Choose to Be Free: The Day I Realized I Didn’t Have to Wait to Have a Happy Life with Vitiligo
Ever since I first watched Cinderella ride away into the sunset with Prince Charming, I’d dreamed of my own happily ever after – the day my vitiligo would disappear, allowing me to be happy for the rest of my life.
It seems like a silly idea. There isn’t a cure for vitiligo and I had never pursued treatment, so my spots weren’t going to just disappear one day. But that didn’t stop me from believing it. In high school, my vitiligo was starting to bother me, lowering my self-esteem and making me feel insecure around other, “normal” girls. So I would daydream about my “ever after” as a way to cope with the pain and depression.
I was convinced that one day my vitiligo would be cured – because this couldn’t possibly last forever, right? I imagined getting up each morning and putting on anything I wanted, instead of trying to hide my spots. I would finally be able to wear bikinis on the beach, wear less makeup to cover the spots on my face, and put on sundresses every single day of summer without a second thought. I could see myself smiling and feeling an overwhelming sense of relief at having this burden taken away from me. I just had to get to that magical day.
Well, I don’t think I’d be writing this today if “ever after” happened for me. Instead, I had a wakeup call. One morning a couple years after college and I was getting dressed to go out for the day. I was having trouble finding an outfit I felt good in, and my spots were bothering me more than usual that morning. Standing in my room, looking at myself in the mirror, it suddenly dawned on me that I will have vitiligo for the rest of my life.
I’m not sure what made me realize it in that moment. Or maybe I could see it, but I hadn’t wanted to accept it. Reality hit me hard and fast as I realized that I had put my happiness in a dream. I cried for hours that day – more than I’ve ever cried in my entire life. I sobbed on my bedroom floor as I finished getting dressed. I tried to distract myself so I could leave the house but ended up crying on the porch steps. I finally made it to the car only to return to the steps to cry some more. It was as if the heaviest weight had been put over my heart and I couldn’t lift it.
Looking back, I wonder how I had let myself believe in “ever after.” How could I have let my happiness be put in a dream that was so far removed from the world I was living in each and every day?
But an important thing happened for me that day: I realized that I had been waiting. I had been waiting for the day when I could be happy. I was waiting for the day when I could put this skin condition behind me and live the life that I wanted to. And most importantly, I realized that I didn’t have to wait anymore. The day to start living was that day. It might not be the life I wanted. It might not be the skin I wanted. But it was my life and that was something that I was going to have to accept in order to find happiness.
It was on that day that I chose to be free. I chose to throw away the dream that was holding me back from loving my life and I chose to start living. This realization didn’t drastically change my everyday life. But it shifted my perspective and helped me start on the journey to loving myself for who I am.
So from me to you – don’t wait for “ever after.” You’re already living it. You just have to choose it. Choose to be free.
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.