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Amy Burbage, 31, from West Berkshire, was just 17 when her hair started falling out. After tests and investigations, Amy was later diagnosed with the most severe form of alopecia - alopecia universalis - in which all the hair on the head and body falls out.
Between the ages of 17 and 18, Amy's thick blonde hair was gone, something she explains as "absolutely devastating".
Despite love and support from family and friends, Amy's confidence crashed and she felt completely alone.
"One day I came home from school and was brushing my hair when I felt a patch of hair missing at the back of my scalp, about the size of a two pence coin," recalled Amy.
"It was completely smooth and felt so strange. I immediately freaked out and shouted for mum to come and have a look.
"After she calmed me down, we went to the doctors where I discovered my iron levels were dangerously low and I was seriously anaemic.
"They thought that this could be one of the reasons why my hair was falling out. I was put on iron tablets, my baby hair started to grow back for about nine months and I felt as if my hair was going to return to how it was before.
"But with my iron levels back up to normal, the doctors took me off the iron tablets and soon my hair began to fall out again, but this time quicker than before.
"I felt absolutely devastated because I thought that I knew the cause and thought that the treatment was working.
"Your hair and the way you look is one of the most important things to you at 17, so it was truly devastating to be losing it. It's not a person you've lost, but you still go through a grieving process for it. It's hard to admit it, but I was quite vain prior to my hair falling out.
"To go from that to having your hair falling out and realising there is nothing you can do to stop it, it definitely teaches you a bit of a lesson.
"I was torturing myself trying to find answers and solutions that just weren't there. Because my hair started falling out at the back first, I couldn't see how bad it was and so just tried to ignore it.
"My hair fell out over two years and watching this happen was just torturous. But I had to just learn to accept it and move on because I didn't have a choice. I had to bring positivity back into my life."
Determined not let her alopecia rule her life, Amy dived into the world of dating after ending her long-term relationship with her childhood boyfriend in her early twenties.
She decided she wouldn't tell her dates about her condition, until the third or fourth date, when she knew if she wanted to continue seeing them. And while most were understanding, one actually ghosted Amy, refusing to reply to any of her messages.
After coming to terms with his reaction, Amy realised that her condition has been a great way to filter out people who aren't worth her time.
Now, Amy has been in a relationship with her current boyfriend Charlie, for three years.
Amy added: "By the time I reached my mid-twenties I was single, but was determined to not let my alopecia affect my love life.
"Dating is all about confidence and feeling good and it can be hard to feel confident when you've lost your hair.
"On pretty much all occasions, guys wouldn't mind about my alopecia when I told them which was great. There is one time that has stuck in my mind where I brought it up to one person and he seemed absolutely fine with it and even said that I looked beautiful in my wig.
"But, after the date, he completely ghosted me, even though we had met multiple times. I wasn't really that into him anyway so I didn't mind too much, but alopecia really helps you filter out the guys and people in your life who aren't worth your time.
"My current boyfriend Charlie and I have been together for three years and I know I have a really special person in my life. He even says that when I change my wig, it's like dating a different person but with my same personality."
Amy has recently set up an Instagram page to help others going through the same experience.
"I had wanted to set up an Instagram page for a couple of years, but hadn't really got around to doing it," she continued.
"For those early in their alopecia journey in particular, hair loss can be incredibly traumatic, so being able to provide that support, even if you can always give solutions is invaluable.
"If I had the support of the alopecia community when I was 17 or 18, I wouldn't have felt so alone. Sharing my journey has had a huge impact on my life and my confidence has shot up - it's amazingly powerful.
"People who don't have alopecia often don't know how to bring it up to you, so the more it's talked about, the more open people will be about the condition."
Amy admits that her alopecia has held her back from living life to the full, for fear that people would react negatively to her. She hopes that by sharing her story those living with alopecia will embrace the condition.
"When I look back I do think there are things I've missed out on, especially surfing and swimming because my wig was likely to come off," said Amy.
"On a holiday to Hawaii, I had a chance to jump off a waterfall and I so badly wanted to do it, but didn't feel confident enough to take my wig off and show everyone my baldness.
"The confidence I have gained from posting my baldness on my social media means that I want to go back and do those things I missed out on in the past. I'm desperate to go back and jump off that waterfall."
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