Christophe Debar-Monclair had his first encounter with vitiligo when he was 15 years old. “I knew right away what it was since my mum also has vitiligo. I will always remember her reaction when I told her about it. She just started to cry. This was the hardest thing I had to take. Seeing guilt in the eyes of somebody you love,” the 39-year-old construction management professional recalls.
At present, Christophe is managing roadworks for the city of La Rochelle. His work involves managing a team and interacting with several people on daily basis. Unlike many of vitiligo fighters, Christophe considers interacting with others an opportunity to normalize vitiligo. He says, “I am glad I have that opportunity to show the world that I am just as human as they are.” But, was Christophe always this mature about the skin disorder? He answers, “It was quite hard to accept vitiligo especially after observing how people would stare at me. Most of the time people would look at me because they did not know what those patches were, and they would even sometimes seem disgusted. People would think that it is some sort of skin fungus or other contagious skin condition. In response, I would get upset, not because I felt bad about my body, but more because I could not accept the fact that people would stare at me without trying to understand.”
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Today, Christophe, an admirer of street art, has accepted the fact that he has vitiligo. If someone asks questions about it, he takes time to explain what vitiligo is. “I always work to accept it rather than “fighting” it. It is part of me so I never try to hide it, or use cream in an attempt to cure it. I improved my self-esteem by practicing boxing for about 15 years. It was a great way for me to control my anxiety and focus on what really mattered – my well being. 20 years later, I almost forgot that I have vitiligo. Only the sun is here to remind me of it,” the passionate photographer shares.
When Christophe was on his journey of self-acceptance and self-love, he met someone really special – his wife. “When we met, I was 21, she was 15. The vitiligo was not super visible at that time, but I went ahead and engaged a conversation about it, explaining what it was, and what it would eventually become. I also talked about the fact that it was genetically transmitted. Her reaction was beyond all my expectations, she was very positive about it, her empathy and kindness made me stronger, more confident.”
It is the unmistakable support of his family that makes Christophe a positive person today, but just like any other parent with vitiligo, Christophe has his fair share of worries: “I do not really go through any difficult moments because of vitiligo, but since I have my two kids, I sometimes, start to think about the genetic aspect of it. I know I grew up out of it, accepted it, but I also know that others do not, and that stresses me, especially nowadays, where appearance seems more important than the real person,” the vitiligo crusader pours his heart out.
Christophe feels meeting and communicating with other people with vitiligo, to share stories, fun facts, doubts, and pain help a lot. After all, it is important to feel part of a bigger family that shares the same questions, doubts, as well as moments of happiness.
When we asked Christophe to leave us with a message for fellow vitiligo fighters, he indeed had something special to share: I try to stay positive in every situation, which is not easy. But, it is the only way to go through life. So, I suggest you all to remember what Confucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Don’t let negativity enter your life and drag you down the hill.”
We salute Christophe’s undying spirit to make the most of each day. We hope many youngsters with chronic skin disorder will get inspired by his incredible vitiligo journey.