I have had a skin condition, called vitiligo, for as long as I can remember. For those of you who do not know, vitiligo is a loss of skin pigmentation. What happens is the melanin that makes the skin color is destroyed. The exact cause as to why the melanocytes are destroyed is unknown but it results in white patches of skin all over the body where it is affected. It does not matter what part of the body, gender or racial background. It is estimated that 2 to 5 million people are affected by vitiligo. There is no cure for the skin condition or any way of prevention.
It was hard growing up with vitiligo. I think it was more of me battling with myself and thinking that everyone was always looking and pointing at my white patches of skin that I could not help but to hate. I know that they are just a part of who I am and as I have gotten older I have only learned to accept them. I can’t change them so why keep beating myself up over something that I have no control of? Still, I can’t help but to think that my white patches of skin that are so different from everybody else may be the reason why someone doesn’t want to talk to me or why someone may not want to date me. If someone would not talk to or date me because I have spots of white on my skin, then shame on them. But I still can’t help but wonder, what if I didn’t have these white spots? Would my life be that much different?
As a young child, the most memorable vacation that comes to my mind was when I went to Hilton Head with my aunt, uncle, and younger cousin. It was not memorable to me in a fun way but in a self conscious way. I had fun, don’t get me wrong, but I remember what bothered me the most were my white spots that seemed to consume my skin back then. When I look at pictures from that trip, the only thing I notice is those spots all over my body. Of course, going to Hilton Head and being a young child, the only thing I wore was a little bikini. Which did nothing but showcase my vitiligo that much more. I remember my cousin making a friend while we were on that trip. She would run off and play with her friend and leave me all alone. Naturally, as a self conscious kid, the only thing I could think about was, “she’s not spending time with me because she’s afraid of my spots”. I’m sure that was not true but as a kid that’s all I could think about. Really heartbreaking looking back on it all.
As I got older, my spots began to get smaller but they were still very noticeable. I had a kid ask me one time, while I was a counselor at a church camp, if I liked painting. I was kind of thrown off by this question but I responded with a yes. She then informed me that I still had white paint left all over me that I needed to clean off. Kids don’t know any better but I was very embarrassed by this. It made me feel like running back to the cabin and putting on pants and a sweatshirt and then just torturing myself by sitting in the hot sun with all the clothing on. I had other little kids ask me what I had all over me. Fortunately, when my cousin asked what they were, her mother responded to her that they were angel kisses. That comment made me feel really good and especially when my cousin wanted them because of that reason.
Into middle school and high school, I never once remember wearing a pair of shorts to school for fear of rejection and being made fun of. The vitiligo is worse on my legs then on any other part of my body. I have a loss of pigmentation on the top of my forehead which has, in return, made the locks of my hair white. I was teased enough about having grey hair in school and I couldn’t bear to think what the kids would say about all the white patches of skin I had. My close friends, of course, knew about my skin condition because out of school I was a little more courageous to wear shorts.
Any more, I don’t feel like living in jeans all the time, especially in the hot summer months. I’m hot natured anyways and I can’t take wearing jeans when it is 90 degrees and humid out. I still get people looking and staring. You know, the people who would rather make a fool of themself instead of turning their head away when I look at them staring. I have seen a few people who have the same skin condition as me. I just can’t help it when I see someone else with vitiligo, I feel proud having it because I know how rare it is.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still very self conscious about the vitiligo and very disappointed that there is still no cure for it but I’ve learned to accept it. I can’t change it and it makes me who I am. It’s part of me and I’m not going to let it destroy me. I still want to get out and have fun. I don’t want to sit in all cooped up because I’m afraid to face the world because of some white patches I have on my skin.
Unfortunately, my son has a spot on his stomach next to his belly button. You can’t notice it unless he’s been out in the sun with his shirt off but I just hope and pray that he doesn’t have vitiligo. If something happens and he has inherited it from me, I just hope that he does not have the struggle of accepting it like I did. I pray that kids aren’t cruel to him as some kids were to me. Lord knows, it was a long hard road to travel to accept my vitiligo but I’m glad that I traveled it the way I did. It had a big part in making me who I am today and making me appreciate the things that I have. I no longer wish that I could be like the popular girls and be able to have an even tan. I’m happy with just being me. They vitiligo may have gotten me down a few times but it never destroyed me.