My name is Paul Inman, and I am a bald guy!
I say this not because being bald defines me as a person, but because it has shaped my journey into adulthood and contributed to the confident, secure and happy person that I am today. From the moment that my hair began to fall out at the tender age of 17, I have experienced a roller-coaster of emotions that have ultimately changed me and my life for the better.
There may be many of you reading who are also in your late teens and struggling with hair loss, while desperately trying to seek out miracle cures and solutions. I am here to share my story and hopefully convince you that accepting and embracing hair loss holds the key to future happiness.
In the Beginning: Losing My Hair and Losing My Mind
I can remember turning 17, and my life had embarked on an upward curve. Having enjoyed a happy childhood surrounded by loving friends and family members, my early teenage years were plagued by a breakout of acne, which brought on the usual self-confidence issues and made me a target for school-yard bullies. This was a difficult time, but by the time of my 17th birthday the condition of my skin had improved considerably and my life was improving incrementally.
I even had a beautiful girlfriend, and I could feel my confidence returning day by day.
Then it began.
Back then, my hair was a rock-star mix of short and long, with thick locks on top and a wavy fringe. Shortly after my 17th birthday, I noticed my hair falling out in clumps, mostly from the top of my head and around the crown. Initially I tried to deny that this was happening and that people my age simply don't go bald, but the sheer rate of the hair loss soon made the reality of my situation impossible to ignore.
In Denial and Hoping for a Short-term Fix
The usual questions raged through my head. Why me? How could this happen now after I had already overcome acne? Have I done anything to bring this on? As my self-confidence waned once again, I began to convince myself that my hair loss was a temporary blip, perhaps triggered by a particular hair product or shampoo, or even the way in which I styled my hair.
So I began a hopeless process of trial and error, as I desperately sought a simple solution to what I hoped was a short-term issue. New products came and went, while a host of different styles failed to hide my thinning hair. Doctors could do little but offer reactive treatments like propecia and rogaine, which are at best unsustainable solutions that do nothing to stop the underlying problem.
At this stage, some of you may well be nodding at the screen in agreement, and if you can relate with this then please know that I understand your pain. I also know that you probably feel isolated, as I spent two years battling the problem by myself with little help or advice. Over time, my parents and girlfriend came to know what has happening, and they lent their support whenever and however they could.
Even with support, I began to hit rock-bottom as every single potential solution turned to dust. Mortified at the prospect of experiencing 'baldy' and 'skeleton' jibes at sixth form (remember that baldness was not perceived in the same way 20 years ago as it is today), an initial sense of frustration and confusion began to give way to desperation. I reached my nadir when I sought out hair thickening treatment at a clinic in Manchester, as I looked to hide my supposed shame rather than accept the reality of what was happening.
Acceptance and Changing My Mind-set
Looking back, I do not know what I was thinking, as this treatment cost several thousand pounds of savings and my parents' hard-earned money. To me, the willingness to make such a commitment highlights just how fragile my mental state was back then, as I could see no other way of facing the haters and restoring my shattered self-confidence.
This is not to say that my hair did not thicken for a time, while the people around me scarcely noticed anything was remiss. My friends knew but were supportive, while acquaintances and new friends did not even bat an eyelid.
This was enough to make me think that I had made the right choice for a brief period of time, but like the treatment itself this false sense of confidence quickly began to dissipate. I think I always knew deep down that this was little more than yet another temporary fix, albeit one of the most expensive on my ever-expanding list. This realisation was confirmed every time another clump of hair fell out, as the treatment did nothing to reverse the process of hair loss or tackle the underlying issue.
Over time, my miracle cure became little more than an expensive mistake, and this only served to undermine my confidence further. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I felt this was my last chance to resolve the problem, but regardless I had never felt more anxious and am not ashamed to admit that I spent many sleepless nights hiding away and crying into my pillow!
This was a turning point for me, as I hit rock-bottom and realised that there was no way of hiding my hair loss from the world. It was a relentless force of nature, and I was not about to spend any more money delaying the inevitable. There was therefore nothing else to do but to accept my fate, and try to put this into some form of perspective. After all, I was not ill, nor did I have an issue that could not be resolved. In truth, the best solution was also the easiest, but one that I had avoided for so long.
I can remember the day that I looked in the mirror and accepted that I was going bald, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most empowering experiences imaginable. I also consider it to be the beginning of my adult life, as I became a strong and confident man who tackle anything in front of me. So while I was in no fit state to visit a barbers' at the time, my sister arranged for her friend (who was a mobile hairdresser) to visit me and shear my ailing locks.
The rest, as they say, is history, and as the cold, hard steel of the hair clippers began to graze my scalp, a new and more confident man was born!
The Aftermath, and How Acceptance Makes You a Stronger Person
In some respects, you will go through several stages of grief when losing your hair as a young man, but understanding this process and knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel is extremely important. I know as I have emerged at the other end of this tunnel, as a more secure, confident version of myself who is happier in his own skin.
If it can happen to an ordinary guy like me, it can happen to you too, and I will certainly say in hindsight that my life has probably been improved by going bald so young! Sure the aftermath of shaving my head and embracing my baldness was difficult, as I had to acclimatise to a daunting new look and the attention that this would bring, and this took a serious amount of inner strength. Once I pushed beyond this, I developed a far greater level of self-esteem, and became the best person I possibly could be!
My experience also inspired my launch of The Bald Gent website, in a bid to help others and people like you who at the start of their hair loss journey. It should also reaffirm that no matter how bad you may feel now, you will emerge as a stronger and better person once you have accepted your reality!