If you had the chance, what would you tell your vitiligo? After being diagnosed at the age of seven and losing 100% of her skin’s pigment to the condition, founder and editor of Living Dappled Erika Page’s response to that question is deep and filled with emotion as she reflects on her lifetime of navigating this physiologically complicated condition.
I’ve written and rewritten this letter a million times over, struggling to find the words that even still barely do my deep, overwhelming emotions justice.
Our relationship has been complicated. You changed my life, and only recently for the better. You are not “everything” that there is, and yet you were everything to me. I grew up seeing the world through your spotted patterns, allowing it to color my entire world.
I spent years loathing you. With every new spot, I was losing a part of myself. I felt helpless. I could only sit in front of the mirror and watch your color disappear, day after day. The inability to make it stop was gut-wrenching at times. Why me?
I spent years trying not to think about you. The reminder was just too painful. Ignorance was bliss. And yet every lingering stare, dressing room mirror and pair of shorts threatened to bring me back to reality–and often did, disrupting my day and sending me spiraling down a tunnel of toxic thoughts.
I spent years hiding you. Wearing tanner and makeup head to toe gave me the chance to choose who I wanted to be. I finally felt free from you. It was magical–until I realized that no amount of makeup could fix what was underneath.
I spent years trying to accept you. I wanted to let go of the pain, but I didn’t know how. And no matter how many times I picked myself back up, there was only another hard day waiting for me tomorrow. The emotional exhaustion was crippling and some days I didn’t know how I could possibly keep going.
It was only within the past few years that everything changed.
I started meeting other women just like me, who have skin that looks just like you. Those connections–and the realization that I wasn’t alone–changed everything. I started seeing the beauty in these women and their skin. And in time, I was able to come back to the mirror with fresh eyes and see yours.
I thought our story was done, but it’s far from. You continue to surprise me. I’m not sure what the future holds for us. And as you continue to change, the old, familiar feelings of panic and low self-esteem threaten to bubble up and break me. Those feelings are still there. But there’s something else there now too–a community of women who see you and your beauty on the days when I can’t. And that’s the difference this time.
I haven’t always loved you, but I’ve never stopped trying. And that’s never going to change.
Interested in writing your own open letter to your vitiligo? Please send any submissions to email@example.com.
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.