The original intent and purpose of this blog has drastically changed since I first decided to post it. I hope when you read this it will inspire you to truly love the skin you are in. Loving your skin may mean one thing for you and a completely different thing for another, but I hope the message contained within helps you to see the beauty in imperfection.
May you become inspired by the millions of people who are imperfectly beautiful…
Almost three years ago, I noticed a random small white patch under my right arm pit. I did not know what it was, but it wasn’t too visible, so I thought nothing of it. As time went by, the small patch began to grow larger, however, since it was still non-visible to others, I paid little attention to it.
Then, in January 2020 I noticed another white patch on my right hip. Seemed odd, but I wasn’t too concerned. As the year continued white patches across my body started to rapidly appear. In a period of two months the white patches had multiplied across my hands, on my thighs, my forearm, my face and so on…I had no idea what was going on, but I was concerned.
We were at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, so I made a virtual appointment with a dermatologist and as of March 2020 I was diagnosed with #Vitiligo.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin condition in which the immune system attacks its own skin cells and causes loss of skin pigmentation. Vitiligo can appear anywhere on the body and can affect anyone. The exact cause of vitiligo is currently unknown and although treatments exist, there is no official cure.
There are three types of vitiligo (focal, segmental, and generalized) and they are determined by the # of patches and location of patches on the body. I have generalized vitiligo, which means I have many patches all over the body that affect both sides and that tend to be in a symmetrical pattern. This type is the most common type and is also known as “non-segmental” or “complete vitiligo”. So, what does this mean for me? Well, as of right now, I really don’t know.
I had originally planned to post this blog several months ago, but I am really glad that I waited because my opinion of, and state of mind toward, vitiligo has changed drastically over the last 7 months.
The onset of the condition was very scary and when I first got diagnosed and started to learn about vitiligo, I freaked out a bit. You know, I did not understand it, I was worried that it wouldn’t go away and that it would take over my entire body. I had learned that stress, diet, and sun exposure can have a drastic effect on the condition. I had also learned that loss of skin pigmentation meant loss of melanin, which in turn, means your white patches are no longer protected from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (aka you are at a higher risk of skin cancer). As someone with vitiligo, if I get a sun burn, there is a high chance that the area of the burn will lose pigment. That’s exactly how the vitiligo on my hands started, I got sun burn, and my pigmentation never returned. On top of all this, I was told my vitiligo was a classic case of “thyroid induced vitiligo” – which means my first autoimmune disease cause my second. That was a lot to swallow.
This information coupled with the fact that white patches where rapidly appearing all over my body completely overwhelmed me. I even got to the point where I was so concerned about sun exposure that I started wearing hats (which I never do), was applying sunscreen continuously, and wore long sleeve shirts in extremely hot weather in order to cover my skin. I was afraid I was going to cause more vitiligo and I began entering into a very unhealthy mindset about something that I couldn’t control.
I broke down a few times and got sad because I didn’t want to look like this. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me, you know? I was really concerned and embarrassed about it; especially because it was becoming more visible on my face. Because I am white and at the beginning stages of the condition, it is much less visible on me than it would be on a person of color, but nonetheless, I was my worst critic.
After a month or so of freaking out I recognized that my response was unhealthy and one day I just decided to refuse to let myself enter a place of shame or embarrassment. I decided I didn’t want to hide this from people or spend my days trying to cover it up. I decided I was going to write a blog about it and tell people that I was to start a phase three clinical trial treatment. I was then going to post updated results of the trial on a monthly basis. But then I decided this wasn’t good enough. I wanted to research other people who have had/have this condition – those who have had it since childhood and those who developed it in adulthood. I wanted to learn about how it affected their life and how they approached it.
I think this was the best thing I could have done. I learned so much about their journey, about the years of trying to hide the condition with make up and clothing and so on.
I learned about their long path to acceptance and how so many people who have this condition have learned to love their skin. I learned how they refer to their body as pieces of art and how they believe people in the vitiligo community were meant to stand out and be different.
I even listened to a podcast called “The Thriving Community of Vitiligo” where many good points and perspectives were shared. All of this was eye opening and impactful. So much so, that in a period of seven months, my opinion, outlook and approach to this condition has done a 360.
I didn’t end up pursuing the clinical trial, and though I am currently in treatment for vitiligo, I’ve recently started contemplating foregoing treatment. I haven’t quite decided if I am going to stop treating it yet or not, and I haven’t fully fallen in love with it on my skin, but I am no longer ashamed of it.
I am not embarrassed about it. I don’t try to cover it up, and most importantly, I have vowed that I will not waste years of my life trying to treat something that I cannot control and that in my opinion, has produced millions of imperfectly beautiful individuals of all shapes, sizes and colors. As of now, I have decided to treat it for 6 months to a year tops, and after that, if the white patches continue to appear, I’ve decided to accept the beauty of my new skin and let it take its course. Perhaps, just like the millions of other people who share this condition, I meant to be different, and to stand out in the crowd.
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