Recently I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror as I was getting ready for work. I was naked. And I just stood there and looked for awhile instead of putting on makeup, or doing my hair. And what I saw was a woman…a really fair skinned woman. I saw some darker areas, faint traces of pigment and then I grew aware of something which stunned me deeply.
I was just fair skinned. I thought I had more pigment. I thought I was tan with white patches. I am actually now white with some tan patches. That’s crazy. Where was my vitiligo? Could I even say I had vitiligo? Now what was I going to do with my project? Am I a poser? For a moment I freaked.
You could meet me for the first time and you would never know I had it, until I told you.
How different an experience than someone obviously darker skinned, with vitiligo on their face. With no place to hide. Where did this new realization leave me?
When I was a kid I learned how to hide, by going off into my head. Therapists call this dissociation. I learned to hide in plain site, by creating a fantasy world and taking trips there all the time. I learned how to do that on my own, no one showed me. Could anyone tell? No, they just said I was shy. And then I became shy. That label affected the direction of my life as everything I then did was to escape that label.
So I formed a second identity, one that was outgoing and had ease with everything, I said F-You to the world and killed off the shy girl. And I led two lives for awhile, even giving myself a new name, during this time vitiligo became less of an issue as I became more comfortable in my body. I was on a path to self mastery, fueled by anger and masochism and sometimes wild behavior, and lots of therapy. This transformed somehow over the next decade, as I found communities where you were accepted for who you are, and a great group of friends. I went to Burning Man four times. I went to the Landmark Forum, and shockingly connected there with my true power. My life is now built on a foundation of high self-esteem and self-respect and deep desire to spread only joy in the world.
So here’s where I’m going with this.
Recently someone said to me, “What is vitiligo really? It doesn’t cause any physical pain. It doesn’t prevent you from doing anything, like a handicap. It is such a stupid disease.”
Just a stupid disease. It doesn’t do anything.
When I heard that I felt so angry. At the time I was so stunned that I agreed, although inside I was shaking, and filed it away in my brain for later examination.
Later, in private, I cried. Because it had taken me so long to get to this place. I felt extreme anger because everything that was not working in my life I blamed on it. My low salaries and feeling stuck with every job I’ve ever had, my anxiety at people simply looking at me. All the long term effects which made me terrible with interviewing and self promotion, and envying others for their confidence, and sheer terror over things like asking for a raise when I deserved one. Major roadblocks and depression caused by my lack of self-confidence and dissociation from the sheer fact that I was alive.
Time out: Reality check.
I had a degree from one of the highest acclaimed and difficult colleges to graduate from. I hold two black belts and several other high ranks in two other martial arts. The first one was when I was 17. My body was athletic and strong and I got compliments all the time on my looks and my hair. I was independent enough to backpack through Italy by myself. I have the ability to see all sides of every situation and am kind, and open minded. I had so many interests and not enough time to pursue all of them at once.
But I had no confidence. There was always something wrong with me. That’s thousands of dollars of therapy all these years and all of it trying to fix everything that was wrong with myself.
Such a stupid disease.
So what is vitiligo really?
It’s a physical appearance thing. So what, it’s just skin. It’s just two different colors. So, WTF?
It’s a mindset. That’s what it comes down to. I repeat… a mindset. So you discover that you have vitiligo and you might say “I want to cure it.” When I was 13 I very badly wanted to cure it. So did my mom who had to comfort me when I was crying all the time. Vitiligo sucks, when you are already have the difficulties of growing up and deciding who you are going to be in the world. It’s an experience. But I can say now, once you can see it for what it truly is, you have a lot more control than you think. That goes for anything you struggle with in your life.
So I am saying there already is a cure for vitiligo. Get right with yourself and then you will find that there really is no horrible condition to fix. My eyes are brown. My skin is the way it is. I happen to believe that illness is caused by emotions and stuff you have going on that is unresolved within you. Do whatever you need to do to find your power. Use therapy, learn new self growth skills. Find a passion and commit to it. Listen to yourself first. Above all, don’t hurt yourself any more. It’s that simple.
Since this all happened I had the chance to get a massage. The masseuse asked me about the markings on my back. I said I had vitiligo, did she know what it is? She said she did, and that she thought it was beautiful. I felt really at peace.
And yes, I have vitiligo.