Keri Wiginton by Melissa M.
I was 8 years old when I started getting these little white spots on my knees. I really didn’t think about anything at first. But then, the blobs became the size of half dollars. Things moved fairly quickly after that.
My mother took me to the doctor who diagnosed me with Vitiligo. Even though I was just a kid, he didn’t show much empathy. Instead, he told me there was no cure and dismissed my questions. It was a horrible experience that kept me away from dermatologists for decades.
Childhood was difficult for me in many ways. But since then I’ve gone through therapy and found some really great friends. It is because of this strong support system that I have come out on the other side of Vitiligo to celebrate my skin.
But it took me a while to get here.
How life has changed since my diagnosis
I hid the white spots on my arms and legs for a while. I wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts year-round. Even though my parents barely had enough money to live on, they found a way to pay for concealer and concealer.
My mother and I would get up very early. Then, we would use makeup to cover up the white spots on my face and neck as much as possible. She wants me to have some sense of normalcy, but the process is too expensive.
Around seventh or eighth grade, I started to waver. It’s not easy. Part of it is that, in addition to Vitiligo, I am also on the heavier side. I’m a mixed race living in Vermont. I stuck out like a sore thumb and got bullied all the time.
Before Vitiligo, I was a confident kid who made friends easily. As I headed towards high school, I tried to keep it that way. But it’s hard to socialize when people are laughing, spitting, and drawing at you.
Some kids thought they were doing me a favor by coloring in my white spots with brown markers. Others tried to wipe off the white spots on me. Then, some people didn’t want to sit next to me because they thought they might catch something.
All of this has taken a toll on my mental health. But I experienced a lot of personal growth growing up. Now I feel like my skin is perfect and I have nothing to hide. This is liberation.
learn to love my spots
Things started to change in my 20s and 30s. People started asking me sincere questions and weren’t put off by my skin. Some people will tell me my white spots are beautiful and the contrast in pigment just accentuates my features.
At first, I thought they were poking me. Since I’ve been made fun of for so long and have never celebrated my skin, it felt weird to have someone else do it.but now i
It feels like they must have been put in my life to help me unlock parts of myself. And now, I open up.
I owe this growing confidence in part to my most recent partner. They really helped me get a little bit more out of it.
For example, I started wearing clothes that showed my spots and started taking pictures. Sometimes, makeup artists will try to cover up what they perceive as blemishes. But I have to hold them back and say I really want to strengthen my Vitiligo.
I also started doing more Vitiligo awareness posts on Instagram. The response was unbelievable. I’ve been told I’m beautiful and I should be shouting from the rooftops for my skin. I haven’t received a single nasty comment or message. That’s huge.
In the future, I will definitely meet people who don’t like what I do. But the fact that I’ve had so much support in such a short amount of time tells me I’m in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
Vitiligo is now so well known it makes my heart cheer. I want to be part of that movement. I want that person or kid to see me and think, “OMG, I have that! She’s not ashamed of her skin, why should I?”
Adapting to Life with Vitiligo
I’ve had a chronic skin condition for so long that I forgot I had it. But some everyday things are a challenge for me. For example, I get second or third degree sunburns whenever I go outside.
I have a hard time spending time in the sun because I have less pigment in the protective parts of my skin. Regular sunscreens don’t work well for me. But if I do go out, I need to reapply every 30 minutes. Then I need to let it dry. This can turn a nice day at the beach into a frustrating one.
Vitiligo also makes my eyes sensitive to light. I have white spots on my hair. If I dye it, those spots fade quickly.
I definitely still get attention when I show up in public. I’m a mom of 19 year old twin boys who are more likely to notice the gaze than I am. They point it out because they’re upset. But I usually just smile, wave or say hello to bystanders.
Sometimes, I’ll hear a kid ask their mom about my skin. I might turn around and sit on an equal footing with them, while of course keeping my distance. Wouldn’t it be cool that I’d tell them I was born with two colors instead of one? This is not how vitiligo works. But often, they look back and admire their own skin. The shame is gone at this point. They know there is no reason to be afraid.
But I still find people looking at me in disgust. Sometimes, I’ll go up to them and say, it’s Vitiligo. Do you want me to spell it for you? Because if you’re going to stare at it for that long, you’re bound to have questions. If I tell you what it is, then you can research it yourself.
Melissa M., 40, is a Vitiligo advocate. She has had the disease for 32 years. You’ll find her rocking under the handle @TheSpottedBeauty on Instagram. She lives in central North Carolina.