Sharalynne Robertson’s hair began to fall out when she was around seven years old – and by age 11 she had her first wig.
‘My hair has always gone in cycles of falling out then growing back but I have not had a full head of hair for 12 years and have worn a wig for the past 10,’ Sharalynne, a photographer, tells New Idea.
‘My parents took me out of school when I was younger and home schooled me for a few years which I guess helped with not needing to cover the patches.’
As she got older, Sharalynne became more inventive – colouring in her bald patches and wearing scarves at the beach to match her outfits.
‘I find as I’m older and have children of my own I’m open to talk about my experience and it has actually opened up exciting opportunities for myself as a photographer and expanding my network of friends.’
Day to day, Sharalynne says she doesn’t dwell on having alopecia.
‘It’s like getting up and getting dressed, you just do it,’ she says.
‘There are times though I vividly remember when my hair would grow back then I’d see it falling out and I’d bawl my eyes out and think I can’t go through this again!
‘But then I refocus, take a deep breath and tell myself ‘you’ve got this’ and look at it as a challenge I can overcome.’
The mum-of-two says most people don’t realise she has alopecia as she often wears a wig.
‘I like hair so it’s a decision I’ve made to wear one,’ she says. ‘There are times I’ve felt comfortable telling people and there have been occasions that my wig has blown off and got caught on a tree - but I just laugh and put it back on and go ‘oops’.
Last year, for Alopecia Awareness Week, Sharalynne bared her bald head so that it could be covered in artwork.
‘It was actually a big turning point for me in feeling comfortable in my own skin,’ she says.
‘I attended a meetup for alopecia and was excited that others were getting their head painted and I didn’t want to miss out!
‘I was tempted to put my hair back on after our meetup was finished but thought I’d never get a chance to be a walking piece of art and left the wig in my bag.
‘I felt liberated and excited and a lot cooler not wearing my wig and it gave me confidence to go without it some time in the future.’
While Sharalynne does usually wear a wig in public, she never wears one at home and says she is very open with her daughters about her condition.
‘I think it’s a great lesson for them to know that not everyone needs to look the same and that people are beautiful no matter how they look,’ she says.
And Sharalynne’s message to others is simple.
‘Everyone is different, do what is comfortable for you and what makes you feel good whether it be wearing a wig or going bald or with patches, be brave, you are stronger than you think and no one is perfect,’ she says.
‘I’ve made some beautiful friendships though opening up about alopecia and it’s amazing how many people know someone with it.
‘People will react to you - especially kids - but it is in our nature to be curious about what we don’t know, educate others and be proud of the strong person you are.’
Support the Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation here
This article originally appeared on New Idea.