Michelle Rawls: Discovering my true self

“Don’t forget to lean on those who love you”

My name is Michelle Rawls. Whilst travelling the world I’ve realised the importance of checking in with yourself and prioritising your mental wellbeing in order to help maintain your physical health.

I was born on an air force base in North Dakota, USA, where my father was the security forces commander. We relocated to Maxwell when I was 2, the first of many times I moved around during my life. When I was about 6 years old my parents divorced, which was a very traumatic experience for me. 

After the divorce I moved with my mother to San Antonio and I felt a strong sense of abandonment, being away from my dad. The whole experience caused me extreme stress and made me anxious about future relationships I might have.

We lived in San Antonio until I was 17, when we got the opportunity to move to London. Throughout my childhood and early teens I struggled greatly with my mental and physical health. 

At around the age of 9 I went through a very hard time. I was struggling in school, I had dyslexia, I was feeling inadequate and my home life was very unhappy. I began to lose my eyebrows and my hairline started to recede. I was too young to understand what was going on. My mother took me to the doctor and I was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disease. I didn’t know what the condition was, I was terrified, thinking I had cancer and was going to die. I was given steroids which made me feel even worse, I gained a lot of weight and my mood became very unpredictable.

We visited the Basilica seeking a miracle and after that visit I truly felt a miracle had been granted, as my hair grew back. But when later in life my hair started to rapidly fall out again I began to question what I’d done which meant my miracle had been taken away. But I remained strong in my faith, realising I didn’t need any external miracle. I realised that the true miracle was within, I had the power to positively impact my own situation. 

After my initial recovery in my adolescence I began reading self-help books. I’ve always wanted to do my best to positively impact my own situation. My disease, being heavily impacted by stress levels, made me extremely conscious of maintaining my mental wellbeing and checking consistently how I was feeling. I try to view this as one of the positives of my condition. I am not in pain like some people and my disease makes me more conscious of my wellbeing. 

In addition, at university I established a fantastic group of friends who have provided me with the most wonderful support system which has helped me get through some hard moments. I want to emphasise the importance of relying on those who you love, there is no shame in asking for support from good friends.

After university I got a job working for the United Services Organisation and moved to Abu Dhabi. My role was to provide respite for service members and support them during their deployment. I stayed on the military base for 2 years, working for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.  I had to leave in order to put my well being first, as I was living in an artificial environment that made it difficult to maintain relationships and have a personal life. 

During my time with the United Services I saved enough money to travel to Australia, something I’d always wanted to do. I enjoyed my time exploring there but it was unfortunately cut short when the pandemic hit. 

Recently my job as a realtor has led to another flare up of my Alopecia. I realised I’d been taking too much on and trying to counsel people’s problems. I began to lose my hair so rapidly it was coming out in clumps.

However, I have learnt the valuable lesson of self help and self care. I have realised that we all hold our own inner light, it may flicker at times, but we should make sure we try to nurture it so it can fully shine through. 

Resources :

Michelle Rawls

Alopecia UK

National Alopecia Areata Foundation