The team at VITILIGLOW® are huge advocates of maintaining positive mental health and with Mental Health Awareness Week taking place this week, I wanted to talk about the mental health implications for people with vitiligo and other skin conditions and visible differences. It’s no secret that I have struggled with having vitiligo since I developed my first patches more than 25 years ago.
Personally, I cover up every day and make sure that my depigmented patches are fully camouflaged using VITILIGLOW® before I leave the house. But others with vitiligo are far more confident and embrace their patches. Our good friend and supporter Joti Gata-Aura from Positively Diverse has spent the 20 years since her patches first appeared learning to love her skin. She is now super comfortable showing her patches to the world. There is no right or wrong answer here – your journey with vitiligo is unique and you must be comfortable with yourself whether you choose to cover your patches like me or are happy not to cover up, like Joti and my two sons, who also have vitiligo.
A few months ago, Joti and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Liz Ritchie, a body image therapist and psychotherapist from the mental healthcare charity where I work full time. Liz supported Little Mix star Jesy Nelson in her award-winning BBC documentary, Odd One Out. Liz wanted to talk to both Joti and I to see how we started off over 20 years ago at the point where we both tried to conceal our vitiligo, yet Joti has gone through the process of fully embracing her patches in recent years, but I still cannot bear any minute where I’m not fully camouflaged.
Here are our videos discussing our struggles, thoughts and hopes about mental health, self-acceptance and living with vitiligo.
We talked a lot about self-acceptance and how it doesn’t matter whether you cover your patches or choose not to (or do it sometimes, depending on how you feel). The important thing is that you accept this ‘thing’ that you are given and live your best life. Liz talked to us about the routines I undertake rigidly every day and the ways that Joti took small steps to get out of her comfort zone to fully reveal her vitiligo.
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 is ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’. These five things are: connect, take notice, give, be active and keep learning. Given the pandemic situation that we have been living in and dealing with over the past year, taking some time out to focus on ourselves and embrace who we truly are is the most valuable gift we can give to ourselves in our life.
Founder of VITILIGLOW®
This International Women’s Day 2021, we have collaborated with some inspiring women who all have vitiligo. It can sometimes be lonely or isolating with vitiligo, but it’s important to recognise that there are so many of us who all have vitiligo and similar vitiligo stories.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #ChooseToChallenge. There is lots of discussion about this hashtag on social media today and over the coming weeks, and it’s the perfect time for us to #ChooseToChallenge peoples’ views on vitiligo. There is so much mis-information about what vitiligo is. I’ve even experienced people asking me if they can catch vitiligo from me! If you have vitiligo or another visible difference, choose to challenge peoples’ perspectives of skin conditions and visible differences this International Women’s Day by posting some facts about your skin condition, like vitiligo. I'll be posting about and tagging some inspiring women who have vitiligo.
For International Women's Day this year, I spoke to Mehak, Sappir, Joti, Natalie, Hanni, Anita and Albany about their favourite inspiring quotes, and I’m delighted to share their beautiful photos and quotes below.
“Make your spots, scars, birthmarks and other visible differences shine BRIGHT. Sometimes, all you need is to make your insecurities your greatest power.”
“It took me 20 years to accept myself and love myself, and once that happened, I realised I did not need anyone’s approval regarding my special appearance. I love and accept myself as I am and it is a victory for me.”
“To all the beautiful women all around the world; do not ever forget this… Be Seen, Be Heard, Be You. Never be ashamed of who are you and where you come from and keep striving for what you believe in.”
Natalie said that the way women are supporting, encouraging and empowering each other in recent years is awe-inspiring. She feels incredibly lucky and honoured to be part of a community where a strong sense of ‘togetherness’ exists. There is extreme pressure to look and ‘fit’ in amongst societal ‘norms’, however, the vitiligo community continue to remind Natalie that we can be ourselves with grace and be proud of who we are, in both past and present. One of Natalie’s favourite quotes is from Brene Brown: “one day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.” Natalie said, “It’s words like this that remind me of my purpose and why I’m proud that I do what I do.”
“Just because you don’t fit society’s standards of beauty, doesn’t mean you aren’t beautiful. You are beautiful in all of your ways.”
“The secret of change is focusing all our energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.”
“I have been gifted a new set of eyes in which to see this world, and my Vitiligo is my super power! Perspective is everything.”
I really hope these quotes inspire you just as much as they did me. I absolutely loved reading them; they’re so empowering and remind us just how important it is to talk to each other about vitiligo and share our vitiligo stories to keep raising awareness of visible differences and skin conditions.
In conversation with Liz Ritchie, Joti Gata-Aura and Polly Gotschi features a series of videos filmed in 2020 discussing topics around vitiligo, body confidence, social media and self-acceptance.
Integrative psychotherapeutic counsellor Liz Ritchie has been a therapist in a secure mental health hospital for 30 years. In 2019, she featured in Little Mix star Jesy Nelson’s BBC Three documentary Odd One Out where Jesy bared all about her experiences with social media trolls. Liz explored how social media fuelled Jesy’s body image struggles.
As a British-Asian presenter, online influencer and founder of Positively Diverse, Joti Gata-Aura has a wealth of experience in talking about social media and mental wellbeing. As someone with vitiligo, Joti knows all too well the struggles that some people with vitiligo face, including issues with body confidence and self-esteem.
Talking about vitiligo is so important to raise awareness, support each other and be open about our mental wellbeing, so each video in the series focuses on a different topic.
Take a look at the full video in conversation with Liz Ritchie, Joti Gata-Aura and Polly Gotschi.
If you are someone who is struggling with your body image and confidence, you can reach out to Liz, Joti and myself. Contact us on Instagram (@positivelydiverse and @vitiliglowinfo), Facebook (Positively Diverse and VITILIGLOW®), or by visiting our websites (Liz Ritchie, Positively Diverse, VITILIGLOW®).
The team at Vitiliglow® are huge advocates of maintaining positive mental health and with World Mental Health Day taking place today, I wanted to talk about the mental health implications for people with Vitiligo. It’s no secret that I have struggled with having Vitiligo since I developed my first patches 25 years ago.
Whilst I might be at one end of the extreme (even when I shower at home, I need to rush to cover back up), our good friend and supporter Joti Gata-Aura from Positively Diverse has spent the twenty years since her patches first appeared learning to love her skin and be comfortable showing her patches to the world. There is no right or wrong answer here – your journey with Vitiligo is very personal and you must be comfortable with yourself whether you choose to cover your patches like me or are happy not to cover up, like Joti and my two sons, who also have Vitiligo.
Back in the summer, Joti and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Liz Ritchie, a body image therapist and psychotherapist from the mental healthcare charity where I work full time. Liz also supported Little Mix star Jesy Nelson in her award-winning BBC documentary, Odd One Out. Liz wanted to talk to both Joti and I to see how we started off over 20 years ago at the point where we both tried to conceal our Vitiligo, yet Joti has gone through a process of fully embracing her patches and I cannot bear any minute where I’m not fully camouflaged.
We are in the process of editing our discussion and will share the video with you soon, but throughout the afternoon, we talked a lot about self-acceptance and how it doesn’t matter whether you cover your patches or choose not to (or do it sometimes, depending on how you feel). The important thing is that you accept this ‘thing’ that you are given and live your best life. Liz talked to us about the routines I undertake rigidly every day and the ways that Joti took small steps to get out of her comfort zone to fully reveal her Vitiligo.
I felt quite emotional speaking to Liz because I seem to have created this prison for myself where Vitiligo is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing at night. I’ve always felt as though I should embrace my patches and feel comfortable showing my patches, but I just can’t. If I could change one thing in the world, it would be that my Vitiligo would disappear and I could have my normal skin back.
However, my discussion with Liz has led me to realise that it’s actually OK to feel like this. That covering up my patches every day is OK and I’ve come to accept that it’s a part of who I am and the way that I deal with my Vitiligo is actually very healthy. I have made an active choice in my life to cover my patches, because it’s the only way I feel comfortable with myself. And this choice has led me to create Vitiliglow®, so that there’s a product for anyone who wants to cover their Vitiligo which is actually an incredibly empowering and rewarding thing to do. I might feel as though I’m a slave to my Vitiligo, but it’s my choice to be that way and although I’d rather not have the condition, I can’t change it and I’ve learned to accept it.
Liz sent an email through after our session, which was incredibly touching and I felt it important to share her thoughts with you all in this blog, as I hope that it will provide support for others who may find they are struggling a little more than usual:
"I felt very privileged to be asked to contribute to Polly and Joti's story about their personal journey living with Vitiligo, a skin condition that affects around 1% of the population.
On meeting them both, I was immediately struck by their warmth, their passion, courage and empathy for each other and their willingness to share their story and its potential effects on the mental health of those who have this condition.
Both spoke candidly about living with Vitiligo and the effect it has had on both of their lives as well as their families and loved ones. Both have two different stories to tell and both have developed their own coping mechanisms in order to live their best lives, which was discussed during our conversation.
I felt it was very important and relevant for viewers to see Polly and Joti's process of acceptance, which they have both navigated in different, but equally valid ways. It was very emotional but extremely inspiring to be part of a very conversation about body image and self acceptance which were explored with honesty and courage.
I know that Polly and Joti wanted to share their story to inform and support those with vitiligo and it will be very relatable to many living with this condition.
I really felt that the ultimate goal for both Polly and Joti was not only to discuss their individual journey but also to address some of the psychological and social problems that can impact on the quality of life for many who have this skin condition.
I came away from my meeting with these two amazing women full of admiration and respect and humbled to be a small part of their story."
The theme for World Mental Health Day this year is to do one thing to improve your mental health. Given the situation we are all living with across the globe, taking some time out to focus on ourselves and embrace who we truly are is the most valuable gift we can give to ourselves in our life.
Founder of Vitiliglow®