It’s Possible to Have Both

by the Alisha Archibald, as told to Kendall Morgan.

I first realized I had vitiligo in 2014. I was getting ready for work — about to rush out the door — and, combing my hair, I noticed a small white spot at my hairline. It was on my forehead, about the size of a dime. I thought, “I don’t think I burned myself with the curling iron.” I brushed it on, and it didn’t come off. Immediately, I knew what it was because my grandmother had vitiligo. He has been gone for 10 years, but my thoughts went to him.

At first, I didn’t do anything about it. I was afraid to deal with it. I was in denial, maybe, and thought maybe it would just stay as a place. But within a few months, I started looking at other places. I began to examine my entire body. I thought about my grandmother, how she hid herself. At that time, people did not know what vitiligo was. They stare. They hadn’t seen models with vitiligo before like we have.

It took me a few years to finally see a doctor. By this time the spots had spread. I was wearing more makeup to try to cover them up. Some of my relatives started asking why I did not go to the doctor. They have heard of ways that it might be changed or slowed down. Vitiligo was spreading across my face. I decided to see a doctor and see what could be done.

The doctor was helpful. He explained that there is no cure, but there are treatments that can slow it down. There were cases when people got some pigment back. I listened and decided to give it a try. He gave me two topical creams and I also had injections once a month, which included a steroid. Within a month, I thought I started to see where my skin tone was coming back. I later learned that being on steroids long term was not a good idea. There can be side effects, so I stopped after about 5 months.

Going to the doctor helped me get over it. It helped at a time when I felt I needed more confidence. The doctor empowered me with more knowledge. I have now accepted my vitiligo. I’m not in treatment yet, but I know I have that option. Medicine is a science, and new vitiligo treatments are on the horizon.

Self-acceptance is ultimately what matters most. You need to keep your motivation up. There will be days when you don’t feel confident. In these times, it’s good to rely on people around you who can encourage you when you can’t motivate yourself.

It helps me to be around others with vitiligo. I started a group here in Athens, GA called So Rare They Stare. I created this group to educate others about vitiligo and to encourage others with vitiligo. It helps to surround yourself with like-minded people. I have always been a positive person. When I’m around negative people, I try to change it and focus on the positive.

I began to see the effects of the group I started within the first few months. For example, one elderly woman in the group had worn makeup to hide her vitiligo for more than 30 years. She told me she cried because it was the first time she went out wearing shorts and no makeup on her face. If I can help one person be okay with themselves, that means a lot.

People in my community know me. I sometimes forget I have vitiligo. I want to continue to do more to educate and encourage people so that we see more people with vitiligo.

When I was a child, my grandmother did not want to leave the house. We know that vitiligo does not harm our body, but it can take a toll psychologically. My hope is that people will find whatever works for them — whether it’s a support group or medication — to help them step out the front door. That is the most important thing.

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