“When I was 15 years old, I noticed a tiny white patch on my chest and a white speck under my left eye. I thought nothing of it for a while and honestly, I thought I wasn’t washing myself properly. I would scrub my body and face hard to try and get rid of it.
After a small amount of time, I noticed it never went away, but instead was starting to get bigger and more noticeable. I remember thinking, ‘This must be something to do with puberty and my body going through changes of some kind.’
I remember walking around my living room with no top on when my gran was over visiting us. She noticed it right away. I remember her face being worried but shunned it off as nothing. However, my gran told me, ‘Go to the doctor as soon as possible!’ as if she had seen something like this before and was concerned about something bad happening to my body.
I went to the doctor pretty quickly the next day. I remember feeling anxious and scared, but had the belief the doctors could sort anything out. I’ve always gone and come back with medicine which made me feel better. However, this particular appointment didn’t go like prior experiences. The doctor didn’t say what I had. Maybe they didn’t know. He just gave me different Protopic steroid creams and told me to apply it to my white patches, hoping it would go away. I also believed it was as simple as that to get rid of. Naivety would prove my weakness.
A month later, the creams had no effect and my white patches got bigger. New, white patches were appearing and I felt very stressed. People did start to notice and ask me a lot of questions, I felt horrible. I didn’t even understand what I had, let alone know anyone who had it. Thus began a dark period in my life.
I went back to the doctor’s and that’s when they diagnosed my white patches as Vitiligo, a skin condition which affects the pigmentation on the skin, causing there to be no melanin, meaning no color, and no protection from the sun. Thus, I am prone to being sunburnt very quickly. They also told me there is no known cure. To be told as a teenager that you have this condition there is no cure for and will spread on its own completely shattered my heart and my mind. I cannot describe to you how down that made me feel. I was already very body-conscious and this was like a nightmare that would never end.
I felt depressed and hated the skin I was in, even though it started so small. I hated being asked questions about it. I would stare in the mirror a number of times, thinking, ‘Why me? What is this?’ It made me feel so insecure, I didn’t know how to act in life. I didn’t know enough about it to even understand fully what I had. The only words which echoed in my head were, ‘There is no cure, there is no cure, there is no cure…’
I was offered to try different types of treatments, one of which was light therapy at St. Thomas’s hospital in London. At this point in my life, I was a college student and had a part-time job at John Lewis. I was willing to try anything to get rid of my Vitiligo. A large part of my paycheck went towards paying for a peak train to London twice or sometimes three times a week to go in and stand up in a machine naked for 20 to 80 seconds, and let the UV light try and change the pigment of my skin.
Needless to say, that didn’t work, even after over a year of trying.
I went to Germany to try Homeopathic therapy. My dad even went to India and got some sort of tablet to try but I had no luck. Nothing was working to get my skin back to ‘normal.’ It was only getting worse. My stress was increasing and my mental health was deteriorating from my lack of body confidence.
The only other solution the doctors suggested was using makeup.
I guess this is when things took a positive turn. At the time, this was what I needed to build my confidence back up. I used the makeup to cover up the Vitiligo around my left eye and it became my daily routine for 6 or 7 years! I may not have been the best at putting it on, but it was enough for me to feel like me again.
At least until, 2 years ago, while on placement year for a well-known IT and consulting company. I was staying at my friend’s house, woke up in the morning, and was following my normal daily routine of getting ready. I reached in my bag to get my makeup and it wasn’t there…. It’s crazy to think now this was the day my life changed forever.
My god, did my heart sink. My one line of defense, the one thing I used for 6 or 7 years to cover up my Vitiligo and I didn’t have it on me. I didn’t want to go into work, I felt so deflated. What would everyone think? What if people stare? Ask questions? How would I cope?
After some words of encouragement from my friend and staring in a mirror for 30 minutes wondering what I should do, I decided to go into work and face the world as my true self, vowing to not look back. Yes, I got asked questions, and yes, people stared. But I don’t blame them. I had worn makeup the whole time I worked there and for me to now not wear it at all. Of course, people were curious. Prepping myself for this mental approach helped me take major steps forward.
I took the time to educate people around as to what it is, as it’s not as commonly known as I thought. I stopped wearing makeup all together after that day. And as I mentioned above, it changed my life. I soon started my Instagram platform, where I try and inspire people with Vitiligo who went through or are going through the same journey I did, people I wish I had when I was 15 years old. I also try and help other people with other differences. We are such a diverse community and should accept and love all the differences which make us unique. I now have a Champion spotlight focusing on differences and mental health, I have started my own amateur comic series to help the younger demographic embrace their differences, and my own vlog called Vitiligo Man Speaks, where I talk about everything from Vitiligo to how to take a break from life itself. I now love my Vitiligo and wouldn’t change it for the world.
I want to be the hero I never had when I was younger, to other people out there.
After I managed to overcome my mental battle with having Vitiligo, my life literally changed. It took time, but I was eventually able to boost my confidence. I can only describe it as like a light bulb moment in my life from when I became comfortable and loved the skin I was in instead of hating it. In my first and second year of university, I struggled a lot with work and overall confidence. I would say Vitiligo was a burden I carried everywhere, especially going into classes and packed lecture halls wearing makeup. I was always self-conscious. My friends always made me feel great about myself but it was never enough to get rid of self-doubt! After the episode of forgetting my makeup, I started believing in myself. I loved my skin, I wanted to help others, and I believed what I have is actually a blessing to help change the world’s perception of differences and beauty. When I finished placement, my headspace was positive. I went back to university to finish my final year, to which I got a First. I won several awards, including National YE Student of the year, and being nominated for an award at The House of Lords.
I truly believe overcoming my differences and turning in to a positive changed my life for the better and caused a chain reaction of great things to happen.
I want others to know they are not alone in their journey of self-acceptance and there are so many communities out there to support them. There are people, including myself, who can relate to what they have been through and offer advice and be there for support when needed.
My journey helped change my life and I hope reading my store helps you take the right steps to help change yours too, no matter what your background.
In this world, I feel a lot of people fight to be unique, whether it is how you dress, act, or hold yourself. But the differences you have are unique! They are so special and something that only a small percentage of the world has! Embrace it and see your life change for the better. I know this is easier said than done, but take those small steps, keep walking forward, and you’ll know exactly what I mean when that light bulb moment happens to you too. I will continue to support as many people as I can.
Don’t let your differences define your insecurities, let it define your confidence.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shankar Jalota from London, UK. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more inspiring stories about those with skin conditions here:
‘I noticed a line emerge under my nail. It quickly passed to each finger. I was the ugly girl turning white.’: Woman with vitiligo shows ‘true beauty’ after 32 years of hiding, ‘I no longer live in the shadows’
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