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An Interview with The Vitiligo Girl

I had the chance to chat with T.J., who has created an amazing online community for those with vitiligo.  Like me, T.J (aka the vitiligo girl) was able to cure a lot of her vitiligo by changing her diet and lifestyle. Now, she runs a site where she documents her own journey and brings together various individuals who have been able to cure their vitiligo using non-traditional methods. You can see some of the pigment that has come back to spots on her shins! There are even more impressive before and after photos up on her site (my measly computer can’t hold them all) so I definitely recommend you check her out. And without further ado, meet the Vitiligo Girl!

August 2014 before shins (1) Right Shin April 2015

Tell me more about your blog. What inspired you to start it?

Initially, my blog started out as my own special place where I could talk openly about my vitiligo and document my journey to stop and reverse my vitiligo-for my own benefit as well as for others. I found it therapeutic to share with others what I had learned through the things I was reading, which was anything and everything about autoimmune disease and why the body begins to attack itself. I quickly realized, though that I could do something more with my blog.

When I was first diagnosed with vitiligo three years ago, I desperately needed hope and reassurance from others who had overcome their vitiligo-I wanted to hear that I, too could heal. However, I wasn’t able to find very many personal experiences. Besides yours, there was Caroline’s over at TheVitPro.com, Dr. Wanakee Hill’s in her book, and the free online book, Emily’s Vitiligo. That’s it.

I knew that there were likely hundreds, if not thousands of other people just like me who were searching for answers. It was then that I decided that I wanted my blog to be an inspiring and comforting place where all of those people could go and ease their fears. I felt it was important that my blog be a place that would help reduce that terrible stress we all feel about our vitiligo by showing that it isn’t the hopeless condition many doctors would have us believe it is-because as we know, stressing about it can make it worse!

The blog has now grown into a little community where I’ve gathered and continue to gather the experiences and success stories of others with vitiligo as well.

How long have you had vitiligo? When did it start?

I was first diagnosed with vitiligo about a year after I had my son, so I’ve had it for about 3 years now. I was horrified to say the least. It is incredibly distressing to watch your skin color disappear before your very eyes. It’s indescribable, really.

I got my first spot on my left thumb after I had been taking my son for swimming lessons at the city pool. I have always felt that the swimming pool had something to do with my vitiligo starting, but I could never pinpoint the exact trigger. Was it the chlorine? The sun? Fungus? All of the above? The swimming pool was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I scoured the internet night and day looking for answers. I bought books on Amazon, purchased every eBook online I came across, and checked out books at the library.

I read the experience you have on your blog about overcoming your vitiligo over, and over, and over again to reassure myself and try to find commonalities that would allow me to gain some sort of insight into myself.

What do you think caused your vitiligo?

Looking back over the last 10 years, I’ve realized the tremendous amount of stress I had/have been under.

I believe that I became especially nutritionally depleted after a series of both physical and emotional traumas that ultimately set me up for developing vitiligo.

I had been in a bad car accident and subsequently diagnosed with fibromyalgia a couple of years later. Fast forward a few years later to a happy marriage, but severe financial struggles, a miscarriage, and then a physically stressful and difficult pregnancy that caused me to develop sacro-iliac dysfunction. Caring for my son (who never slept) and nursing him for two years further depleted whatever little nutritional reserves I had left.

By the time my son was a year old, I was struggling to make it through the day due to my severe exhaustion. My complexion was gray, I was very thin, my blood pressure was extremely low, I was cold all the time, and I had terrible dizzy spells when I would get out of bed in the morning. I had developed severe adrenal fatigue, and my thyroid was suffering as well.

What do you believe has helped the most with vitiligo?

#1 of course has been stress reduction.

But I’ve learned something very interesting about stress through my Nutritional Balancing program, and that is that stress can be from both internal and external sources.

Usually we tend to only think of stress in terms of being external, as in our jobs, relationships, emotional trauma, etc. But we don’t really think of the daily internal stress we put on our bodies. The wrong diet, or an unhealthy one that is high in refined carbs, sugar, processed foods, and that is nutritionally deficient puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body. Add to that toxic exposure from the air we breathe, the pesticides we eat on non-organic fruits and vegetables, and the medicines we take. These things clog our livers and ruin our digestive tracts.

As for external stress, it’s impossible to eliminate it completely since it’s a part of this life that we live. However, many times we can be the cause of our own stress to a certain degree. I found this to be true of myself. I had to change the form of exercise I was doing, change my thinking, and change the way that I do things, which included getting more organized and minimizing as much clutter in my house as possible…which is still a work in progress with a four year old running around ☺.

We can also change the way that we respond to upsetting situations. I know you mentioned in your interview on my blog that meditation helped you. For me it’s my shower that I turned into a near infrared sauna. Walking is also a wonderful stress reducer as well.

What advice would you give to readers with vitiligo?

I agree 100% with you when you say that stress reduction is probably the most important thing when it comes to vitiligo. Stress depletes us nutritionally which ultimately causes a breakdown in bodily functions, and can contribute to the development of autoimmune disease.

Once I understood this, vitiligo wasn’t nearly as scary and there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t absolutely sure that I would overcome it. In my mind, it was just a matter of time. As a result I was able to relax and figure out an effective plan of attack against my vitiligo.

Another thing I would like to mention is that no regular doctor/MD is going to tell you anything positive about vitiligo, so don’t feel down-hearted when you hear over and over again that there is nothing you can do about it. Ignore nay-sayers and well-meaning family members who tell you to just accept it and live with it. You don’t have to. Have an open mind and realize that there are effective, alternative ways to deal with vitiligo.

I personally don’t feel that there will ever be a cure for vitiligo that works for everyone–not because I am not hopeful-but because there is simply no way to prevent stress and its effect on our bodies, not to mention the fact that each of us responds to stress differently. Lifestyles must be changed, and body systems and functions must be repaired and corrected before any healing can take place. And the reality is that most people don’t have any interest in taking the time to do this. They’d much rather just pop a pill and be healed. Vitiligo is much too complex for that.
I realized early on that I needed to be aggressive and take control of my health, not just the vitiligo. Sure, I desperately wanted it to stop spreading. But the more I focused on how fast it was spreading, the more anxious I became. It helped me to just simply focus on getting healthy-because really the vitiligo was a clue of a much bigger issue that was looming. My health had not yet deteriorated to such a degree that I couldn’t fix it, although it was headed in that direction. I didn’t have cancer, I didn’t have Lupus (yet)…I still had time to fix myself. It’s still a work in progress, but my vitiligo has stopped spreading and I am getting lots of new freckles with (almost) daily sun exposure.
I know that were it not for my vitiligo, I would never have made significant changes in my lifestyle and embarked on such a healthy journey, and so for me, my vitiligo has been a blessing in disguise.