A crying life story of a vitiligo patient

“I was 25 when I was diagnosed with vitiligo, and it completely changed my life.” Let’s start at the beginning: I was reared in a two-parent household in a little town in Louisiana called Ville Platte. I used to get into arguments with strangers because they mocked our beliefs. We were Apostolic, and they felt that a lady should not wear men’s clothing, such as slacks and shorts. As a result, folks taunted me about it. My folks didn’t have a lot of money. They were just like the rest of us, hardworking Americans. With what we had, we made do.

I was teased as a child, not just because of my attire but also because I was thin and dark-skinned. They thought that having black skin was unattractive. Boys used to toss crickets at me and refer to me as a “filthy black roach.” We ultimately relocated to a smaller hamlet outside that city, where things were a little better.

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I had a fresh start because I was new. I had grown into myself as I had gotten older. I grew up and obtained a job to afford more refined clothing. Hopefully, this will take away one more item for people to make fun of me for. My parents’ religious beliefs had shifted, so we were allowed to wear shorts and slacks. Things were starting to look up for me. I met a boy, swapped numbers with him, and became fast friends. We’d spend hours talking on the phone and clowning about. Our friendship grew into a romance over time. He’d completely swept me off my feet. He had a way of making me feel gorgeous. He and I continued to date until I stopped hearing from him one day. It was as if he had vanished from the face of the planet. I was devastated.

My first child was born when I was seventeen years old. My father was so furious with me that he punched a hole in the wall close to my head. He and my mother were both disappointed in me. I was dissatisfied with myself. However, there was little I could do to alter the situation. Abortion was out of the question. ‘You made a life, and you’re going to be responsible for it,’ my father replied. My first son was born on February 28th. He was the most adorable young boy I’d ever seen. It was love at first sight for both of them. My life had altered in an instant. It wasn’t about me anymore. In my life, he was the most significant person.

One day, I was reading my emails when the boy who had just quit talking to me sent me an email. He revealed the cause for his disappearance. He informed me he had joined the army and moved his family to Arkansas. He said he would collect me after he got out of the military so we could be together because I was about to become 18. I informed him that I was the father of a son. He was depressed, but he assured me that he loved me and that he would also love my son if he loved me.

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We picked up the phone and began conversing once more. He sent me money to help me care for my youngster to concentrate on my studies. He was a fantastic individual. He did everything he claimed he’d do. He finally settled in the area where I was. He expressed his desire to marry me. In retrospect, I should have hurried into anything. I should’ve slowed down. I was too inexperienced. But, because I had a son and he loved me, I went ahead and did it.

I married on July 19th, when I was 18 years old, less than six months after my son was born. My life had taken a complete 180-degree turn. Our marriage was beautiful at first. I found out I was pregnant with our first daughter just a few months after getting married.

I was 19 years old, with two children and a husband who worked on an oil rig offshore. Every month, he was gone for two weeks. We got along when he came home, at least at first. Then one day, he returned, distraught. I was speaking with him, and he did not answer. I was exhausted from juggling two children while attending college, so I requested him to assist me with the children. ‘No,’ he replied. That wasn’t his responsibility; it was mine. I yelled at him, and he slapped me across the face. I ran down the street, crying, and called my father to inform him that he had hit me. My father approached him and told him that he should never touch me again. I believe my involvement with my father produced a schism between us. He never hit me again, but he abused me verbally.

As a result of his job relocation, we relocated to a new city. We were closer to his hometown this time. That was a huge mistake since he began to hang out with old buddies and stayed out late. He started to deceive others. My family became closer to me, and I kept many of the events private until I couldn’t anymore. The s**t was ready to fall out of the sky. I was going through my mail one day when I came across a letter from Arkansas child support enforcement. A woman asked him for child support. I inquired what this was all about, and he eventually revealed that he was the father of a son. We’d been married for around eight years at the time. Our 6-year-old daughter was the same age as his son. He kept a baby hidden from me for six years. I was shocked. I was furious. How could he have done such a thing to me? How could he possibly betray our relationship? It caused a significant rift in our relationship. For a long time, I didn’t trust him. But I forgave him, and we continued to work on our relationship.

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But things between us did not improve. One day, I came home from work and couldn’t tolerate looking at him, so I picked a fight with him. For hours, we argued back and forth. Finally, I went to the bathroom to take a bath, and as soon as I stepped into the tub, he followed me in. He snatched my neck, yanked me out of the tub, and began choking me. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my kid. I phoned the cops after he let me go. He was arrested and imprisoned for 30 days. He wrote me letters pleading me to return him while he was in there, and like a fool, I did.

This time, though, I set specific ground rules. I set my foot down and declared that I would no longer tolerate cheating, lying, or abuse. We sought counseling, and things improved for a time. I had no idea that a storm was brewing that would completely transform my life. When I shaved my underarms for work one morning, I discovered a white area beneath my arm. It wouldn’t come off no matter how hard I scrubbed. It was the size of a bit of pea. I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician. I started using Nair after his diagnosis of an adverse response to razors. But the spot became bigger and bigger every time I checked it.

Then came Hurricane Rita, which was an actual hurricane. Everything we had worked so hard for was taken away from us. We ended up evacuating to his parent’s house in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was so preoccupied with my family and concerned about the damage to our home that I completely forgot about the spots. We decided to stay in Arkansas, where his family resided. I believed it might be beneficial to us, but it ended up being where he and I divorced.

I discovered another spot on my face, this time under my right eye, one day. When I showed one of my friends, she told me I needed to see a dermatologist, a skin specialist. So I scheduled an appointment with Arkansas’ most excellent dermatologist. I had to wait about a month to see the doctor. I picked up a few more spots during that period and began to feel anxious.

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I was noticeably shaking when I eventually arrived at my appointment because I was so frightened. The doctor saw my anxiety and assured me that everything would be fine! He informed me that I had vitiligo. ‘Do you think it’s cancer?’ Is the disease contagious? ‘How did I manage to get it?’ I inquired. He laughed and added, “It’s not what you think it is.” I asked as to whether or not there was a cure. There wasn’t, he said. He stated he could prescribe creams, but he couldn’t guarantee they would work. I started crying. He took out his laptop when I requested him to show me photographs of patients with the same skin issue. I initially mistook the people in the pictures for monsters. I was also going to be a monster.

I was frightened to inform my husband and children. I didn’t know what else to do. THEREFORE, THERE WAS NO CURE! What was going to be my appearance? Was I going to make my kids terrified of me? Would my family be embarrassed by my appearance? Many thoughts raced through my head. I was terrified. I was enraged. What right did God have to do this to me? Why did he select me after everything I’ve been through? This isn’t anything I deserved. I was convinced I was cursed.

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I cried the entire way home, which took approximately 30 to 45 minutes. My marriage was coming to an end. How could I ever walk away from my marriage if I looked like this? Nobody was going to be interested in me. When I returned home, my husband inquired about the doctor’s findings. I’ve just begun to cry. I sat down and called my mother to inform her and my father of the doctor’s findings. My mother inquired whether there were any side effects, to which I replied that there would be none and that it would only change the way I appeared. She stated there was nothing I could do, that she and my father would love me no matter what, and that they would hope it didn’t spread any further.

I decided to conceal it with cosmetics. I was missing my family, so I organized a vacation to see them. One of my beauty artist friends informed me there was a cosmetics I could apply that would offer me excellent long-lasting coverage while I was there. She showed me how to blend it in with the rest of my makeup so no one could tell I had spots on my face. And for a while, that’s what I did.

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When I returned home, I filed for divorce, which angered my spouse. He made my life a living hell for me. He tried to assassinate me once more. Thank God for my daughter, who once again saved my life. My mental health suffered as a result of the divorce. He was implying that no one would want me due to my appearance. I had four children–who would like a woman with that many children? It was working because he was in my brain.

I attempted to take my own life. But, bless God, He wasn’t quite ready for me yet, since I had a mission to fulfill. I RETURNED HOME WITH MY FAMILY because I had no one in Arkansas. My mother had been pleading with me to return home, but I thought I would be giving up if I did. But that was the best option. I had to start from scratch. My parents handed me their house and moved into a new one. I obtained a new job, acquired a new car, and everything was back to normal.

My vitiligo was constantly spreading, and I couldn’t cover some of my flaws anymore. Throughout the year, I wore long-sleeved shirts and slacks. Trying to keep such a massive thing hidden was exhausting. There was nothing I could do once it reached my hands. People would look at my hands and assume I had been burned. That’s what I’d let them believe.

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I went to my mother’s place to visit her one day, and when I arrived, one of my sister’s best friends was there. He’d come to deliver some new shoes to my niece, his goddaughter, and my mother had introduced us. It’s funny, I could’ve met him so many times when I came to visit, but I always seemed to miss him. Because we were destined to meet at this time, I’m guessing God was saving this moment for us. ‘Wow, he’s a fantastic man,’ I thought to myself. I gave him my phone number, but he never phoned.

I was outdoors cleaning my car one day when he came by and recognized me. He made a U-turn and returned to speak with me. We decided to go on our first date. It was one of the most enjoyable dates I’d ever experienced. He was so sweet to me, and I’m sure he saw my vitiligo on my legs, feet, and hands, but he never said anything about it. We had just formed a bond. For the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful about my future. We continued to date, and he treated me like a princess. He had no idea, though, that I had those blemishes on my face. I never mentioned it because he never mentioned it.

He unexpectedly showed up at the house one day. He usually called ahead of time to see if I was doing something with the kids. And until he was present, I didn’t wear cosmetics at home. When he knocked, I dashed to the door, forgetting I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I was like, ‘What?’ as he glanced at me with a shocked expression. ‘Oh, you have it on your face,’ he remarked. I ran to the bathroom after touching my face. He looked weirded out when he looked at me, but he was only surprised because he didn’t know. ‘Wait, where are you going?’ he said, grabbing my hand. ‘To put on my makeup,’ I explained. ‘No, don’t do it,’ he urged. I was terrified and had no idea what to do. ‘You’re lovely,’ he said. Is it true that you’ve been wearing makeup the whole time?’ ‘Yes, I don’t like it on my face, and I didn’t think you’d want to be with me if you saw me like this,’ I explained. ‘What?’ he exclaimed. I adore you for who you are. You’re an incredible woman.’ ‘You’re so lovely,’ he remarked. I’m not sure why you’re keeping this from me. You are one of a kind. It appeals to me.’

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My heart was overjoyed. ‘Let’s go to the store,’ he said as I grinned. ‘Let me put on my makeup because I don’t want people gazing at me and giving me strange glances,’ I insisted. ‘Who cares?’ he said. You’re stunning. Allow them to stare.’ He wouldn’t let me put on my cosmetics, so we went to the store immediately away. I was terrified. He knew I was scared, so he took my hand in his and assured me that everything would be fine. ‘You’re gorgeous,’ he added, ‘and if they can’t see that, that’s on them.’ In the store, I was a nervous wreck. I was sweating profusely and my heart was literally beating out of my chest, but I made it through, and a few people even complimented me on my appearance. ‘You see?’ he asked as we got into the car. After all, it wasn’t so horrible.’ I may be accessible at long last.

One day, we were resting in bed when I came across Winnie Harlow, a model, on Facebook. ‘You could be a model, too,’ he said. You have a very exotic appearance and a lovely face. Perhaps you can encourage others who look like you to love themselves.’ I wasn’t where he wanted me, but seeing someone who looked like me accept themselves was encouraging.

I continued to wear makeup, although it was becoming increasingly difficult due to the extreme heat in Louisiana. I decided one day that I wasn’t going to wear it any longer. I went out without any makeup on by myself. One day, I even went to work without wearing any makeup. People were impolite. ‘Holy shit, you terrified me,’ one man said. Someone referred to me as Batman’s sister. ‘Why are you walking around with paint on your face?’ someone even asked. ‘Did you plan on going duck hunting?’ I was met with blank glances. People wouldn’t even take money from my palm at times. I sobbed. But I was exhausted and desirous of being free.

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In my mirror, I used to write affirmations for myself. In the mirror, I was looking at myself through my own eyes, not through God’s. But one day, I saw myself through the eyes of God. I recall making a Facebook post informing my friends that I had vitiligo. I received such positive feedback that I even created a Facebook community for folks with the same skin issue as mine. As a result, I began uploading images of myself on social media, and others noticed. I was even approached to participate in a fashion show by a guy. I discussed it with my boyfriend, who advised me to go ahead and do it, which I did.

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A photographer was waiting for me outside the dressing room the first night I walked. He handed me a business card and expressed interest in collaborating with me. ‘Me?’ I asked. ‘Yeah,’ he said. I don’t think you realize how lovely you are. ‘Let me demonstrate.’ I was taken aback.

I started an Instagram account and posted creatively with my photos, which drew the attention of additional individuals. A business called me and inquired about doing a feature about me. I was required to write a tale, which went viral. It was so big that a television company approached me to ask if I wanted to be a part of a TV show! And I told my story on national television. So many people have reached out to me and told me their tales. I’d turned into a sensation!

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‘What is my purpose?’ I remember once asking God. I recall never receiving a response and watching my life unfold as it has. Vitiligo was formerly considered a curse, but now it is the best thing that ever happened to me. I was not only carrying out a childhood dream, but I was also assisting others in overcoming their worries and loving themselves as God intended. For the first time in my life, I felt entirely content.

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I figured out what I wanted to do. My mission is to inspire and encourage people, and I accomplished just that. My life had taken a turn for the better, and I was content. All of the events in my life have led me to this point, and I thank God for everything that has happened because I am now living out my dreams, and I can do so by being myself. I’m pleased with myself.

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I want women to understand that they don’t have to be someone else. You are not required to have the same appearance as everyone else. Why blend in when you can make a statement? Respect yourself and love yourself. I know you were made in a specific way for a reason. Never allow yourself to be treated any less than how you deserve to be treated. You are deserving of being treated like the queen that you are. Never give up on your ambitions, achievements, or objectives. Set the entire globe ablaze. Be yourself and be free. And know that you’re wonderfully painted for a reason.”

Courtesy of Iomikoe Johnson

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