“I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.” My name is Nobuntu Morake, a young ‘vitiligan’ lady, born and bred in Kagiso, a township in the west of Johannesburg. You are probably wondering what I mean by ‘vitiligan’, well I am suffering from Vitiligo. I developed the condition in the year 2005, I was in a third grade, I remember vividly the very first white patch to notice was in my chest. It wasn’t sore or anything else for that matter. But my mother got worried as the patch was deteriorating, spreading to other areas of my body. She then took me to a General Practitioner (GP), the GP diagnosed me with the then ‘rare’ skin condition, Vitiligo, thereafter referred me to a Dermatologist, where I would go for monthly treatment for close to 5 years. I remember how the Dermatologist would tell my mother that chances of my skin regaining pigment are high, because I was young at that juncture. As time went by, the patches became worse, it was as if I was not getting treatment, but I still believed that my skin would regain pigment over time, little did I know that I would undergo depigmentation for an epoch.
I went to different Dermatologists for better treatments, it was expensive and still no sign of regaining pigment. It came a time where my mother stopped taking me to different Dermatologists, so I continued with the treatment of my first Dermatologist, my skin would have brown spots showing signs of regaining pigment, but some time it would relapse. I was sad and frustrated when I noticed the condition was spreading to other areas of my body where the patches cannot be hidden by clothes. It was worse when it developed on my knees, it lead me to refrain from wearing shorts and skirts. It ripped off my childhood euphoria, I never thought I would recover the experience, emotionally. The years went by, came 2009, later in that year I stopped taking the treatment, I didn’t benefit much from it anyway because the condition was becoming worse. I was a teenager, still discovering myself, I was rejected, I was called with derogatory names, I was discriminated and I was ostracised. Every time I had to share my vitiligo story, I would breakdown, without even completing the story, I would feel humiliated, engulfed with sadness. Well, at some point, I had to pick up the thousand broken pieces. I harboured so much pain, that it was consuming and debilitating. Day by day, I released that excruciating pain, day by day, I managed to annihilate my self- consciousness, it has been a herculean task, but it has been worth it. As strong as I am, I’m not self- made, I have a supportive family, this journey of self- discovery was not lonely, they walked me through it. My family are a powerful support system, they remain a star of a story that I will always tell.
I can’t say I’ve recovered from the ordeal, I’m still in the recovery process. I appreciate this condition, it has taught me resilience at a younger age. Today I can share my story without being emotional which is a sign of healing. I’ve grown to become the young woman I never thought I’d be, beautiful and vigorous.
My message to my fellow Vitiligans: Do not succumb to criticism, you must be impervious to criticism to salvage yourself from harmful remarks, otherwise society will chew you and spit you out so viciously, you wouldn’t recover the experience. You must love and take good care of yourself. Don’t let society’s perception of beauty define you, you are not ugly. Look at yourself beyond looks. You are unique and important.
With love ♥