Over the past twenty years, I’ve watched vitiligo take over 100% of my skin. The transformation from a few spots to large patches and finally to no color at all ended two years ago. And then a week ago I found a few white hairs in my left eyebrow.
“I thought vitiligo had taken everything it possibly could from me.”
It took me by surprise. I thought vitiligo had taken everything it possibly could from me. It had been so long since I had seen any development with my vitiligo that I thought I was safe. And knowing that I was done – that it couldn’t take any more – was comforting.
I hung on to that comfort for a few more days as this new discovery slowly sank in. And then the mourning process began.
A surge of despair swept over me – feelings of sadness, fear and helplessness running fiercely through my body. It was like the Band-Aid had been ripped off and the wound was open once again. I was reminded of how it had felt each and every time I got a new spot before – the uncertainty and anxiety of not knowing what would happen next.
Panic and anger took over as I tried to process what was happening and what was likely to come. Vitiligo has already taken all of my skin color. The girl I was as a child looks nothing like the girl writing this today – at least not under all of the makeup and tanner and hair dye. Younger me might not even be able to recognize the grown-up version of me. And now this.
It might seem trivial to have this much of a reaction to a few white hairs. But I’m not just mourning a little change to my eyebrow, I’m mourning twenty years of struggling with vitiligo.
The white hairs represent so much more than just a loss of pigment. It’s a reminder that I have a condition that I can’t do anything about. It’s a reminder that I’m not “normal.” It’s a reminder that I grew up hating my reflection. It’s a reminder of all of the nights I laid awake crying and wishing this condition would go away. It’s a reminder that my life has been changed and will likely never be the same.
And it’s that reminder – more than just the tiny patch of hair – that is so hard to accept.
I will accept it though, just as I have so many times before. And I might even learn to like the little white patch in my eyebrow. After all, it’s just another part of living dappled.
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Her first spots appeared on her spine when she was seven years old and today vitiligo covers her entire body. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.