To the girl with vitiligo giving up on love:
I have had vitiligo since I was five years old, when a cut healed into a white patch and began to spread over my body. Today, at 21, I have vitiligo all over my body, mostly on my arms back and legs. I received a lot of bullying from other children at school and even from random strangers who would make comments in the supermarkets or even restaurants. As the years went on I slowly grew more comfortable in my own skin, however, I still have my bad days where I feel frustrated because I am wearing long sleeves on a 90 degree day because I am too self-conscious to wear a tank top. Or the feeling I get in my stomach when I meet someone new and they make a comment about my skin in a room full of people.
Currently, I am the social media manager for the Vitiligo Research Foundation and it has given me the ability to connect with people who also have vitiligo from all around the world. I find the most comfort in meeting others who share the same experiences in dealing with vitiligo. I love hearing their stories and connecting over experiences that are specific to the Vitiligo community. The VRF now has over 5,000 followers (@vrfoundation_) and seeing a community of people who look just like me and have a similar story is something that is indescribable.
My boyfriend, Matt, and I first met in the ninth grade in history class. I found out he “liked” me through a friend of a friend and we started getting to know each other but drifted apart and re-connected in 11th grade. Our connection was stronger than ever right from the start. Matt has always been special to me. I guess when people say “you just have this feeling,” they aren’t lying. We would text until 3 a.m., go on dates, talk on the phone, attend each other’s’ sports games, walk to class together… you know, the usual high school stuff, until we finally became official.
Since my skin is very noticeable, I decided to have an open conversation about it soon after we became official. I told him that it was called vitiligo, explained what it was, talked about the treatments I had done for it and how it has affected me. And for the first time in a long time, I felt happy because a guy that I had feelings for was truly listening. Even before I addressed my skin, Matt said that he had already accepted it and thought I was beautiful. I get very anxious talking about my vitiligo with most people but with Matt, I can have an open and honest conversation about anything. I guess that’s one of the many reasons why I love him and am so incredibly thankful for him.
In complete honesty, I never thought that I would find someone who would love me for who I am. I never thought that I would find someone who was proud to have me as their girlfriend and who wasn’t ashamed to be with the girl “with the weird skin.”
How could someone love me if I couldn’t even love myself? Some other guys I was briefly with never really accepted my skin. I don’t know if this was pure immaturity but I really didn’t care to hear their excuses. I didn’t deserve to be with someone who was ashamed of me having vitiligo. What was I thinking? Why would I make excuses for them?
I do believe that there is someone out there made completely for you. Someone who loves you just the way you are and doesn’t want to change anything about you. It was hard to find someone as amazing as Matt but I knew I wasn’t going to give up on love that easily. Good people are out there and they will love you for every single thing that makes you, YOU. I have always found that you meet the best people when you least expect it. Don’t give up on love or yourself.
Sandra Reese is a New York-based writer and fashionista. She’s finishing her communications and public relations major at SUNY Cortland in New York while running social media for the Vitiligo Research Foundation. In her free time, she’s the voice behind the fashion blog Sandy RE.