By Mark Braxton, as told by Kendall Morgan
In 1996, I discovered a small white spot on my thumb. Itch. I thought it was crust or something. I didn’t think much about that. Then I started noticing other small white spots. They were spreading.
The first dermatologist I went to looked at me and came back out of the room. He came back with a pamphlet and said, “Here’s what you’ve got: Vitiligo.” At that time, there was not much information. The doctor gave me a topical cream for that. Tried it for 6 months. It didn’t seem to me that it was helping, so I stopped. I felt deflated.
Fortunately, when I went to another dermatologist, it was a different experience. shake my hand He knew right away that I wanted to know about the spots. He explained that I suffer from vitiligo, a skin condition. It is not contagious, which is important for people to know. There is no treatment or way to stop the loss of skin color. He told me it could spread or maybe some of the tint could come back. Then he asked me a question I didn’t expect, “How is your self-confidence?”
At the time, I felt fine. It was just a few small points. Over the years, as I started to spread out and could see the changes, I started to feel insecure. I now have spots around my mouth and all over my body in spots. I stopped wearing shorts. I stopped going to the beach and the pool. I would avoid social places where people could look at me. It was insecurity and sometimes mild depression and anxiety.
The mental aspect is perhaps the biggest challenge I have dealt with. Vitiligo changed my view of myself. I did not see myself how others saw me. I struggled socially with friendships and relationships. One of the worst things I’ve found that people can say is that it doesn’t bother them. I understand you might say it doesn’t bother you, but until you walk in my shoes, you don’t. You don’t have to look in the mirror and watch your body or skin change over time. There is this fear of the unknown.
I did not ask for treatment, although it was offered. The creams I tried at first didn’t seem to help. Light therapy is an option, but it is time consuming and I didn’t want to risk getting burned. I thought I could do all this on my own. In 2019, I realized I was failing. Something a kid said helped me start to change my perspective. I was working at camp and this little girl told me I was a butterfly. I defined my place as a butterfly, as a beautiful thing.
I decided it was time to open up. I joined the North Carolina Vitiligo Support Community after avoiding it for years. It was the best decision I ever made. For a long time, my vitiligo was something I never talked about. My family and friends didn’t know how I felt about it. I have started sharing my journey with other people, and it has helped a lot.
I am now one of two leaders in the North Carolina Vitiligo Support Community in Raleigh. I am also a board member of VITFriends, a national organization that sponsors peer relationships in the vitiligo community. I host a podcast called Living Life and Love, where others with Vitiligo can share their journey. I found that sharing my journey with such a large audience freed me from a personal prison I had been living in for so long.
This skin condition has opened my eyes in so many ways. I have come to the place of admission. I have learned how to live with vitiligo and love myself. Still some days are tough if he whispered or stared hard. Kids are often curious and that’s okay. I try to educate people about what Vitiligo is.
When it comes down to it, my skin looks different, but I still have interests, hobbies, and talents. I enjoy writing poetry and short stories. I love to draw, draw and be creative. I am a huge fan of science fiction and superheroes. We all have more in common than we don’t. I’ve gone from insecure to feeling safe in myself. I often say it’s a process for all of us in the vitiligo community. Every trip is different. Everyone has a story to tell.