My Vitiligo Doesn’t Define Me. I Define Me.
I have vitiligo.
For those of you who don’t know what vitiligo is, it is a disorder (possibly autoimmune) in which white patches of the skin appear on different parts of the body. This happens because the cells that make the pigment in the skin are destroyed (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 2014). To put it simply, I am slowly losing the skin color I was born with. The cause is unknown, but it appears genetics may play some sort of role as both my mother and my grandfather have it.
The first white patch I ever noticed I contributed to a scar. I was 21 years old, it was July and my skin had started to show some color from the sun. The patch was perfectly circular on the knuckle of my right index finger. As someone who used to competitively show horses, I assumed it was an old injury from corking (putting metal studs in their shoes to prevent slipping on grass), as this was the prime location for it. Then I started to get another, and another. My right hand was affected first, but my left hand followed soon after. Noticing this symmetrical balance was when I knew something wasn’t normal. I grew up knowing what vitiligo looked like. I had watched how it symmetrically snaked its way around my mom’s body. I went to the doctor and got the confirmation of what I already knew — I have vitiligo.
The diagnosis hit me like a brick wall, even though I was expecting it. I was upset, I was angry, but, most of all, I was scared. I knew I was going to physically watch my skin, the skin I grew up with, the skin I knew, the skin I loved, change. I was worried people would view me differently, make comments, stare, and not want to associate with me. I worried about how I was going to look in pictures; hell, I even worried about the patches glowing in the dark (they don’t, by the way, in case you were wondering). I spent my whole life trying to fit in, and now I was thrown something that automatically caused me to stand out.