We’ve all been there – the breakdowns that end in tears. The pain, frustration and anxiety of living with vitiligo becomes too much to bear and we momentarily lose control. For me, it happens at least twice a year. I’ll break down and sob because I wish I didn’t have to live with vitiligo. It’s one of the darkest, loneliest feelings in the world. But you don’t have to be alone – because it happens to all of us. I can’t speak for every girl with vitiligo, but here’s what goes through my mind in these moments.
Part 1: Realizing with is and what could be
My most recent breakdown happened earlier this spring, just before the start of summer. I had just climbed into bed after a long day and was casually scrolling through Instagram before I closed my eyes.
As my feed filled with images of beautiful girls with flawless, tan skin, my subconscious suddenly sent me a glimpse of what my life would have been like without vitiligo. An overwhelming stream of thoughts flowed into my head. It was almost like watching a movie – I was following myself through my life, except in this vivid daydream, I have the tan skin that I had as a child, before my vitiligo appeared.
I saw myself waking up in the morning without spots all over my skin. I saw myself putting on a tank top and shorts and feeling gorgeous when I look in the mirror. I saw myself wearing dresses to the office without a second thought.
I thought about not having to put tanner on every night before bed. I thought about going on vacation and not worrying about how long my tanner will last, or how close I will be to the nearest spray tan salon. I relished the idea of not feeling sticky and smelling like tanner every night and each morning. For once my sheets wouldn’t accidently get that orangey-brown tint.
The sun actually felt good on my skin, instead of making it crawl and burn from the heat. I could soak up rays for the first time in my life instead of running for the cover of the nearest shade.
I jumped into the pool and loved the way the water felt over my body, knowing that the color of my skin wouldn’t be stripped off by the chlorine in the pool.
Getting dressed up for a wedding or night out was just that – putting on a cute outfit. Not the stress of perfecting my tan, wondering how it will come out that day or if it will work.
Life was just easier. Simpler. Happier.
All of these thoughts flashed through my mind in an instant. And then the tears started.
Part 2: Overflowing heartbreak and despair
It was the heaviest pain I had ever felt. I felt the weight of living with vitiligo “for the rest of my life” bearing down on me and holding me hostage. It was like I was stuck or couldn’t wake up from a bad dream.
I thought about why I have to be the one with this skin condition. It all seemed so unfair. Why me? None of my siblings have vitiligo – they all have beautiful skin. Why couldn’t it be one of them?
The “what if” questions raced through my mind. What if I didn’t have vitiligo? What if my life were different? What if I could do anything I wanted without having to think about my skin?
In that moment, I would have given anything to make my vitiligo disappear.
Part 3: Accepting the girl with vitiligo, again
Ever so slowly, the sobs became whimpers and the tears slowed down. I wiped my eyes. I told myself that I could do this, because I have been doing this – for most of my life.
I didn’t feel better in that moment – it actually took a day or two for me to put the pep back in my step. But eventually, I did pick myself back up, chin held high.
Part of living with vitiligo is being strong – really strong. You have to fall and get back up, over and over again. It doesn’t always get easier. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.
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.