go through Alisha Archibald, told Kendall Morgan
I first realized I had vitiligo in 2014. I was getting ready for work – was about to rush out the door – and while brushing my hair I saw a small white spot on 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 rubbed it and it didn’t go away. I knew right away what it was because my grandmother had vitiligo. She has been gone for 10 years, but my thoughts are always on her.
At first, I did nothing. I am afraid to fix it. Maybe I denied it and thought maybe it would stay in that place. But within a few months, I started noticing elsewhere. I started to check my whole body. I thought of my grandmother and how she hid herself. At that time, people didn’t know what vitiligo was. They will stare. They haven’t seen models with vitiligo like we do now.
It took me a few years to finally see a doctor. By then, the spots had spread. I put on more makeup to try and hide them. Some of my relatives started asking me why I didn’t go to the doctor. They’ve heard of methods that might reverse or slow it down. Vitiligo spread on my face. I think it’s worth trying to see a doctor and find out what can be done.
The doctor was very helpful. She explained that there is no cure, but there are treatments that may slow it down. In some cases, people regain some of the pigment. I listened and decided to give it a try. She gave me two topical creams and I also had monthly injections, including steroids. Within a month, I think I started to see a little bit of color coming back in my skin. I later learned that taking steroids long-term is not a good idea. There could be side effects, so I stopped after about 5 months.
Going to the doctor helped me get it under control. It helps when I feel like I need more confidence. The doctor gave me more knowledge. I have now accepted my vitiligo. I’m not in therapy right now, but I know I have the option. Medicine is a science, and new treatments for vitiligo are on the horizon.
Self-acceptance is what matters in the end. You need to encourage yourself. There will be days when you feel like you have no confidence. In those times, when you can’t encourage yourself, it’s good to rely on people around you who can encourage you.
It helps me get along with other people with vitiligo. I started a group called So Rare They Stare in Athens, Georgia. I created this group to educate others about vitiligo and to encourage others with vitiligo. Being around like-minded people can be very helpful. I have always been a positive person. When I’m with negative people, I try to turn things around and focus on the positive.
I started to see the impact of the group I started within the first few months. For example, an older woman in the group wore makeup to hide her vitiligo for over 30 years. She told me that she cried because the first time she went out in shorts and had no makeup on her face. If I can help someone be nice to themselves, that means a lot.
In my community, people know me. I sometimes forget that I have vitiligo. I want to keep doing more to educate and encourage people so we see more vitiligo patients.
When I was a kid, my grandmother didn’t want to go out. We know that vitiligo doesn’t hurt us physically, but it can take a toll psychologically. I hope people will find anything that works for them – whether it’s a support group or medication – to help them get out of the front door. This is the most important.