June is Vitiligo Awareness Month. For the 1% of people who are affected by this disease, June 25th is recognized as World Vitiligo Day. Vitiligo is a hereditary condition in which you lose the pigment of your skin. Pigment causes skin color and is produced by cells called “melanocytes.” Another word for pigment is “melanin.” There is no cure.
As I celebrated with others I could not help but reflect on my journey. I was born with it. No one knew I had vitiligo except my immediate family. By the age of 4, my pigment resurfaced in the affected areas. So throughout my childhood, I was a beautiful brown skin tone. Rich in melanin. By the age of 22 I began to lose pigment in the corners of my eyes as well as my scalp. Not remembering much about it I began to do research.
I can remember having a conversation with my fiance’ about what I would look like in the years to come. I showed him pictures and gave him the option to move on without me. His exact words were, “I love you beyond your skin.” When I look at you I will always see the love of my life.” At the age of 24 it began to spread rapidly. I was pregnant with our first child. By the age of 30, both eyes were white and my hands had large patches.
One day while grocery shopping a child looked at me and began to cry with fear. Another instance, a little girl pointed at me and told her mother, “Mommy look! She’s a monster!” Her mother began to laugh. While I was working one day, a customer refused to touch anything that I touched because he felt I may be contagious.
Moments like these would send me into depression. I would feel ashamed and hurt. Some days I didn’t want to leave the house. I used make-up as a false sense of confidence. Without it, I felt like those children saw me, a monster.
In the darkest moments, God always sent an angel. A perfect stranger that would tell me I was beautiful. A child that would tap me from behind and say, “HI” and hug me. Or, someone who had a message for me from God. The most profound and obvious angel stopped me one day and said, ” God says the reason He made you this way was because He wanted everyone to see your light. Your beautiful pure spirit He placed within you. The only thing that matters to Him. Your light could guide a ship through the darkest of water. Never be ashamed of the way you look. Everything I created on this earth is beautiful. He has shown me your spirit and it is amazing. “ She began to cry and hug me. From that moment on I refused to be ashamed.
I walk with my head held high. I still wear make-up because I like to. Not because I feel I have to. When I don’t wear makeup and people stare and point fingers I smile. They have the problem I don’t . Children still stare and are afraid at times. But I ease their fears with a smile and a kind “Hello how are you”. My faith has brought me so far. I hope this will help someone who felt the same way I did. After all, we are God’s artwork on our skin.