Coming to terms with vitiligo (especially if it is nonsegmental) is a journey. The journey gets nerve-wracking especially when you don’t know anybody in your family or social circle that has the same skin condition. Difficulty in finding a job, the problems in finding love and ignorance and lack of awareness about vitiligo may slow the process. However, with time, one should be able to start growing a tough outward exterior to deal with the jokes, ridicule, or some of the offhanded comments.
Andre Joachim Jr., a youth and family therapist (who himself is a vitiligo crusader) believes he went through stages of grief. According to the Kubler Ross model, which is five stages of grief, Andre thinks the newer modified version of 7 stages is more accurate of what an individual with extensive vitiligo goes through:
1. Shock and Denial
When the reality of being diagnosed with vitiligo hits one, he/she thinks if vitiligo is ignored, it would go away. One may avoid it and pray that it went away.
2. Pain and Guilt
When shock would wear off, one may find blaming himself/herself for looking a certain way. At this stage, one becomes extremely sensitive to strange stares and unwanted remarks.
3. Anger and Bargaining
One (specifically when one is religiously inclined) may get angry at God for cursing him/her when he/she knew people who had done far worse. You would curse God and inwardly want to die, then you would later try and repair your relationship with God by asking him to cure your vitiligo. You would find yourself telling him that you would serve him if he takes your vitiligo away.
If the vitiligo fighter is an atheist, he/she would skip this stage.
This is the stage when an individual would socially isolate himself/herself because of the mental anguish of looking at the skin change. If there is a lack of support, one may find himself/herself masking the pain with marijuana or alcohol in order to numb the pain. If help is not provided at the time, a person would battle with depression for a long time.
5. Upward Turn
A positive changes starts from this stage of coming to terms with vitiligo. When you start learning to live with it, it gets a little easier to deal with strange stares and adverse reactions.
With the help of others, the vitiligo fighter starts accepting himself or herself and learns to begin start liking himself/herself.
7. Acceptance and Hope
Slowly, an individual starts seeing him/herself more positively and became more and more confident. After a while, you fall in love with your new skin, realizing that life is enjoyable and worth living.
About the author: This note couldn’t be possible without crucial inputs by Andre Joachim Jr. Adre, who is employed as a youth and family therapist at a private practice, feels fashion is a great tool to start the conversation about vitiligo. He’s the creator of Viti-Wear Viti-Nation and was diagnosed with the skin disorder when he was 18.