April 21, 2016 marks a victorious day in my life for many reasons. It’s the day that my once-hidden story of my struggle with Alopecia became public. It’s the day that my wig-less appearance was seen by more than the handful of people that I voluntarily showed before that day. It’s the day I stopped wearing a wig that I wore for nearly every day of my life since age 6. But most importantly, it’s the day I declared freedom from the shame and fear of living with Alopecia.

A lot has changed since that momentous day.

For starters, I now sport a mohawk. I quit my job as a chiropractor and decided to go on a mission trip. But beyond those things, when I reflect on the past four months as a whole, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of peace and hope. A sense of peace and hope that seemed out of reach before I went wig-free. I’ve learned a lot having faced the biggest challenge of my life.

God Makes the Impossible, Possible

Most of us have either heard or read the stories in the Bible where God does something we can hardly imagine. You know, like parting the Red Sea or turning water into wine. Even though I believe those stories to be true, I now have my own “parting the Red Sea” experience to back it up.

Taking my story of Alopecia public was the easy part. After that day, I had to actually live it out. Everyday activities seemed like mountains to climb. And there wasn’t just one mountain.

What kind of challenge would that be?

There were a lot of mountains for me. From playing basketball to working as a chiropractor for the first time wig-free, it seemed like I faced a new scary experience every day.

One particular mountain I remember very well. I planned to go to the grocery store for the first time wig-free. It seems pretty mundane for most people but not for a girl who wore a wig for most of her life and, at that time, sported a barely-visible mohawk. That particular day anxiety filled me and I felt gripped by fear. I sat in the parking lot for about half an hour reciting scripture over and over just so I could get the guts to walk in and buy some groceries.

God humbled me each time I faced a new situation or new experience wig-free. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I had to ask and pray for His help. I’ve read about God’s faithfulness, but through this experience I felt it personally. He took what my small, narrow, human mind thought unimaginable and made it real. He moved mountains in my life. I once thought a wig-free life impossible. Thanks to God, not anymore.

I Have Never Felt More Free

I know it’s cliché to say, but I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I don’t worry about hiding anymore. I don’t have to pretend to look like someone I’m not. I can simply be and look the way God made me.

I didn’t realize how heavy the burden was until it was gone. And thankfully, God surrounded me with people that helped me recognize the difference now that the burden is lifted.

I received comments from friends telling me there’s a “glow” about me now. I even received similar comments from people I don’t know personally but who witnessed my transformation from a distance. No, the “glow” isn’t from the light bouncing off my partially-bald scalp. I’m told the “glow” is in the way I carry myself now. I’m told my eyes are brighter. My smile is bigger. And honestly, I literally feel like a different person.

Before my story came out, I told my friend Danielle about a barrier I felt between me and other people. An imaginary wall kept me from getting too close to someone emotionally. Call me crazy but this new sense of freedom didn’t only give me a new glow, it unlocked an emotional vault as well. Emotionally, I feel deeper and bigger. I feel more loved than I ever remember feeling. On the flip side, I love others deeper as well. There’s not a barrier anymore. That’s a freedom I’ve never felt before.

Alopecia is a Gift

My parents can recount many stories of me with my pets from when I was a little girl. Whether I carried as many kittens as my little arms could hold or created a make-believe picnic on a blanket with the dogs, I was always playing with animals. I wanted to take care of them. I wanted to protect them. I was always looking for something to rescue. It’s from those early memories as a little girl I’ve identified the gift of mercy God gave me.

Over the past few months, that gift of mercy has magnified. I know what it’s like to be seen as “different.” I know what it’s like to get pointed at by little kids on a playground who snicker and point. I know what it’s like to get funny looks and long stares. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re “less than” everyone else. I know what it’s like to feel ugly. I know what it’s like to feel unlovable. I know what it’s like to feel ashamed of the way you look.

Even though all of those things are painful to feel and experience, it’s because of those experiences I can empathize with others in similar situations. Hopefully, because I can empathize with them, I can use my experience to help them.

Alopecia is not the curse it once was to me. Now, it’s a blessing. Through it God humbled me. He taught me invaluable life lessons. For that, and what’s to come, I am thankful.

I don’t know what led you to read this. Maybe you’re my friend and you’re curious about my experience over the past few months. Maybe you’re a total stranger and just happened to stumble upon this post because someone you knew shared it on Facebook. Maybe you have Alopecia.

Whatever the case may be I pray that by sharing what I’ve learned you feel inspired to face your biggest fears, encouraged that your impossible is possible and motivated to see how victory can be your story, too.