I’ve lived with vitiligo for more than two decades–since the age of seven. Growing up with vitiligo was incredibly difficult for me and I struggled mentally, emotionally and socially with the ever-changing state of my skin. I also kept that struggle to myself for most of those years.
For me, living with vitiligo was so painful that it felt like ignoring it was the only way through. If I didn’t talk about it and didn’t think about it, maybe I could find peace. Spoiler alert–that didn’t work. What did work? Talking about my vitiligo.
In 2016, I launched a health and lifestyle blog called Living Dappled. The goal was to share the stories of women living with vitiligo for the sake of educating, inspiring and supporting others with this condition. And of course, my story was part of it too.
A few months before the blog launched, I started writing about my experience. I would stay up late, working on my laptop, fingers typing away and tears streaming down my cheeks as I put to paper a very difficult part of my life. The stories bubbled up deep, raw feelings and forced me to work my way through them as I crafted each moment into a blog post for readers.
Fast forward, and in the seven years since Living Dappled was created, I’ve written countless articles about my experience, spoken at several vitiligo conferences and shared my story in a number of magazines and media outlets–most recently in People. The part of my life that felt the most vulnerable became the story I was shouting from the rooftops.
It felt–and sometimes still feels–too personal to be talking about this publicly. But today, I’m no longer sobbing as I talk about my skin. Because the surprising outcome has been that talking about this vulnerability has given me incredible strength and peace. Here’s how.
I found personal healing in sharing my experience
I truly believe that sharing my story has helped me heal from the mental and emotional scars that living with vitiligo has left me. There’s something incredibly therapeutic and empowering about claiming your story and putting it out into the world. It didn’t always feel that way. In fact, the first time my story was published in a local newspaper, I felt exposed and uncomfortable at first. But that feeling melted, and was replaced with the realization that I could share my deepest, darkest pain and everything would be okay. And that was healing.
Friends and family rallied around me as I let them in
How can this be surprising? Perhaps you’re thinking, “Of course they support you!” Yet growing up with vitiligo, there was a time that I actually believed I didn’t deserve friends because of the way I looked. One of the biggest reasons people with vitiligo hide it from their friends and family? They aren’t sure how the people in their lives are going to react. And yet every person I’ve seen share their story publicly has been happily surprised by the support and encouragement that has poured in after doing so. That same was true for me–and continues to be true today.
I developed new and incredibly meaningful friendships
There’s something special about meeting other people who have vitiligo. This skin condition is such a unique and often all-consuming emotional and mental experience that there’s an almost instant comradery that sparks. As I started sharing my story, I also began meeting other people with vitiligo and found this to be true again and again. I would interview women with vitiligo that I found through the internet or social media, and invite them to be part of photo shoots for Living Dappled. I would chat with families and teens at vitiligo conferences. And as I did, I ended up meeting some of my favorite people in the world that would become lifelong friends–almost like sisters.
I found an ability to better relate to others
Since I’ve started sharing my story, I’ve always been amazed at how many people–with and without vitiligo–reach out to share their own stories with me. Everyone is going through something. And whether it’s living with vitiligo or living through another hardship, there are often parallels that can be drawn in the struggle and triumph. These stories are a direct response to me deciding to be open and honest about my experience–and it’s given me a chance to get to know people on a new level.
I found a way to help others, and in turn helped myself
I first shared my story on Living Dappled with the goal of helping other women with vitiligo who were facing the same struggles and challenges. The mission gave my experience purpose–a way to turn one of the most painful parts of my life into something meaningful and hopeful for others with vitiligo. And yet, the more surprising part has been that in setting out to help others, this community has actually helped me more–by helping me feel less alone, by inspiring me and by walking through this experience with me.