Courage Is Owning My Skin Condition (Vitiligo)
| Virginia Prieto C
This is the story of how I had to face a fear I didn’t even know I could have, and own a condition that I couldn’t change, just have the courage of making it part of me.
When I was three years old I got diagnosed with Vitiligo, which is an immune system condition related to the skin, where your skin pigment cells gradually stop working; they are the ones in charge of giving your skin protection and color. It appears as white spots all over your body that can grow or disappear, it usually depends on your stress levels and emotions.
In my case, the spots grew bigger throughout the years.
My parents, my siblings and closest relatives played an extremely important role on all this. They NEVER made me feel like a freak because I had white spots on my skin. Instead, they treated me exactly like any other kid in my family, being the only difference that I had to use more sunscreen and an ointment as treatment for my vitiligo to go away (Spoiler alert: it never did).
When I started to go to school I had my first encounter with bullying. Kids used to make nasty comments about my skin, and that is something you just can’t forget. I got called: a cow, a dalmatian, a “can of milk”, the white one, Casper, and I even got told that what I had was some kind of rash because I didn’t know how to shower correctly.
One day, at 12 years old, I was waiting for my dad to pick me up from school, and a little girl from pre-school came up to me, looked at me from head to toe with a strange face, and said “you disgust me, please don’t touch me”. Vitiligo cannot be transmitted by touch.
Throughout the years the comments and stares happened often, but I didn’t allow that to affect me. I’m not going to lie, it was really awkward and uncomfortable when people looked at me that much, but I learned to own it. I’ve always loved tank tops and shorts, so I showed my spots carelessly.
I went to dozens of different doctors and psychologists, I had many different treatments, acupuncture, sessions with crystals all over my body to work on energy, homeopathic treatment, learned how to visualize things when I had like 8 years old, went to talks about how to cure self immune diseases and conditions, and so on. Nevertheless, it just never went away. So when I was a teenager I decided to stop the treatments because I didn’t like the sticky feeling on my skin that the ointment left on my skin (but I continued to take care of my skin using tons of sunscreen).
As I grew older, my perspective with vitiligo changed. I can totally say that vitiligo and I are married forever; in fact, it’s the longest relationship I’ve had.
I knew this condition came with a purpose, one I didn’t understand when I was a little girl but as the years pass by I get to see it better. I had to learn to be brave and absorb this condition as a part of me.
All of my life, people outside my family tried to encourage me to think about vitiligo as something I had to be afraid of, BUT thanks to my family what happened was exactly the opposite.
I learned to be brave through the fears of someone else. I learned that my skin is something that plastic surgery can’t change, that as much as people saw it as something awesome or something hideous, the most important opinion is the one I have about myself.
I realized that my attitude towards vitiligo taught the people around me a valuable lesson: how to NOT get discouraged about the things you can’t change about yourself, but own them instead. People have always complimented me on how I never let my vitiligo be the biggest part of my personality. I didn’t act as if my vitiligo didn’t exist, I just didn’t see it as something negative.
Now, 18 years after getting diagnosed with vitiligo, I have universal vitiligo on my body. About 97% of my skin doesn’t have any pigmentation and even my hair is slowly turning white, but that t has never brought me down. I have a loving family, a boyfriend who loves my skin and takes care of me, and friends that are super supportive. I'm a graphic design student with good grades and the recognition of my teachers as a leader and as someone trustworthy and responsible.
My skin condition never determined who was I supposed to be, instead, it led me to be who I am today, and I'm proud of being me, a person who loves herself completely, mind body and spirit. I truly believe that we are so much more than our physical self.
Courage doesn’t come only from your own fears, what others fear about you can push you to your limit. Be brave to stand up for those things that others don’t. Vitiligo taught me that if you were born to stand out, there’s no way that you won’t shine.