I noticed a small white dot on the middle of both palms right before I turned 20. I thought nothing of it until I noticed other spots on my body. As time passed and they grew I went to see a dermatologist who told me I had Vitiligo. Vitiligo is an auto immune disease which removes pigment from the skin, changing my brown skin to white. In the beginning it was such a slow progression that most people never even realized. There were times I didn’t even remember. However, in the last 7 years it has spread much more quickly so that now my hands and my feet are almost completely white.
I have learned a lot from this experience. I have learned to seem unaffected when total strangers come up and ask me a wide range of questions, offer me advice or tell me “You’re pretty anyway.” I have learned to pause during introductions giving people a chance to adjust their eyes from my hands to my eyes and figure out whether or not I am safe to touch. Mostly, I have learned that living with your flaws on the outside makes you more aware of the person on the inside. The vulnerability forces you to accept that everyone can see what you wish they could not.
I am not sure how far this disease will progress. In a few years I’ll have had this problem for half of my life. What I do know is that no matter what a person suffers from a little empathy, a small amount of understanding and a lot of compassion goes a long way.