My name is Aditi Srivastava and I am a healthy, beautiful, confident and passionately working finance professional. During my college days, I have been a busy student actively participating in co-curricular activities. I was a regular face representing department of commerce in university level fests, debate competitions and fashion dress competitions. Throughout this remarkable journey, I have always received more attention of people than my peers because of the visible white vitiligo spots randomly scattered on my skin.
My vitiligo sets me apart from others and sometimes, I do receive those unwanted stares and strange questions from people. But, I’ve the learnt my way of rising above these negative thoughts and emotions. They best suited for dustbin; not my mind!
First encounter with Vitiligo
When I was in my 8th standard, I got a white spot on my knee. The medical world is clueless about the exact cause of vitiligo so as I. Till today, I don’t know why vitiligo chosen me when none of my parents, siblings or close relatives have it. Certainly because God tests his most loved child with toughest challenge.
At that time, I was extremely happy that my bathing soap is doing a good job and making my skin fairer. But, my mother anticipated the seriousness of the problem and then it started a long struggle of finding a cure.
Every week, my father would take me to a doctor and would pay for consultancy fee, medical tests and medicines with his hard-earned money. With the course of time, we shifted to alternative medicines (Ayurveda and Homeopathy) as conventional (allopathy) treatment was not helping. That didn’t help either. Moreover, the food restrictions as advised in Ayurveda treatment was a big pain. I was advised to stop consuming non-vegetarian food and pickles, but, my whole family stopped consuming these foods in a bid to motivate me. My parents tried everything- doctors, medicines, prayers, priests and healers- nothing helped!
It is worth mentioning here that Yoga did showed promising results, but, I didn’t practice regularly. However, I have no regrets for that because I see many people who enjoys some improvement in their vitiligo temporarily and it returns back again after some time. So, they are caught in the roller coaster ride of vitiligo improvement and relapse. I don’t find it a good idea because after all, counting my vitiligo spots or running behind a cure is not the sole purpose of my life.
Vitiligo impacted every decision in my life until I accepted it
Gradually, my vitiligo got increased so as the self-consciousness about my appearance. To cope with the lack of confidence in my looks, I would wear clothes not to look beautiful or express myself, but to hide my spots. In my school days, I used to wear stockings even in the peak summer to make sure no one gets a chance to see my spots. For me wearing clothes meant to ‘cover everything.’
Then I moved on from school to college, but, the same story continued. When you are in college, you are excited to enjoy more freedom, fun time with friends and of course, someone special to fall in love with. But, it was not the case with me. I would always wear ‘boring’ clothes, would have a specific small group of friends to talk to and absolutely no love life. I have had a crush on a guy, but, never expressed my feeling to him fearing rejection. I used to think that the road which leads to love, dating, romance, relationship- is not built for me.
At that time, Instagram was just launched and Facebook was immensely popular. But, I would not upload even a single picture of mine on my Facebook account. Later, I uploaded a few pictures, but, with special effects to hide my spots.
By all means, I was living a ‘fake’ life and this self-denial mode was really hurting me. I would spend a lot of time, energy and emotions on ‘hiding’ myself than living my life. I had given up on the thought of love and relationship, still I had got the tendency to hide my spots in front of guys. It was all such a painful and emotionally draining experience.
Then, one fine day I decided to stop hiding and start living
For many years, I was like hiding the spots at any cost whereas the spots were like peep out and show their presence to the people around. This hide-and-seek game continued and one fine day, I finally decided to break the shackles; break the self-imposed chains off my life. It didn’t happen overnight. With every passing, I was getting more and more tired of this state of my life and then, one fine day, I saw a beautiful girl’s video on the Internet where she looked absolutely comfortable in her skin without any need to hide her vitiligo. So, I can say that it proved to be the final nail in the coffin and ultimately, I decided not to bother about other people anymore and just live my life on my own terms.
The path to self-acceptance
Once I decided to live my life ‘fiercely’, I devised a course of action to clear the mess and set the record straight.
Firstly, I clearly told my parents that I wouldn’t go for medicines anymore. I am done with it. Some of my friends took it as I had accepted my fate. Well, it was my decision, not fate and I am glad that I chose to discontinue medication. It helped me tremendously to accept myself and move on.
Then, I did something very scary, but I did it anyway as there was no other way out. I posted a couple of my pictures on Facebook without any add-on; clearly displaying my vitiligo spots for everyone in my friend list to see. After done with the photos upload, I took a deep breath and went offline. The next day, I saw a bunch of likes and a handful of comments where people were complimenting me or enquiring me that since when I got these spots. Some 2-3 people even unfriended me and stopped talking as well. It didn’t bother me at all because it was not about them but me. I was so happy that I accomplished something very special. That exercise of getting rid of unwanted emotions made me feel so light-hearted and full of positive energy. I revealed the reality that even after exposing my ‘secret’, nothing got changed in the world. But, my life had taken a complete U-turn for good.
Then I started expanding my comfort zone by getting more social, wearing my favorite dresses, and taking part in co-curricular activities.
So, it has been a gradual journey; difficult, but not impossible!
Throughout this transformation, my family (parents and sisters) has been my pillar of strength. They have always been behind me like a rock, supporting all my decisions and patting me on the back whenever required.
I am a completely new person now
Having accepted my life as a whole, including vitiligo has transformed me into a new person- full of confidence and energy. Now, I wear short dresses without giving a second thought, enjoys adventure sports and bike riding and do whatever I likes to. Vitiligo is still here very much, but don’t bother me anymore. Earlier, it was like a monster, spoiling my life. Now, it is just an ‘innocent’ thing that affect my physical appearance without holding me back from giving the best of me everyday.
No one is immune to bad experiences
It is important to mention here that a lifelong skin condition like vitiligo does bring some really unpleasant experiences and it is okay to feel bad about them.
When I finished my college and was gearing up for job opportunities, I was super-confident about my strengths and gave a smooth, successful interview with a leading private bank. I was quite sure of my selection. But, I was rejected on the account of not having ‘good looks’ suitable for their office. It was quite disappointing, not because I couldn’t get the job, but their pathetic attitude irritated me.
I have already forgotten this incident as a bad dream and never again had any problem in job interviews or workplaces.
In my school days, few guys, two guys in particular, used to tease me a lot. They would call me names like zebra and blackboard. The teachers would come to rescue me in those situations.
Both of them are good in good terms with me now.
Vitiligo – a challenge in marriage?
Self acceptance means unconditional self love and self respect. It means no compromise! Love yourself, improve yourself, chase your dreams, do your Karma and someone who really deserves you and meant to be with you will eventually find you. I don’t consider vitiligo a major challenge in marriage. Vitiligo affects more than 1% of the world population. Are they all are unmarried? I don’t think so.
Marry someone with whom you can connect emotionally; choose a life-partner who feels proud to be with you. Don’t worry if those ‘narrow’ minded people judge you for your vitiligo. Good riddance!
Read more: – Challenges for prospective brides with Vitiligo
Message to fellow people with vitiligo
My mantra is – My life, my rules. Fair enough!
I don’t discourage people from taking medical treatments. But, don’t let vitiligo take charge of your life. Your life should not revolve around it, it’s just a part of your life. We have already spent a good amount of our life living in the shadow of vitiligo. Not anymore. All of us are beautiful in our ways. There is no standard definition of beauty. So, just be yourself, carry yourself with confidence and give respect and love to yourself.
One more thing to say, especially to all the women out there- not everyone is bothered about your skin. They are more interested in your work and what values you can add in their lives. So, focus on your strengths, become a better person and you will receive all the ‘right’ attention that you very much deserve.
(Ashish Agarwal has penned this article on the accounts of life-experiences as shared by Aditi Shrivastava. Sharing and talking about your challenges and experiences are two great healers. Are you ready to share your life-journey to inspire people? Please get in touch with us at email@example.com)