the last six months, i've been diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases, and this is very typical for people who develop alopecia- loss of hair is quite simply the only PHYSICAL sign of illness. in my case, i have a pretty hostile immune system that's ready to wage war on my body at the slightest hint of stress: rashes, thyroid problems, stomach issues, pituitary problems...YOU NAME IT.

i admit i lost an exceptional amount of (what is left of) my real hair when i sat in Joanie's salon with that wig on my head, tears streaming down my face- i didn't want to look in the mirror and face the reality of ME.

"i can't do this. i don't want this."

"I DON'T WANT THIS."

the two women in the room, Joanie and my mother, tried to comfort me, but knew there was nothing they could do or say in that moment. they could only just BE there.

and therein lies the true beauty of this story.

sometimes we need someone to simply BE there... not to fix anything or do anything in particular... but just remind us we are NOT ALONE.

just BEING THERE for someone can sometimes bring hope when all seems hopeless.

we sat there together for a while. 

when i stood up, i still was not ready to face reality. 

"i just can't do this."

Joanie nodded and told me to take the wig with me- wash her, style her...and PRAY. and so that is what i did.

i've been slowly facing my reality, wearing, washing, PRAYING.

i continue to defend my spirit against the war my body wages on itself & i take morning moments for thankfulness, because despite the particular battle i am facing, i know that i am not alone.

 

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[my new, beautiful wig, that i am more than quite thankful for.]

some days are harder than others, but i am reminded that i have the strength to overcome them all. my strength comes from those who surround me with patience, kindness, compassion- these people inspire me to do the same for others.

"life is a hard battle anyway. if we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight, it makes it all go easier. i will not allow my life's light to be determined by the darkness around me"

remember: everyone you meet is fighting a battle you may know nothing about. 
Be Kind. 
Always.

xo,
Clarisse
 

Jessi's got me covered

everyone's had their heart broken.

not everyone has been scared that a strong gust of wind could unseat their hair.

jessi 1.jpg

for the past seven months, i experienced an exceptional amount of hair loss due to my alopecia. i became a human experiment, tested by doctors with steroid shots in my head, medications & constant bloodwork. some things worked, some things didn't. some things started working, and then they stopped.

i had rollercoaster days- one moment i was UP, the next i was DOWN

(and i mean REALLY DOWN).

but, i've always held on to hope, even just a glimmer of it.

despite me being sick with multiple autoimmunes, my alopecia is the only physical sign of illness. and, despite the cosmetic devastation it's caused, it's opened me up to learning more about myself and others. i have heard incredible stories and experienced life-changing moments because of this disease.

one of these moments was when i thought i had found THE ONE.

[no, i am not referring to the human i decide to spend the rest of my life with.]

i'm referring to my synthetic wig, Jessi.

jessi 2.jpg

Jessi is the name of my edgy banged, straight-haired, brunette synthetic fiber wig. Her name is Jessi because that is the name of the woman who the wig was ordered for- a woman who battled cancer and lost her hair. a woman who instead decided to be a blonde for the first time in her life. so while real-life Jessi is rocking a badass blonde wig, i was lucky enough to inherit wig-Jessi.

Jessi was THE ONE for a few months- from the first moment she was placed on my head, things were perfect. i'd describe it as the "honeymoon stage" of wig wearing- i was comfortable, confident & BEAUTIFUL in my wig despite comments that i was "shaving my head in purpose" and "wearing it for attention". 

jessi 4.jpg

i wore Jessi on a pontoon boat with friends... i wore her to a music festival with sweat and beer and smelly happy people jumping around smashing into each other. i wore Jessi to work, out with friends. i wore her with baseball caps, scarves, and i did it with more confidence than i had in a LONG time. we had an incredible summer together.

but eventually, the "honeymoon stage" ended. 

Jessi began to irritate me, just a little. as the leaves began to change, i'd wear certain fabrics and the friction from the synthetic fiber would fray the edges of Jessi and stand up straight against my back, resembling a fork sticking in the air. i'd sit at work and have full itching attacks while flakes of irritated skin scraped under my nails. 

Jessi began to feel sticky, sometimes. almost crunchy. uncomfortable.

do not get me wrong- i love Jessi & always will. i still love to wear her... but over time, something about her did not feel completely right. i began to worry that Jessi wouldn't be able to withstand being there for me ALL THE TIME.

the beauty of synthetic wigs is that the hair itself does not require styling, so i could essentially wake up in the morning and pop Jessi on and go to work with a perfect head of hair.

BUT.

Jessi wasn't REAL human hair. Synthetic hair fibers are fine threads manufactured to resemble human hair. Manufacturers may use single type, monofilament fibers, or a combination of two or three, polyfilament, fibers... Acrylic or polyester is used to make some fibers. 

are you wigged out yet?

because Jessi is not real human hair, it's harder for her to withstand the daily wear-and-tear that natural human hair experiences- this causes her to fray like an American flag. she becomes a bit crinkled. synthetic hair has about half the "lifespan" of human hair, and Jessi had become exhausted.

when i decided it was time to take a "break" from Jessi, i reached my breaking point at a Friday night Buffalo Bisons baseball game. i was to sing the National Anthem infront of the stadium fans- with a five minute countdown to singing time, a gust of wind caught Jessi.

and she blew halfway off my head.

i grasped Jessi for dear life and held her against my head. as my eyes filled with tears, i stepped to the side of the dugout against the stone wall and flipped open my iphone. 

i used selfie mode to half-hazardly pull Jessi back on my head. i noticed unnatural large chunks of the hair fibers sticking in every direction, as though i'd been electrocuted.

as the seconds counted down, i pulled on a Buffalo Bisons hat and smashed as much of Jessi in there as i could. I tried to hold the rest of her down with two hair ties. as i walked to the pitcher's mound, i resembled an awkward, pig-tailed five year old. 

as i sang the anthem, my nerves from my "wardrobe malfunction" faded, and i remembered when i WAS a pig-tailed five year old- i remembered the Buffalo Bisons Family Day where they allowed the children to run the bases. at five years old, i remember running with all my might past first, second, to third and then home. 

and then i went again.

and again.

and again.

and again until my legs were tired and even my arms hurt and tears streamed down my face. an older man in a baseball cap called to me, "hey kiddo, you don't have to keep going! you can stop when you want to!"

"no, i have to keep going!" i yelled back through tears.

and i smiled.

jessi 6.jpg

i ran until there was no one left, and i walked off, legs tired and shaking, eyes exhausted into the arms of my father.

when i finished singing the Anthem, i walked off the field into the crowd and into the arms of my father. i knew in that moment that i was going to keep trying, i was going to keep going. 

strength grows in the moments when you think you can't go on, but you keep going anyway.


don't give up.

xo,

Clarisse
 

alopecia adventures

in the darkness, i hear the birds chirping, and i feel the fear creeping in slowly, starting up my toes, up and up until it feels like i am suffocating.

i welcome it.

it is a brand new day.

seven months ago, i reluctantly opened my eyes and allowed fear to overtake me, to cripple me. body shaking, i'd walk shakily to the bathroom and look in the mirror to see one singular bald patch on the upper right side of my head.

bandanna.JPG

the past seven months have been a roller coaster of ups and downs. as i sit here reading through seven months of my own writing, i notice the extreme speeds and the slows, the long motivating conversational sentences coupled with personified characters of Loneliness,  Anxiety & Depression constantly at my heels.

these ups & downs included hair LOSS, and hair GROWTH.

since the infamous first bald patch appeared, i have had many more of them appear on my head despite my desperate attempts to stop my autoimmune disease.

seven months later, and i have two first-sized spots on the upper and lower right side of my head, two fist-sized spots on the upper and lower left side of my head (mirroring the right side), one fist-sized spot in the center back of my head like a bulls eye, two quarter-sized spots smack in the front of my head where my part used to be... and the rest are all little dime-sized spots scattered throughout what is left. honestly, i've lost count.

BUT, there's also growth.

alopecia girl.JPG

i lost almost all my hair on the right side of my head, which was initially very shocking and totally devastating to me. over time, i began to look myself in the mirror and remind myself that my body was HOME, that i was safe, that hair was just hair, that everything that is happening is meant to happen. positive self-talk allowed me to see myself in a new light. the Golumn character i once saw myself as dissipated, and i began to feel OK with being bald on one side of my head...maybe even a little edgy (although my beautiful mother would NOT approve if i were to get myself a nose ring to add to my newfound "style". i KNOW i am 24 years old, but my mother STILL has influence over my personal style...sometimes...)

over time, the right side of my head experienced growth. i now resemble that of a baby duck. 

it's not so bad. my boyfriend tells me it's cute. i think it's cute enough too, i guess. 

bisons.JPG

the past seven months, i've experimented with different natural supplements, and i've also experimented with a hair piece i named Cuppie (to cope) & a synthetic wig named Jessi (named after the woman who was to originally own it, who battled stage four cancer). i also developed an obsession with hats- aside from floppy hats & bandannas, i have polo hats of every color that i saved up for. i have a Cleveland Indians hat & an Adirondacks cap from my adventures. i have a Buffalo Bisons hat from the windy summer evening i sang the National Anthem for 12,000 people and luckily didn't have my wig fly off, blowing like a tumbleweed past home base. 

the past seven months, i took my wig, my bandanna, my cap off in front of family & friends to show them my journey, MY STORY, to show them my GROWTH.

 

 

MY story.

MY growth.

wig.JPG

in the darkness, i hear the birds chirping, and i feel the fear creeping in slowly, starting up my toes, up and up until it feels like i am suffocating.

i welcome it.

it is a brand new day.

KEEP GOING.

xo,
Clarisse
 

WAVE goodbye to alopecia insecurity

allow me to momentarily channel my inner book-worm and share a quote from the epic Charles Dickens:

"it was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

[what a fabulous opening for a book, right?...]

[and, YES, I AM cherry-picking this quote out of a story centering around the intimate political and personal intermingling of humans and love triangles and other conflicts between democratic and aristocratic principles during the French Revolution...]

but this quote "speaks" to me.

 

my alopecia has truly been the BEST thing AND the WORST thing that has happened to me.

my trip to Virginia Beach with my mother really opened me up to the BEST and WORST aspects of this disease:

let me be quite frank with you- it was not glamorous or graceful when i took off my baseball cap and swam in the Atlantic Ocean. it took an entire day for me to build up the courage to even do so. my mom and i spent over twelve hours in the car, windows open, blasting Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars [how #basic could we possibly be], and getting stuck in an excessive amount of traffic jams before we reached Virginia Beach. 

for the entire twelve hour drive, i kept my baseball cap on. 

i kept my cap on for twelve hours, despite the fact that i was next to the most loving and accepting woman i've ever known in my lifetime. i kept my cap on despite the fact that my head was a tad itchy, for probably eight of those twelve hours. i kept my cap on, even though all i wanted was to take it off.

why?

because despite the fact that my inner voice reassures me that I AM NOT ALONE and that I AM OKAY, sometimes, i don't want to accept this disease. sometimes, i 100% still feel ALONE.  i sat in that car for twelve hours and would turn to look at my beautiful, energetic mother and her beautiful curly blond hair flapping all over the place in the wind, and i'd tighten my baseball cap, feeling that i was no longer "normal".

so, yeah, there are moments where i feel totally out of place, like an alien who just doesn't belong. and there were major moments on this trip where i felt that way to the extreme.

the beauty of these "worst" moments was my ability to recognize my feelings, accept them, and finally,

EMBRACE them.

i now hold the most incredible memories in my heart from this trip with my mother- our first morning on the beach, i noticed dolphins swimming by the shoreline as the warm morning sun rose over the horizon. i do not consider myself an exceptional writer, so my words can't describe the beauty of the sky, the water, the warmth & wind. the beauty was so breathtaking that i ran [*waddled*] into the surf [in a VERY NON-BREATHTAKING way], tripping over my own feet and tumbling headfirst into crashing waves in a VERY awkward attempt to join the dolphins. 
my trusty baseball cap held tightly to my scalp as i jumped into the waves. but, despite the breathtaking beauty surrounding me, i felt restricted. the joy in my surroundings spoke to my heart, and my inner voice whispered, 

"let go."

i turned around to look at my beautiful mother, her hair blowing in the salt water wind, and i yelled to her,

"I'M TAKING OFF MY CAP!"

and then i did.

i yanked off my loyal [now very soaked and salty] baseball cap, and ran back into the surf.
there were other people in the water at this point, and i believe we all had the same intention, to join the dolphins, because deep down many of us all want to be mermaids [...at least i hope i'm not the only weird one on this planet...]. 

i squealed with joy as i ran toward the dolphins and it felt SO GOOD to not be restricted by my insecurity, my alopecia. as i forged forward, a gigantic wave sent me flopping and somersaulting back to shore. 

SO. AWESOME. SO. AWKWARD.

as i came up for air, a few people in the water turned to make sure i was okay... i could feel their stares. i could feel my mother watching me. i took a deep breath and sat on the shore, my baldness shining, reflecting the sun. 

i let the waves wash over me.

and i felt happy.

pure happiness.

moments like this, make me grateful.

so, yes, for the past five months, it's been the BEST of times, and it's been the WORST of times.
i experience major highs and lows. but without both of them, i wouldn't be the person i am today. 

i am so incredibly grateful for the highs, and i am equally as grateful for the lows. 

my journey, with all the incredible highs and terrible lows, gives me a story to tell. it is the greatest gift of life to embrace every moment, every experience. it is your OWN.

 

nothing can stop you, nothing can restrict you if you open yourself up to everything life has to offer.

you are brave, you are courageous. 

let go.

embrace it.

 

 

xo,
Clarisse
 

bald is beautiful: embracing your own journey

i used to think that the worst thing in life would be to end up alone. 

it is almost worse to be with people who make you FEEL alone.

lately,  i've been experiencing dramatic, panic-driven episodes of loneliness. i sit on my bed, touching my new bald patches, combing with my fingers to find new spots as chunks of hair fall into my palms... and loneliness creeps on in. my chest tightens, leaving me gasping for breath as thoughts of the terrible "WHAT IF" overload me, leaving me immobilized and disabled.

despite these episodes,  my fear has become much, much easier to handle:

when i find myself curled up, barely holding on, i force myself to breathe.

i breathe.

slow, deep breaths. 

i breathe in for four seconds- hold- then exhale for eight seconds. i repeat "i am grateful" as a mantra, slowly, carefully [because for some reason, this mantra makes me cry even harder sometimes].

eventually, my inner compassionate & peaceful voice speaks to me:

"i love you. i am here. i don't care if you need to curl up and cry all night long, i will stay with you. there is nothing you can ever do to lose my love, i will protect you, i am stronger than depression and braver than fear. nothing will ever exhaust me."

here's the beauty of these "episodes":

every single moment & feeling makes us human, and that is incredibly special.

for a long time it has seemed to me that life was about to begin- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first [like these panic attacks], or some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. 

at last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

battling my fear and anxiety is a path on my journey. sometimes in life, we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the present moment, in the journey.  i know it is tough to remember this, but

nothing outside of you on this earth has power over you.

YOU decide how you think, YOU decide how you feel, and YOU decide what action to take.

YOU allow fear, loneliness & other people to influence your journey, your story.

But YOU decide.

YOU can take full ownership, and become FREE.

this is YOUR story.

last week, i took a break from blogging, and allowed myself to center around fear and loneliness. for too long, i allowed these feelings to control my relationships, my outlook & my LIFE. instead of pushing these feelings away, i sat with them. i had a conversation with them. i stopped pushing away, and focused on just BEING. i focused solely on the HUMAN EXPERIENCE. i told fear and loneliness that my relationship with them was MY choice, that they could no longer CONTROL ME.

and then, i took off my baseball cap, and dived into the Atlantic Ocean, with a grateful heart.


allow resistance to become COURAGE.
be grateful.
focus on just BEING.
you are stronger than depression. you are braver than fear.

 

 

stay tuned for more about my trip to Virginia Beach & my alopecia updates.
xo,
Clarisse
 

mirror, mirror

i've always had a very hard time looking at myself in the mirror.

i stand there, fixated on every "flaw" i see with objective eyes, as though an invisible microscope is zoomed in on every blemish, every wrinkle, every misplaced hair. 

as my laser eyes infuse themselves on each singular flaw, my self-loathing meter increases inch by inch, until i am crumpled in a corner on the floor, tears spilling down my face. immobilized.

here's the thing- i've been SICK for a long time. 

what i mean by SICK, is that for YEARS i allowed myself to rely on others' opinions of me for validation- i would strive for acceptance, comparing myself to every beautiful human on this green planet. i shopped excessively for clothes i didn't even particularly LIKE, i wore eyeliner that made my eyes itch like hell, and i STARVED MYSELF to look like #goals

and it was never enough.

i was never enough.

i hid my internal sickness for so long under the mask of a colorful instagram and my energetic personality. like many of us, i masked it all with a smile. i'd attend concerts, events, dinners and clam up just by looking at the beautiful people around me and convincing myself that "i am not enough". yet i continued with the facade.

so, YES, i've been SICK for a very, very long time. i suffer from a sick mindset, a mindset that so many of us have- we try to meet unrealistic standards, we do things we don't want to do & we lose the very essence of who we ARE.

i suffer from a sick mindset, and many other autoimmune diseases.

one of which is ALOPECIA.

BUT, my alopecia is a GIFT- it is not dangerous to my health- it has given me the ultimate gift:

 

PERSPECTIVE.

 

my alopecia is simply a visual, physical sign of all my sickness.

my alopecia is the reason i've been turning my life around- it is the reason i wake up in the early morning with PURPOSE and PASSION to transform and grow.

my alopecia is something i see in the mirror, every morning.

my alopecia is my own.

i look in the mirror now, my eyes fixated on my bald patches. there is no place to hide- i SEE a physical reminder of my sickness.

and it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

my alopecia forces me to stand infront of the mirror, and actually LOOK at MYSELF for the first time.

 

& i am beautiful.

 

i look in the mirror this morning, i look back at my own deep brown eyes (eyes i used to refer to as "poop-colored eyes") and i see fire, i see light. i see all of my struggles and i see the beauty in my failures and successes. i see endurance, courage. hope. 

i see ME.

i am beginning to like looking at myself in the mirror, WITH or WITHOUT my hair. my hair has been a physical piece, an artistic expression of ME. that is why i find comfort in my hair pieces- it is a form of expression. it is something that i wear, for ME. not for anyone else.

i am beautiful with or without hair, and i feel a glorious sense of FREEDOM that i can express myself vulnerably and openly. 

 

my admittance to wearing hair pieces, though, is to HELP OTHERS who don't necessarily want to share their loss with the world. i am open and raw and vulnerable about my hairloss because i find it therapeutic to be authentically MY extroverted SELF. it is similarly therapeutic for me to HELP OTHERS find ways to cope with their own loss- it is my PASSION. my VOCATION.

any loss of identity is traumatic- you don't understand it until you experience it. 

 

 

but i am learning that my body is a beautiful place to be.

it is my own.

this physical loss has opened doors for me that i never knew existed- i've taken for granted so much beauty in life and in MYSELF. we can choose to let loss destroy us, or we can choose to truly LOOK at ourselves. 

We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated with purpose.  Allow resistance to become courage. Fall in LOVE with who you see in the mirror.

 

my body is HOME.

i am in love.

 

xo,
Clarisse
 

star spangled head scarves

how others treat me is their path; how i react is mine.

but let's be real- that reaction is much easier said than done.

do you feel it too, dear reader? that churning discomfort when someone imparts their sharp-witted comments on you, whether straight to your face or through the tactics of gossip- comments that make you feel small, in a "here ya go" punch-to-the-stomach kind of way:

"she's shaving parts of her head on purpose."

"she is Brittany Spears!"
"
she's only doing this for attention."

one of my old-school favorite authors [Thoreau] once wrote that "if a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away".

i tell my story to care for my own heart & to open the hearts of others- i choose to LISTEN to my own voice, and the drumbeat only I can feel. one of the most unconditional acts of love is being true to your inner calling- you may ruffle some feathers and spark some negative comments, but you'll find peace knowing that you're fulfilling your divine purpose and that you encouraged others to do the same.

the opinions of others is NOT your reality. 

i want LOVE to be my gift to the world before i leave it- i want to fill myself with love, and send that love out into the world.

follow your own drumbeat.

this is your story.

so, dear reader, here i am, forging forward to continue my story. thank you for the positive words & vibes. thank you for the small stories i hope to share as i journey onward. kindness is a tremendous way to let a struggling soul know that there is still LOVE in this world- that they are NOT ALONE. i hope i can extend the same gift to you.

i hope you all enjoy your Fourth of July weekend.

i am rocking my new headscarf at the pool- please feel free to message me using the CONTACT PAGE  if you're interested in having one of your own!


xo,
Clarisse
 

love is in the HAIR

early last week, i found two new bald patches on my head. 

after the initial shock wore off, i came to the realization that:

my journey has only begun

i sat down in front of my mirror & had a short conversation with fear:

"look, we're going on a road trip- i know you're coming. you can join, but you're not going to make all the choices."

here's the thing: you have to let it be there [the fear]. the harder you fight it, the more it fights back. so you have to accept & embrace the feeling, then move forward.

so that's what i did.

early Tuesday morning, my dearest hair specialist Joanie texted me, simply asking how i was holding up- when i announced the appearance of two new patches, Joanie immediately scheduled me for a consultation Tuesday evening.

Entering Joanie's salon always has a similar feeling to coming home- Ferrari the yorkie greets me every time when i enter the lounge area, temporarily easing my [never-ending] anxiety. i am ALWAYS welcome.

Last Tuesday evening, I walked into the lounge to see my mother and Joanie sitting closely on the couch, laughing and sharing a magazine together. as i walked up to these two incredibly sweet ladies, Joanie jumped, wrapped me in a hug and asked, "do you want to see something amazing?!"
my mom took the magazine she held to her chest and handed it to me- there i was, bald & patchy as ever, on the American Hair Council's magazine spread. 

in order to take effective action with hair growth disorders, action has to start with dialogue- it is an honor and a joy to appear on the glossy pages of a magazine... a dream of mine has always been to be a published writer.

but i'm not going to lie. the shock and defeat of losing two new patches of hair left me with a heavy heart, and the only reaction to seeing my words & my face in that magazine was utter sadness. 
Joanie scooped me up into another hug, smiled, and led me to the consultation room with my mom.

it is an incredibly beautiful experience when women come together with a collective intention, it's a powerful thing. whether it's sitting down sharing a glass of wine, preparing a meal, or talking over hair pieces & wigs- when women come together, magic happens.

Joanie sat silently and practiced her most powerful gift of LISTENING- she listened to me retell the twists and turns of my journey as i held my mom's hand.

Listening is an art, a gift, that requires spirit over ego, others over self. 

the first duty of LOVE is to LISTEN.

once i caught Joanie up on my latest developments, she said:

"okay, beautiful. let's just take a look at you."

Joanie began to comb through my hair slowly, her eyes intent on finding the two new bald spots on my head.

I distinctly noticed her soft eyes harden.

"okay, honey, is this one of the patches?"

she swiveled my hair to the right so i was facing my lefthand side of my head, the side i considered "safe" from this dreadful disease.

"no."

Joanie uncovered a patch i had not seen before- a large chunky blob of bald below my left temple.
tears spilled down my face.

"no."

Joanie sighed and began to shift through my hair again, her frown deepening.

magazine 2.jpg

"okay, honey, there are a bunch of patches throughout the back of the head here."

i began to sob.

my mom began to cry.

Joanie discovered patches upon patches all over my head and assured me that everything was going to be alright- she gently pulled a beautiful hair piece off the shelf for me to try on, and when i did, i looked like an empty husk of the bubbly energetic girl i once was.

Joanie did not force or convince me to choose any specific piece- in her infinite wisdom, Joanie made the most incredible decision by stepping out of the consultation room.

i sat with my mom as our tears dried.

for just a few moments, we sat in silence.

silence.
isn't empty.
it's full of answers.

without needing to say a word, by gifting me with some silence, Joanie reminded me that this is MY CHOICE,

MY JOURNEY,

MY STORY.

there is no right way to deal with alopecia- there is no "right" way to deal with anything, really. Joanie gave me options, and as i sat in silence, that wise voice deep inside of me gave me my answer.
the piece i wear now still is a mixture of my own hair [well, the hair that is left].

this piece has it's own beautiful story.

i now have a new look.

a new hope.

trust the wait. embrace the uncertainty. enjoy the beauty of becoming. when nothing is certain, anything is possible.
 

with growth comes loss

my dear readers,

there's no such thing as being completely ready- you're never going to feel like you've got everything sorted and figured out.

with growth comes loss.

my dear readers, i stood in front of my mirror last night staring at

TWO new BALD SPOTS.

a third spot is below my right ear.

a fourth spot is on the left side of my head. 

i stood in front of my mirror with my shocked and bloodshot eyes- it was a moment when i actually could FEEL the pain in my chest from seeing something that broke my heart.

that's the thing about pain- it demands to be felt.

the sheer panic i felt as i looked at myself in the mirror is almost indescribable- fear of the WHAT IF returned with a vengeance and made me doubt my hopeful mindset only hours prior. 

one of the HARDEST lessons in life is letting go- whether it's guilt, anger, love, betrayal, or your HAIR. change is NEVER easy. we fight to hold on & we fight to let go.

i stared at myself last night after noticing these new spots, clutched the edge of the sink, and just cried and cried and CRIED. i have been fighting, experimenting, CHASING answers to STOP the oncoming train of devastation. to add to all of this, i was just recently diagnosed with ANOTHER auto-immune disease, because, as my primary doctor told me:

"once one auto-immune triggers, all the others can kick in too. sorry, kid."

i stood there, poking at the two new quarter-sized spots with tears streaming down my face as i mumbled "no" over and over again. i got on my knees and felt the overwhelming roller-coaster of my life take a QUICK sharp turn downward. in this state of hopeless and dramatic despair, i spoke out in gasping sobs something like

"hello, God? it's Clarisse, what's up".

yep, that's right. i was speaking to the creator of the universe as though we were introduced at an after-work networking event- i half expected someone to jokingly respond to my "what's up" with "THE SKY". 

"i'm sorry to bother you, it's not a big deal, it really isn't, and i am so thankful for all the blessings you've given me in my life, but i am in bad shape, and i don't know what to do."

the prospect that i had NO answers after my  passionate and invigorated search for answers caused me to sob even harder.

"please help me, please tell me what to do, please help me," was all i could whisper as my tears slowly began to replicate a miniature Lake Erie on my bathroom floor- until, all of a sudden, it stopped. and then, i heard a voice. 

no- i didn't hear the voice of Morgan Freeman booming "I AM GOD" in my eardrums- it was my own voice, perfectly calm, speaking from within my own self- a compassionate and peaceful voice [so not EXACTLY my outward talking voice...it's tough to explain].

the voice said,

"Clarisse, you need to be strong, you can do this."

i exhaled.

it was almost abruptly clear that this is exactly what i needed to do- not only for myself, but for others as well. i honestly cannot accept any other answer than the one given to me last night.

in a way, this dramatic little episode all alone on my bathroom floor has every typical hallmark moment of a spiritual conversion experience- but i argue that this was simply the authentic gradual building blocks of a spiritual CONVERSATION, a dialogue, a powerful coping mechanism, and a reminder of my vocation & purpose: to tell my story, and help others in the process.

to the beautiful & inspiring women who've reached out to me, you know who you are, and i know that you are on a very similar ride that i am on- we will get coffee, burritos, whatever you want, and share our stories. 

that voice that exists inside all of us is stronger than these painful moments- mightier than depression and braver than loneliness, nothing will ever exhaust that voice inside of you.

 

keep going.

xo,
Clarisse
 

a letter to my daddy on Father's Day

dear Dahdee,

this past Christmas, you gave me the one of the greatest gifts- an external hard drive with over 72,000 photos and videos from the past 24+ years of my life. You wrote me a short note saying:

"Since you always enjoy looking at the photos when you are home, I thought you may want to have your own copy...

Merry Christmas. Love you, Dad"

i find joy & purpose sharing my own story and helping others by doing so- my whole teenage/adult life, i've been particularly fascinated with knowing the stories of the people i cross paths with and my life revolves around sharing those stories. 

but i've never truly known your story, dad. 

you've always been the silent guardian in the house, watching over your wife, children, dogs & a million barn cats. 

but you've given me a wonderful gift this past year:

these photos tell your story.

as i scroll through these 72,000 photos and videos, i notice that you are in less than half of them, Dahdee. 

this is not because you weren't there for us- this is because you were behind the lens, capturing the joyful and tremendous moments of our lives.

you've always been there, to watch over us, to push us. to tease us, to believe in us.

of the very few photos you are in, i cherish each and every one of them, and am reminded of what a blessing you are in my life- i remember our father-daughter dates to the movies and the distinct memory of holding your hand as we went up the escalator in the mall, thinking how lucky i was to be your little girl. i even remember the jealousy i felt as you'd walk out the door with my little brother, both of you dressed head to toe in Buffalo Bills apparel, ready to hit up Mighty Taco before enjoying a game at the Ralph [i think i was more jealous about you two going for Mighty Taco than anything else].

i remember looking up at you in the bleachers during every single basketball game i played throughout my middle and highschool years- you sat silently in the very back of the bleachers for every single home and away game- you never missed one

i remember how you stood silently after disciplining me countless of times as i'd scream at you with all my young-adult angst, exclaiming that "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND MY LIFE."

you learned to let me create my own story though, with all the slips and falls, and all the lessons. just as you sat silently watching over me at every basketball game,  you've been there this entire time, watching over me when i gracefully succeeded and miserably failed.

i remember the first and only time i saw you cry when i opened my Geneseo acceptance letter, and i remember your smile as we hugged each other on graduation day, knowing we MADE IT, together. 

i remember you driving me to my first entry-level job at the ass-crack of dawn- you drove for 45 minutes in your rusty red truck and quietly mumbled insults at every person in their car who pulled out in-front of you. 

and i remember how every friday after work, i'd cash my paycheck and stop at the liquor store to get you a bottle of dry red wine. we'd sit by the fireplace at home together while we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. these are precious moments i absolutely cherish.

i remember the first time i actually saw you RELAX when you decided to take our family on an annual trip to Cape Cod & i have enjoyed every single moment- the stuffy 8-hour drive, the walks on the beach, and starry and boozy nights. 

i remember your wariness when i left home for my first apartment, and i remember your selfless support when i signed my second lease with you by my side.

Dahdee, i truly wouldn't be where i am without you in my life- i am thankful for your guardianship every step of the way. i am sure it's been difficult for you to watch as my health failed and my hair fell out, but your steadfast support keeps me strong and i continue to wake up every morning with hope.

this past Christmas, you gave me one of the greatest gifts- i am able to look back at those 72,000 photos and embrace your story in mom's life, in my life, in my brothers' lives. 

Dahdee, YOU are the greatest gift. 

and i am honored and blessed to be your daughter.

 

 

 

Happy Father's Day, Dahdee. 

I love you,
Clip Clop Clair Doodle (dba HBO)

living authentic with alopecia

Francois Rebelais- he was a poet. and his last words were:

I go to seek a Great Perhaps

great perhaps.jpg

the pursuit of this Great Perhaps provides meaning to my life- a sense of purpose, some connection to a greater cause. i do not want to wait until i die to start seeking a Great Perhaps

i wake up every morning with a dreadful sense of FEAR in the pit of my stomach- the great and terrible WHAT IF looms like a storm cloud over my head, and i begin to FEAR:

what if my hair stops growing? what if i get another bald patch like i did in my nightmares? what if someone i love gets hurt today? what if i mess something up at work? what if i disappoint my family? what if i lose money, what if i don't make enough money? what if my coffee tastes like crap!? what if i get sick? what if no one actually cares about me? what if i lose my EYEBROWS? what if i stub my toe today [i hate that]? what if i never travel again? what if i don't work hard enough? what if i lose control over my emotions today? what if i forget to appreciate the life and blessings i have? what if i go BALD? what if i can't control my negative thought process...? WHAT IF I CAN'T EVEN HELP MYSELF AND I AM NOT A TRULY AUTHENTIC PERSON? WHAT IF I DON'T KNOW WHO I AM?

Fear can immobilize& disable. some days, i allow fear to take over. some days, i can't look at myself in the mirror. and some days, i sit in a corner and cry.

but hope remains.

hope ALWAYS remains, because there is MEANING to life.

when i acknowledge that there is nothing repulsive or shameful about myself, that there is something to LIVE for, it becomes easier to be that authentic person and feel like i am living a less performed life. and let's be real, this doesn't mean i genuinely acknowledge myself every day and exude sparkles and rainbows. it is difficult to embrace the parts of you that you resent or feel is unlovable- sometimes it feels virtually inconceivable that there is a reason for everything. 

but i try. i fight for myself, every day. 

i stick rainbow post-it notes in my calendar, my notebooks and in the small, dark corners of desk drawers that remind me to love all of myself, despite my "shortcomings" and "failures", despite all the "bad days". i kneel on my floor late at night and early in the morning when the world is asleep to pray, to acknowledge, to accept the patience required to carry my burdens. the authentic acknowledgement of SELF takes constant consistent practice  and more importantly, PATIENCE.
PATIENCE allows me to open my eyes every morning, realize my situation, and walk to my bathroom to look at the two large bald patches on my head. PATIENCE is what excites me when i look at the little brown fuzzies of growth on those bald spots and recognize the slow but sure success [although i desperately wish the hair on my head grew as fast as the hair on my legs]. PATIENCE is what helps me forge forward despite the roller-coaster trial and error experience of finding solutions to my disease. 

PATIENCE derives from my desire to seek the Great Perhaps first mentioned in this post.

MEANING makes patience of pain, gratitude of sorrow, cheerfulness of change.

yes, i have horrendous days. i FEAR, every day. i think we all do. but in those precious silent moments each morning, i remember that there is MEANING to all moments in this lifetime. we live lives filled with great and terrible moments, some that we cannot even imagine yet, and it is all a part of our journey, our story. 

now that i am over four months into my alopecia journey, i am beginning to overcome the WHAT IF and recognize that FEAR as part of my search for the Great Perhaps, a search for meaning, a reason for telling my story.

there is growth. this journey has taught me, transformed me. my hair has grown. i have grown.

keep living.

it is YOUR journey. YOUR story.

keep seeking the Great Perhaps. 

 

When every single second,
of your fragile little life
is a relentless mystery,
how will you know what’s coming?
This very day,
could surely be your very last.
what do you suppose could happen next?
all of this is just a Great Perhaps.



what if?
[...]

xo,

Clarisse

COMBing into my own: hair growth success

dear readers,

the stars have aligned.

my hair is growing back!

LOOK THAT THOSE GORGEOUS BEAUTIFUL BABY HAIRS! 

this is the fourth month of my alopecia journey, and it's been an incredible one- i gained widespread community support, met new people, reconnected with old friends and learned stories. 
& i created my own.

for those suffering from hair loss, here are some Best Practices i've implemented over the past few months that have shown success. i've committed time & energy to countless of hours of hair loss research and personal experimentation. these Best Practices not only improved my alopecia, but also my general health and anxiety. 

here is what is currently working for me:

Detoxadine- i consider this the MOST IMPORTANT supplement i am using- Detoxadine is Global Healing Center's brand of standardized nano-colloidal nascent iodine. It is produced with a transformative bio-elemental matrix and, with a glycerin base, is designed to be more gentle on your digestive system than iodine supplements that contain alcohol. ever since i started taking three drops every morning, my energy level has increased and I definately feel less fatigued as each day passes. Our bodies use iodine to make the hormones necessary for the growth of healthy hair, teeth and bones. When we are deficient in this nutrient, the health of our hair can suffer, leading to hair weakness or total hair loss- this is sometimes a factor that plays into alopecia. 

Selenium- I started taking 100mcg of selenium (vegetarian tablets) from GNC about a month ago. Not many know that selenium can assist in hair loss prevention. Let me explain: enzymes are molecules, used for different chemical reactions of the body- many enzymes use selenium to do their work for them, which makes them more reactive. Some enzymes help the body clean itself from free radicals. These guys are very harmful to the healthy growth of hair and skin cells of the body since they play a major factor in premature aging and weaker hair follicles. Selenium works for healthy hair growth and prevents hair loss by killing free radicals! I urge you to try out the 100mcg and track your success.

Biotin- I began taking this supplement the moment my first bald patch appeared and to be honest, I noticed little success by only taking this supplement. at the offset of my alopecia, i hazardly rushed to the local pharmacy and bought a SUPER BIOTIN tablet, which in turn sparked a MASSIVE acne breakout all over my face (i'm talking about this deep imbedded pimples under the skin, OUCH)! this only increased my anxiety & stress, and i lost more hair. now that i've accepted my struggle, i take 2 tablets of 1000mcg of biotin every morning with my breakfast. i've been taking biotin since the very beginning, and although i doubt that biotin alone assists in hair growth, i DID notice when i stopped taking biotin for two weeks, i LOST more hair. i recommend sticking with biotin throughout the journey- you can pick up biotin at your local pharmacy for cheap. 

Iron- Our bodies are incredible machines, but when our bodies start attacking themselves for unknown reasons, at their core these attacks are all similar in that they are an immune response caused by systemic inflammation that ignites a battle with your own physical self. When our bodies lack the nutrient iron, It sends the body into survival mode, so your body channels oxygen to support vital functions as opposed to ones like keeping your hair intact. a lack of iron then can cause hair loss. this is why i take 65mg of Nature Made iron every afternoon- you can also purchase this supplement at your local pharmacy.

L-Theanine- I purchase my 200mg of L-theanine at GNC- this supplement changed my life. The supplement is used to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve sleep, as well as boost concentration and alertness. ... An amino acid found primarily in black and green tea, L-theanine is partly responsible for the beverage's impact on mood. I was nervous to try this supplement, but within 20 minutes of taking one with water, my body was noticeably less tense- my hands stopped shaking, my heart stopped fluttering. I do not take this supplement all the time (it is non-addictive), but when my anxiety gets out of hand, i take this supplement and it mellows my physical reaction to anxiety. 

Natural Calm Magnesium-Calcium Drink- Natural Calm is a fruity, effervescent drink that promotes healthy magnesium levels and balances calcium intake—helping you to feel less stressed and more relaxed. Good health is all about balance. A delicate balance must be maintained between the levels of magnesium and calcium in your body—especially at a cellular level. I take one teaspoon twice a day of this supplement and have noticed a huge difference in my stress levels. This supplement can be purchased online or at GNC or Vitamin World.

and also...ALWAYS take a multi-vitamin with your first meal every morning to kick-start a healthy body. 

[i also do not want to ignore the steroid injections i received about a month ago- i cannot prove if the injections caused the change, but i will update you, dear reader, as my journey continues.]

These are the supplements I currently take [combined] have shown success with my hair growth and anxiety management. I also do not want to discount the major nutritional changes made the past few months- I TRY to eat six smaller meals a day (fruits, veggies, protein, smaller amounts of carbs) with the occasional beer, cookie, popcorn [really anything, you name it, i love food]... i am learning to ENJOY the food i eat. i am learning to EMBRACE the experience of eating/drinking. 

eat. drink. stay active. nurture your beautiful mind.

every journey has ups and downs- moments of great light and moments of great darkness. but perhaps without the lows, the highs could not be reached. my journey has been a rollercoaster- sometimes i close my eyes and hold on in sheer terror. but i am learning to enjoy those great & terrible moments.

sometimes you just have to raise your hands up in the air & enjoy the ride.
 

xo,

Clarisse

bad hair day

i'm sitting at a party with my wig on, and i start itching my head.

"i don't want to wear this," i sigh.

i loosen the hair clamps and unclip the piece from my head while no one is looking and shove Cuppie [my hair piece] in my purse.

and then the stares begin.

i ignore them, and i sit watching a couple sing and dance on television while i touch the two large patches on my right side. i slide my fingers over to the left side, and i notice something.

i feel a small bare patch of skin above my left temple. 

i rub the spot slowly, in a desperate attempt to shake reality. i turn and look at Cory and ask him,

"do you see any new spots?"

he stares and his eyes widen. "i'm sorry..." he says. 

i stand up and run into the bathroom. as i claw the bathroom sink screaming, i see three more fist-size patches of hair missing from my head. this time, the hair fell out of the left side of my head, leaving me with only strings of what used to be thick wavy brown hair.

i scream and cry as i grab Cuppie from my purse and attempt to clip it back on my head, but there's not enough hair to hold the piece to my scalp. Cory stands there, asking me to just calm down, but i can't.

i stare at myself in the mirror, hopeless, and cry.

these are the dreams i usually wake up from most mornings. 

my unconscious mind has the ability to send me spiraling, even after i wake up & a blessed day becomes a living nightmare. in a desperate attempt to regain control from these nightmares, i have put my dependence on my boyfriend at times- i run screaming and crying with no control whatsoever over my emotions, and it's gotten to the point where he now tells me, 

"i just don't know what to do with you anymore, i'm having a hard time handling this."

which in turn (although it is no fault of his own,) sends me even deeper into a deep hole of despair & turmoil and i convince myself that i am indeed a BURDEN.

here is the thing: we all face challenges of our own- EVERYONE faces problems in life. It's a matter of how you LEARN to OVERCOME them. there is a difference between needing support from someone versus making your problem someone else's problem.

the struggle you're in today is developing strength you need for tomorrow.

it ultimately boils down to mindset: when i wake up from my nightmare to my reality, i have choices to make: i can suffer and let my nightmare affect my entire day, or i can choose to eliminate my toxic unconscious thoughts. the latter choice is not an easy one. it takes practice, and i compare it to training for a marathon. the MIND is the limit- as long as the mind can envision the fact that YOU CAN DO SOMETHING, then YOU CAN DO IT, as long as you train your mind to believe, 100%. 

so, my dear reader, if you are struggling and you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, take a deep breath, and remember that YOU are in control of your mindset. we spend so much time in this society today DEPENDING on others to validate our worth, to reassure us- i've become a victim of this #trend

we forget that when people choose not to comfort us or help, when they undermine us or judge us, THEY are telling you THEIR story, not YOURS. 

dear reader, YOU are the writer of your story. 

we are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be. we have the power to make ourselves. to create ourselves.

i hope if you woke up this morning the way i did, you take a deep breath, and remember that you are in control.

i hope you open your front door and walk outside and breathe slowly, deeply, gently.

take a deep breath, and let go.

xo,
Clarisse
 

Cuppie


i have a buddy, her name is Cuppie.

absolutely wonderful. she lifts me up on the darkest days. i am thankful for her.

Cuppie is beautiful, she is 100% European and quite exquisite to look at. when i am with her, i have energy, she brings me confidence and hope. 

Cuppie is my human-hair wig.

 

ok, so you may be thinking it's totally weird to name a wig that is plopped on my head every day, so let me unpack my reasoning:

the name "Cuppie" does not refer to the derogatory term for a Chicago cubs fan- my feisty grandmother decided to nickname me "Cuppie" - she noticed that as a child, i would run around her house [bouncing off the walls,] while eating an excessive amount of mini-Reese cups. 
so, from the age of three onward, i was deemed "Cuppie". the name rushed throughout our community like Willy Wonka's chocolate river.. Cuppie was the bubbly, energetic little girl who thrived on her imagination, who ate as many reese cups as her little heart desired, who brought sunshine wherever she went.

as the years flew by, the progression to adulthood seemed to sadly push the nickname to the side, under the rug. dust collected. memories faded. 

i stopped eating the reese cups.

i stopped eating in general.

the energy & the sunshine faded into dim embers of what used to be, and i forgot about Cuppie. I only half-haardly noticed my grandma's cursive handwriting on my yearly Birthday and Valentines Day cards which always read:

"Cuppie, I love you up to the sky!"

the past few painful years, i've walked into work and pushed myself to my limits, pretending i was fine, posting a highlight reel on my social media, attempting to meet the expectations and "standards" that our society is currently embedded in... but the reality was that i was MISERABLE inside.

in my mind, Cuppie was long gone. 

the loss of my hair and the rapid downfall of my health the past three months forced me to look in the mirror and question:

who am i?

the answer to this lifelong question is ever-changing and transforming- sometimes we have seasons of confident self-assurance, but other times, experiences that define beautiful parts of ourselves fade and are covered up with  garbage [judgments, expectations, unhealthy criticism]. 

every morning, i wake up and thank God for gifting me with life, even when it is hard. i open the curtains in my bedroom and sit for a silent moment infront of my mirror and i try to answer that defining question:

who am i?

who am i? i am made from all the people i've encountered and all the things i have experienced. inside, i hold the laughter, the tears & the love of many friends. i hold the joyful talks and the arguments with my parents, the warmth of strangers, the bitter and terrifying abuses and the emotions i can't convey. i am made from all these people and moments. that is who i am.

my wig is sunlight in a dark place- it provides a safety net and helps me walk confidently into work every morning. but every night when the wig comes off,  the bald patches are STILL THERE. the pain and devastation can not be ignored. but this reality has me asking that question:

who am i?

and another: what am i going to do with this experience?

i named my wig Cuppie because although am going through the most difficult time of my 24 years of life, it makes me who i am. 

the little bubbly ball of sunshine who ate excessive amounts of reese-cups is not forgotten, that little girl is a part of me & defines who i am today. 

never again will i allow such an important part of myself fade into darkness.

the pain i am experiencing in my life right now does not define me. EVERY EXPERIENCE in my life is what defines me. every joy and every pain makes me the person that i am today. it is an incredible journey. this is my story. it is constantly changing, transforming, creating. 

this journey is the greatest gift. 

we choose what to do with the time that is given to us- take the garbage can moments of your life and accept them & take the happy memories and hold onto them. your life won't look the way you think it will, but every experience is a part of your journey, your story. i AM a reflection of all my experiences  & i am made of so much of this universe, past, present & future.

Cuppie is a part of my past, and now she is a part of my present. I love her, I accept her.

i eat reese-cups again. they are wonderful.

I choose to embrace life- every moment.

 

[shout-out to Kaylyn, thank you for experiencing many of these seasons with me, you're my rock & i am blessed with the gift of your authentic & honest friendship.]

please visit the CONTACT ME page if you'd like to learn more about hair-loss options & wigs, I can get you the hook-up! I am so happy to help or meet to hear what your journey is.

xo,
Clarisse