Northern Ireland

Shaving head gave me control, says NI alopecia sufferer

Juliet Cooke Image copyright Juliet Cooke
Image caption Juliet Cooke, pictured before and after losing her hair, said she hopes to raise awareness about alopecia to help other people who have the condition

A woman from Northern Ireland, who was only 28 when she began to lose her hair, has said shaving her head helped her to "take back control".

Juliet Cooke was diagnosed with alopecia just nine months ago.

The film producer first noticed a bald patch while she was getting ready to go out to an event.

She said it became a difficult process where big clumps of hair would "fall out every day in (her) hands".

"Losing my hair was this horrible feeling - you felt dirty, you never looked great," Ms Cooke told BBC's Talkback programme.

"When someone says you've got alopecia, it changes the way you feel about yourself."

'Rock bottom'

Doctors told the 28-year-old that she had likely developed the condition due to stress.

There is, however, no definite cause for alopecia and it can occur at any age.

In the months following her diagnosis, Ms Cooke said she "hit rock bottom", and began suffering from depression.

Eventually, she became frustrated with continually losing her hair and took the brave step of shaving her head completely.

For many people, that would be a difficult decision to make, but Ms Cooke said it gave her "a new lease on life".

"Suddenly I felt this sort of power and I could stand on my own two feet, it was like being born again," said Ms Cooke.

"Now I've shaved my head I feel great - I took back control."

New-found confidence

Some people who develop alopecia opt to wear a wig and Ms Cooke said sometimes she also does, because it "makes you feel like you haven't changed".

She added that while she would not choose to have developed the condition, it has given her a new-found confidence to help others who may be suffering in silence.

"I want to use my voice to help motivate people, to help them find beauty when they think it's impossible to find," said Ms Cooke.

"Things happen in life for a reason, maybe I got alopecia for a reason."

You can listen back to Juliet Cooke's interview with Talkback presenter William Crawley on the BBC iPlayer.

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