Through Alisha Archibald as told to Kendall Morgan
I first realized I had Vitiligo in 2014. I was getting ready for work – about to storm out the door – and as I was combing my hair I saw a small white speck 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 stroked it and it wouldn’t go away. I knew immediately what it was because my grandmother had vitiligo. She’s been gone for 10 years but my thoughts went straight to her.
At first I didn’t do anything about it. I was afraid to tackle it. I might have been in denial, thinking maybe it would just stay at this one point. But within a few months I started noticing other spots. I started inspecting my whole body. I thought about my grandmother and how she was hiding. Back then, people didn’t know what vitiligo was. You would stare. They had never seen models with Vitiligo like we have now.
It took a few years before I finally went to the doctor. By this time the spots had spread. I wore more makeup to try to cover it up. Some of my relatives started asking why I didn’t go to the doctor. They had heard of ways it might be reversed or slowed down. The vitiligo spread over my face. I decided it was worth trying to see a doctor and see what could be done.
The doctor was helpful. She explained that there is no cure, but treatments that can slow it down. There have been cases where people got some pigment back. I listened and decided to give it a try. She gave me two topical creams and I was also given injections including a steroid once a month. Within a month I thought I was starting to see where my skin had a little color coming back. I later learned that staying on steroids long-term was not a good idea; side effects can occur, so I stopped after about 5 months.
Going to the doctor helped me take control. It helped at a time when I felt I needed more confidence. The doctor gave me more knowledge. I have now accepted my Vitiligo. I’m not in treatment now, but I know I have that option. Medicine is a science and there are new treatments for Vitiligo on the horizon.
Ultimately, self-acceptance is what is so important. You must keep yourself encouraged. There will be days when you feel like you have no confidence. In moments like this, it’s good to rely on those around you for encouragement when you can’t encourage yourself.
It helps me to be around others with vitiligo. I started a group here in Athens, GA called So Rare They Stare. I started this group to educate others about Vitiligo and to encourage others who have Vitiligo. It helps to surround yourself with like-minded people. I’ve always been a positive person. When I’m around negative people, I try to turn it around and focus on the positive.
I began to see the impact of the group I formed within the first few months. For example, an elderly lady in the group in her 30s wore makeup to hide her vitiligo. She told me she cried because it was her first time going out in shorts and no makeup on her face. If I can help a person be okay with themselves, it means so much.
In my community, people know me. Sometimes I forget that I have vitiligo. I want to continue to do more to educate and encourage people so we can see more people with Vitiligo.
When I was a kid, my grandmother didn’t want to leave the house. We know that vitiligo does not harm our body, but it can harm mentally. My hope is that people will find what works for them — whether it’s a support group or medication — to help them get out their front door. That’s the most important.