I know, reading through this blog and testimonies from people with autoimmune illnesses can easily become depressing. However, we have to find joy somewhere in the mix, right? My hair turned gray due to a nutritional deficiency (most likely vitamin B12), and I used to hate it at first, but I’ve kind of embraced it now.

I’m only 20 and I look like I’m in my 50’s. However, I also have a very young face and body build, which works to my advantage and allows me to masquerade as a high schooler. If I visited my old high school sometime, security probably wouldn’t even send me to the visitor’s office because I really look that young. I even weigh 12 pounds less than I did as a high school freshman, so that’s not surprising. Most people actually think I’m 16 and don’t believe me when I tell them I’m a college senior. I counseled at a camp last summer and one camper started talking to me like I was another camper. I then told her I was a counselor and she thought I was joking until I showed her my staff bracelet.

Life as a camp counselor at Camp Pondo (Summer 2016).

Anyways, my gray hair has become quite the conversation topic. I can tell what friends and family members I haven’t seen in a while based on their comments about my hair when I see them –– most of them will ask, “Did you dye your hair?,” or “Woah! Did you always have that birthmark? I never noticed.” It’s quite interesting. And then I have friends who I see often enough that they notice when it grows less or more gray (it changes quite frequently, apparently).

I’ve walked into the Biola caf several times and found myself enveloped in odd conversations with random strangers who think it’s the coolest thing. I really don’t know why other people think it’s amazing––most people dye their hair when it grays because they’re so insecure about it––but people stop and talk to me anyways. One girl even shouted, “Woah! Cool hair,” as I left my dorm one morning.

My hair sophomore year (fall 2015) versus junior year (summer 2016).

The best part is when people ask me if I’m stressed out. I actually get very stressed, all the time, so I become very defensive when people make that correlation. However, it was hilarious when middle schoolers randomly asked me about it at camp last summer. One boy came up when I lined my cabin up for dinner and unabashedly said, “Are you like, stressed out all the time or something?” I wasn’t too pleased at first, but now I look back and laugh at the kid’s brutal honesty.

My favorite gray hair related memory happened when I walked into the Uptown Whittier Rite Aid and some hipster guy shouted, “Hey! You’re really rocking that anime hair!” I couldn’t stop laughing for about 10 minutes.

I really do look like a high schooler, even though I’m 5’3.

Several people tell me I look like Rogue from “X-Men,” even though my streak is technically on the opposite side. I’ve had a few people  also say Anna from “Frozen.” I’ve made a game and started counting how many people tell me I remind them of Rogue. So far, I have over about 15 tallies.  It doesn’t even matter what state or city I’m in. I always get the same response.

People usually ask me if I’ll dye my hair. My answer? It’ll only grow back gray, so no. I used to hide it with hats or pin my hair over the streak, but now I act like it’s not even there. It’s become a part of me and actually works to my advantage as a journalist because anyone I interview remembers me as “that journalist with the gray hair.” It’s also easy for friends to pick me out in a crowd at places like Disneyland. It’s essentially a trademark.


One thought on “The lighter side of my autoimmune illness

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