As a girl with vitiligo, I often feel like my life is a roller coaster of emotions based on my ability and resolve to love my skin each day. It’s like life keeps running along, and I’m scrambling behind it, just trying to keep up and stay positive.
Yet over the past couple of years, I’ve been told more than once that I look like I “just stepped out of a J. Crew catalog” and that I “always have it together.” A friend even overhead someone saying that I walk around like an ad for Vogue magazine.
Let’s be real – I try not to laugh when people tell me these kinds of things. It’s nice to receive compliments, and I’m flattered. Even more, I’m ecstatic that people are falling for the poised front I apparently show the world, when I feel like my life is really a messy disaster.
For the girls with vitiligo – remember that people put their best side forward, both in person and on social media. So when it feels like you’re the only one struggling and everyone else has this vitiligo thing figured out, remember that you aren’t alone. We all struggle – even those who look like they have it together on the outside, and even me.
To prove it, here are my own confessions as a girl with vitiligo:
I cry because of my vitiligo
At least twice a year, sometimes more, I completely lose it and break down in tears. These breakdowns can be triggered by the smallest of things – like looking in the mirror or scrolling through Instagram and seeing beautiful girls without dappled skin. It’s unpredictable, sudden and extreme. A wave of fear and depression washes over me. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and want to vow right then and there to never go outside and be seen again. And then eventually, I wipe my tears and go back about my day – because that’s what you have to do.
I freak out when I have a bad tan day
Since vitiligo has entirely covered my body, I’ve started to wear tanning lotions and spray tans to look less pale. When I’m wearing tanner, you might not even know that I have a skin condition – which makes it leaps and bounds better than not wearing it. And yet, if my tan comes out just the tiniest bit uneven or patchy, I freak out. And I mean, really freak out. I get angry and frustrated and just want to yell at the world. I go back to hating my life and feeling sorry for myself. Classy? No. Confident? Not at all. Happens anyway? You know it. And this is coming from the girl who used to run around covered in spots without a care in the world.
Sometimes I panic at the thought of wearing shorts
Summer can be a hard time for living with vitiligo, since warmer weather means more opportunities to show some skin. Going into summer is the worst part – I’ve been comfortably invisible, hiding under sweaters and long-sleeve tops all winter, and now it’s time to be brave again.
A couple of years ago, it was the first really hot day of summer and my friend and I were going to walk around the nearby downtown. I wanted to wear shorts so I wouldn’t melt in the June heat, so I pulled out my outfit and did my best to convince myself that my spotted legs were beautiful. By the time my friend arrived to pick me up, I was sobbing in my room. The thought of everyone staring at me as we walked around downtown was too much to bear. It took me over two hours to work up the courage to leave the house that day. And even though I never felt good about it, I reached a point where I could stop my tears and pull myself together to leave the house.
I obsess over my clothes, and will let them ruin my day
Maybe it’s because of my skin, but I put a lot of effort into my wardrobe. Clothes give me a little confidence boost and can make a big difference in the way I feel about myself, especially on days when my vitiligo is making me feel bad. I always want to have the perfect outfit and look my best. So I plan out my outfits weeks and even months in advance, making sure I’m prepared for anything. And if the weather changes for an event or if I find myself unprepared? I can let the lack of a ‘cute’ outfit ruin my day or weekend.
So there you have it – the person that “has it all together” is just as much of a mess as everyone else.
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.