My teenage years were tough. During puberty, one experiences significant hormonal changes in the body which come with their own share of insecurities. Having to also deal with vitiligo was extremely challenging and added to my insecurities. From an early age, I learned to become think-skinned and had to toughen up as a means of defense against the cruel and judgemental world.
As I grew older, I began studying more about the condition, mainly through online medical journals and reports, which liberated me somewhat, as I got to understand what was actually happening to me. I’ve lived with the condition for over 25 years and it has been dormant for over a decade. By dormant, I mean that I have not experienced any more pigment loss but the vitiligo is still there. It is a significant part of me and I believe it’s something that distinctly sets me apart from everyone else, which is why I’m part of the 1% of the population to be living with the condition.
Physically, I am black and “white” at the same time. Yes, I know that statement will make a lot of people uncomfortable and that’s ok. The condition is personal. I’m the one living with two completely different skin tones. I can define it the way I want. It’s mine and I own it!
I believe the condition teaches one self-acceptance as well as acceptance of others. In a racially segregated and prejudiced society, the condition has taught me to look beyond race, colour, creed and physical attributes, but to look deeper within. I am still learning to embrace my vitiligo. It is a journey, never a destination as the condition is really unpredictable. I may wake up to find new spots tomorrow or the day after – one never knows.. There is always that uncertainty but what’s important is knowing that I am more than my skin colour and physical attributes. I am more than my vitiligo and live my life beyond vitiligo. I am Molebatsi Ramalapa.