I think the hardest part about stopping all treatments and coverage was interacting with people I knew. Overnight, just like that, I looked different. I stopped hiding my hands. I stopped using makeup on my face. I slowly began to wear v-necks again. The questions began to flow. Naturally my friends and family were concerned. What happened? Was I ok? When did this start? Some questions I had easy answers for. Others were more of a challenge. Regardless, my secret that I thought I had under control for the last 5 years was now being revealed…partly by choice, but mainly by force.
What I also found interesting, was that people who met me in my post-reveal life, rarely asked my about my vitiligo. On the occasion, a curious stranger would actually ask them about it. Sometimes they told me about their encounter. When I asked what their response was, sometimes their explanation of vitiligo was accurate, and sometimes it was misinformed.
I realized that because this was now my normal, I didn’t have conversations with many of my friends about vitiligo…at least not until there was some “incident” that initiated the inquiry. Were they hesitant to ask? Did they think I would be angry or cry? Were they waiting for me to introduce the topic? Or maybe an incident just like this to provide an opportunity to talk? Maybe they just decided to read about it on the internet. Maybe they never thought twice about it?
Like I said, this was my everyday life, so I was no longer walking around with vitiligo treatments, makeup, and hiding at the forefront of my thoughts. I guess I got back to the busyness of school and work and self, that my attentions just focused elsewhere. It’s hard to tell exactly when that full shift took place.
Eventually, my regimen became one of protection, rather than coverage. I use clothing to shield my skin from harmful UV radiation when I’m in sunnier climates. I apply sunblock during prolonged exposure to sun, and even use chapstick with SPF protection.
There are times when I have chosen to wear more modest clothing when not in the sun. For example, if I am giving a speech to a new audience, I probably won’t go with a sleeveless dress. I understand that sometimes my vitiligo can be a distraction (be it good or bad), that can take away focus from my message. Will my face, chest, arms, and hands be too overwhelming? Who knows. What about my jewelry, eye shadow, shoes, or dress length? I utilize my outfit and overall appearance on such a day, like any other, to illustrate my mood, my story, and the message I want to accompany my words and actions. (And on a side note, sleeveless is often too informal for a professional setting anyway. Lol)
Everyday, I consider what I’m going to do and who I might interact with. This may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t really take me much more thought than deciding between pants or a skirt based on the weather, or heels vs flats depending on how much walking I plan to do at work that day.
I consider my vitiligo an opportunity, and one that I don’t take lightly. I have been on a journey that somehow seems to attract people to approach me with questions, comments, and even the wildest encounters. And it’s ok. I’m ok. Because I have no doubt in my mind that I was designed for this life…drawn and filled in by infinite shades of color, ranging from the lightest white to the darkest brown.
I guess that’s when I started to embrace my vitiligo. When I began to see the purpose in it. Now that I think back, it probably started around the day I was shopping in Children’s Place and a mother asked me if I could speak to her young daughter and encourage her about her vitiligo. I can’t cover up. Choosing to unveil my vitiligo empowers others with all kinds of unique features to embrace their own.
I can’t say it enough…Our beauty is not a blemish.