By Laura Lynott @
A brave mum who suffers alopecia has stood up to a bully who cruelly taunted her and taken to Facebook to post images of her shaven head.
Mum-of-three Barbara Smyth, from Co Longford, spoke in tears about how another mother had labelled her ‘baldy Barbara,’ – after she had whipped her wig off to show the world she’d lost her hair.
Barbara, 48, originally from Dublin, noticed her first bald spot when she was just 16 – but she had been hiding the problem for years – until she was losing so much hair, she could no longer conceal it.
A few weeks ago the businesswoman decided to take drastic action and had the remnants of hair she still had left, shaved off – and while most people supported her – some didn’t recognise her and one woman actually taunted her.
“For weeks before I got my head shaved, I was so upset I cried an awful lot,” Barbara said. “I was so upset prior to getting a wig fitted. I chose a blonde one in a bob, because that was the hair I’d been so used to having for so many years – but when I saw myself in photos, it just didn’t look like me.
“It was hot, itchy and I wasn’t comfortable – I told my family I’d go without it in the house and just wear it outside but then I just came to the decision I am going to get my head shaved. One of my daughters was mortified – but I just had to do it for myself, to feel me again.”
Barbara got her hair shaved as one of the biggest steps she has ever taken in her life – She knew because of the autoimmune condition she may never get her hair back.
“I didn’t cry but it was emotional stuff. It was one of our hottest days of the year. I wore the wig out and then just took it off at home – but then a week later I saw photos of myself at a Longford United Gospel Choir event, and I didn’t look myself. I decided I’m not wearing it anymore.
“I went out to a big community event without it and people didn’t recognise me – I felt like I was on display. But then one woman came over to me, shook my hand and told me I looked beautiful. That really helped me.”
However, not long after Barbara claims another mother who she knows phoned her up as they had a disagreement and during the phone call, things turned particularly nasty.
“She shouted at me, called me baldy Barbara,” Barbara said, breaking down. “I’ve had nothing but support since this has happened but one negative thing was said to me and it cut me to my bone.
“I ended up going to the guards over her because it was an abusive phone call. She was disgusting. The guards contacted her to tell her to leave me alone and stay away.
“It just took that one little hurtful comment to bring me back down, I thought to myself, do other people call me that name behind my back?”
It took Barbara, who stood as an independent candidate in the General Election, a short time to get back to being positive about alopecia aereata – a condition which causes bald spots across the head.
She decided to “be who I am,” and embrace the fact that she has no hair and it may never grow back.
She took to Facebook and changed her profile photo from a woman with long blonde locks to her new, bald look.
And a stream of friends and supporters took to the social network to encourage her on her journey.
“A doctor told me my hair might never grow back so I felt it was better to accept it. Because there is no cure, it’s easier to take the wig off and just be bald.
“If it grows back, great – but in the mean time I want to try not to have hang ups. I think it’s good for me and others, to just be who we are publicly.
“Now that I’ve done that, I couldn’t be happier – one girl even told me I looked better without hair and one of my daughters thinks I look cool.”
But the first night Barbara took her wig off in front of husband David, was one of the toughest parts of her new life.
“I told him to prepare because he would be shocked – but he just turned to me and told me I was beautiful.”
Barbara had noticed her hair loss had become particularly prevalent during her attempts to gain political power.
She believes the attempt to become a politician had triggered stress and she has decided as a result, not to stand in future.
However, she is determined with actions such as shaving her head, she will continue to represent those who wish to make positive changes in society.
Scottish TV presenter Gail Porter is one of the most high profile women to suffer the condition – but her career has flagged since becoming bald.
Barbara is hopeful if more sufferers come out in to the open it will help beat the stigma associated with aolopecia.
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