She Spent Years Hiding Her Condition, But Now She's Sharing It With The World In An Effort To Raise Awareness

"The second you learn to let go and embrace it is the second you’ll feel beautiful in your own skin."

Brooke Brakeman, 25, has spent the majority of her life living with a rare skin condition, though you'd never know it by looking at her.

Many people in her life didn't — until she posted this Instagram picture last week.

In the caption, she revealed that she has alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease causing hair loss on the scalp, face, and other body parts. 

More importantly, she revealed the emotional struggle she has gone through every day with the condition since she was 14. "I used to cry every time at the sight of myself," she wrote in the post. "I let myself miss out on things that I wanted to do ... I let my appearance consume me and overwhelm me and ruin some friendships because of insecurities and anxiety consumed my life." 

Brakeman told Alternative Press that, because she was diagnosed in middle school, she was often bullied. "Kids are not nice, as well as adults," she explained. "You feel a little bit lost." 

Now, she's found her voice — and using it to encourage and inspire others.

"[F]rom this point forward alopecia and anxiety will no longer stop me from being who I am and doing what I want to do," she continued on Instagram. "It's okay to be you and you have to deal with what you were given. Embrace it. People will still love you and if they don't you don't need them. .. Don't let anything stop you from living your life."

Brakeman certainly isn't. "The second you learn to let go and embrace it is the second you'll feel beautiful in your own skin," she added. "I feel like if people learned how to be themselves, then they would just be much happier. If I can help even just one person from any of this, it would mean the world to me."

Since Brakeman published her Instagram post a week ago, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have called Brakeman "beautiful," both inside and out. 

Though the effects of alopecia areata are often hidden under high-quality wigs, nearly 7 million people in the United States live with the disease, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. By sharing her individual experience with the world, Brakeman has helped to make those unseen others visible.

(H/T: Alternative Press)

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