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    Personal Experience

    Overcoming My Fears of Public Speaking

    I remember the first time I learnt about ‘Power Poses’. I was at a business networking group, London Women in Finance – Career Coaching Group, and the host had asked us what we would do to boost our confidence before a speech. Prior to learning about this new concept, introduced by Amy Cuddy, my answer would have been ‘have a coffee, stay calm, practice and pray’!

    So what exactly is the ‘Power Pose’ strategy that seems to have skipped past me without me realising?

    Well, some of it has a little to do with Wonder Woman and her ability to stand tall! Hands on hips, chest out and shoulders back. A pose that connotes power, confidence and increases your ability to deal with anxiety or stress….and the best thing of all, it takes just two minutes to do!

    So why am I telling you this?

    A few weeks back, I was standing in front of a small group of people, preparing to share my story.  I had agreed to give a speech entitled, How to overcome your inner critic, raise your visibility & get noticed at work and quite naturally, I was feeling a little nervous about addressing an audience. Seconds before speaking, I felt as though a Power Pose was what I needed!

    Although I’ve spoken publicly on a number of occasions, I’ve never managed to become a fan of public speaking, even though the reaction by others has always been positive. I’ve always felt as though its something I’ve wanted to master and so watching Ted Talks, an initiative set  up to spread ideas in the form of short presentations, has helped me understand and observe how to address a sizeable audience and the art of keeping an audience engaged.  Its a great source of information for anyone looking to improve their public speaking skills.

    The event, where I was speaking, was held at an intimate private venue in Angel & Islington and was an opportunity to share my past experiences with Vitiligo, whilst bringing some focus around being different in the workplace and the challenges with adjusting to a new working environment.

    An interesting Q&A session followed, which raised some insightful questions, mostly around how i’d gone from being an overwhelming shy woman to someone who was able to address an audience about something that was once very personal. The few months I had to build my speech and prepare, was an interesting experience as I was conscious about engaging my audience and giving them something that was ultimately thought provoking. I adopted tactics often used in public speaking and focused on being prepared and how to eliminate the potential arrival of nerves of the day….

    Plan and Practice

    The most obvious tip of them all! I was practising for weeks leading up to the day. I didn’t want to rely on a scripted piece of paper. I wanted to present my story naturally, after all, it’s one in which I should be comfortable telling! Feeling prepared makes you feel confident and helps with keeping nerves at a distance when its time to stand before your audience.

    Engage your audience

    Keep your listeners at the forefront of your speech. Include them. Engage them and evoke interest in your topic. Whilst you may ultimately be speaking about yourself, try and tie sections in with your audience to keep their attention. Open with a general scenario that they could find themselves in. Make it so you can potentially persuade them to do something they may not have done before. If you can bring them round to your way of thinking it can be incredibly empowering.

    Write key words on index cards and don’t be strict about sticking to it!

    Key words can act as simple prompts during the speech. Key words helped me avoid the temptation of reading from paper, line by line. After I had got past my first index card and felt like my speech was flowing, I stopped looking at the cards and was pretty much able to deliver without too many glances at the cards before me.

    Record your voice (great apps on the iPhone!) to judge pace

    Nerves can often make you race through something, because all your thinking about is the ending, rather than living in the moment and addressing the audience in a calm manner. Im always conscious of my need to slow down to ensure I come across clearly. Whilst speaking slowly doesn’t come naturally to me, it’s incredibly important you speak at a good pace. It’s more engaging, allows you to be more expressive and makes you feel more relaxed throughout.

    Arrive at the venue early

    Im terrible with lateness and im often the one hanging my head in shame as I give my apologies for being 10 minutes late! But when it comes to attending a networking event or presenting, I make sure im at least 10 minutes early. There is nothing worse than rushing to  an event in panic mode, as it completely throws you off course. To feel relaxed you need to arrive relaxed. Your journey to the venue can either be going over speech material or simply a peaceful journey to gather your thoughts.

    Treat yourself to something beforehand.

    I’d never turn down the chance to treat myself! Im not saying run out and buy yourself a new Karen Millen dress or a piece of fine jewellery, but something small that you can enjoy beforehand. Mine is definitely a latte! Apart from being calming, it’s nice to look forward to something especially if you’re feeling nervous.

    The event organiser, Philippa Ibe, very generously gave me a testimonial on my deliverance:

    What I loved about Natalie’s talk is that it was fresh and real. She shared a unique yet relatable story covering themes such as body confidence and self worth. Her story is truly inspirational, moving and a real joy to see her grow into her own as a speaker. I look forward to seeing more of Natalie giving talks”.


    Personal Experience

    Why World Vitiligo Day is a Breakthrough in our Community….

    On June 25th 2011, Steve Hargadon, founder of the Vitiligo Friends Network and Ogo Maduewesi, founder of VITSAF, officially launched the first ever World Vitiligo Day. One of the key aims when formulating the event, was to raise awareness of Vitiligo that affects just 1% of the world’s population (around 50 million people worldwide). Fast-forward five years and World Vitiligo Day is an internationally recognised event that brings together thousands of people who have something uniquely in common.

    Having an official day that celebrates the beauty in our patches is an incredible breakthrough. The last event on June 25th which was held in Washington, was an upbeat celebration attended by thousands (unfortunately I couldn’t find exact figures!). The campaign launched in correlation with the event was ‘walk in our shoes’ which asked that family, friends, colleagues and those with Vitiligo, to wear a temporary white tattoo on an exposed area of the body in hope that it would raise curiosity and encourage people to ask questions. The overall idea was for people to recognise what its like to be stared at when something about you looks different.

    So, with the 25th June very much set in concrete, why has World Vitiligo Day become such an important date in the calendar…..

    WVD makes you realise where we are NOW…..

    Twenty-four years ago when I was a vulnerable 10-year-old girl; I was convinced I was the only one in the world who had Vitiligo. I very rarely came across anyone who looked like me and so my awareness of those across the globe that were also affected, was non-existent. Social networking didn’t exist; neither did meet up groups or events that would bring everyone together. There used to be a huge social stigma with being different. You were highly likely to be judged, ridiculed and thought upon with sympathy because you didn’t conform to the norm. Now with social media changing the way we communicate and present ourselves to the world, more and more people are embracing their patches in the photos and stories they share. The forums and groups are encouraging and positive, proving that we too, can be just as comfortable in our skin.

    WVD is more than just bringing people together…

    All the planning, organising and liaising brings together an agenda that provides a significant opportunity to raise awareness. Explaining what Vitiligo is to those who are guilty of staring and making comments. Cutting out the ‘what is it?’ questions. The curious questions that lead people to believe it’s the result of being burned. Having adults and children understand that it isn’t life threatening or contagious, which is a common question (and myth!) that often gets asked. It’s an opportunity to talk about the psychological effects and the solutions and build around improving the quality of life, ones self esteem and confidence.

    WVD is an opportunity to learn and feel confident about your skin…

    Being amongst a group of people whereby you share something unique in common is incredibly empowering. The energy levels are often high and you end up soaking up the incredibly positive atmosphere. A group where you feel a real sense of belonging can often make you feel comfortable about opening up and sharing your journey, however difficult. It also allows you to look at yourself from a different perspective especially when you see others who are confident in their skin. Seeing others can have a real impact and eventually have you feel more accepting of your own…..

    Plans are already underway for the 2017 event which will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with the agenda likely to feature tips on applying makeup, people led stories, experiences and testimonials and expert advice from Dermatologists on the latest global research. I’d love to make it! If not, I’m happy to wait until London becomes the hosting nation…

    Have you ever attended a world Vitiligo event?


    Personal Experience

    The Negative Impact of Social Media

    Every minute of every day, 684,478 pieces of content is shared on Facebook, 3,600 photos are uploaded onto Instagram and 6,000 tweets are sent every second. The power of social media in todays generation!

    I consider myself to be a ‘low’ user of social networking…..uploading photos of last night’s takeaway or checking in whenever I’m out in the City, just isn’t my thing. However, there is no denying that social media has power, significantly changing the way we communicate, run our businesses and even purchase products.

    It has often been pointed out that social media has damaged the art of conversation in that people are now less likely to communicate face to face, even something I am guilty of (I love WhatsApp!), however, when it comes to connecting people globally within the same common interest group, it is considerably beneficial.

    As a child, one of the hardest things about having Vitiligo, was not knowing anyone else with the condition. The emergence of social media changed that when people were given the opportunity to connect. When groups such as the Vitiligo Society, Vitiligo Pride and embrace your Vitiligo were formed, it became an awakening to the fact I really wasn’t the only suffering with Vitiligo.

    Being in the UK, I’m part of the Vitiligo Society Group and today the charity has just under 4000 people within its community, with joiners from the UK and beyond. It’s a supportive group where people can open up, share stories and ask questions about treatment or anything they may be concerned about. After all, if there is anyone who can answer a question about Vitiligo, it’s a fellow Vitiligan! It’s an insightful, yet amazing group to be apart of and I for one have benefitted from some of the information shared about treatment and new research. I love seeing people upload photos showing off their patches with pride! To me, it signifies acceptance, confidence and the ability to love yourself even if you are different. It’s inspiring and reminds me of the importance of loving the skin you’re in.

    Whilst most of the content in groups is incredibly positive, unfortunately, a few weeks back I came across something I didn’t like! As I was scrolling through the society page, I came across a touching post from a lady who had recently developed the condition. From how she spoke, you could sense she was struggling to come to terms with her changing skin as she spoke about her experiences with Vitiligo. She pointed out that her biggest concern was the difficulty in obtaining a diagnosis by her GP, the effectiveness of camouflage cream to cover her patches and the best products available for protecting her skin against the sun.

    I read her story with sadness and was tempted to reach out. Having had Vitiligo since I was 2 years old, I know no different. However, I have often felt that it must be incredibly hard for someone to develop Vitiligo as a teenager or adult, as they are experiencing the change right before there eyes. As I was reading some of the comments left by others in the group, I came across a response by a rude and insensitive man who suggested she should ‘accept and move on’ like she was behaving like a drama queen!

    I was completely dumbfounded by the insensitivity that he was showing towards a lady that was clearly feeling vulnerable. I wanted to respond back in frustration however, rather than typing frantically I decided to answer here instead….

    Just Forget About It…..

     The one thing someone with Vitiligo cannot do. We see our patches all the time…they are visible to us 24/7. And whilst some people can accept and love their spots, for some the journey towards self-acceptance hasn’t quite reached them yet. It took me years to accept the way I looked and I can honestly say, it was a lengthy journey with many ups and downs. For some, Vitiligo cannot be forgotten about. You’re always worrying about the next patch or whether your skin is well protected during the summer. It’s not just about what you see on the surface, how you are dealing with it on the inside is equally important.

    Do Your Own Research….

     This was in response to the lack of knowledge from GP’s and Dermatologists. Now, whilst I agree that obtaining a diagnosis can be incredibly difficult (especially back in the 80’s when I was a little girl!), we have come a long way in that Dermatologists and GP’s are more able to quickly identify if someone is developing Vitiligo because it has become more widespread. Medication, although still very limited, is more likely to be instantly prescribed without lengthy delays and multiple appointments to your GP. Yes, I agree we should all carry out our own research as there is plenty of information available outside the Doctors surgery, but I personally think anyone’s first point of call should be the Doctor.

    Get Over It..

    How awful does that sound! This is one of the worst things you can say to someone who has a skin condition. No one has the right to tell someone to ‘get over’ something that clearly affects them. Having a skin condition is a very personal battle and whilst the biggest tower of support is being around others with the condition, you are still ultimately managing the condition on your own. Someone who has fairer skin will have a completely different experience to someone who has darker skin, mostly because patches on darker skin is more

    noticeable. Everyone deals with Vitiligo in their own way therefore no one has the right to suggest its something they should ‘get over’. Sorry to say, buts it not that easy…

    Have you even come across someone with lack of empathy on social media? Feel free to share….

    Personal Experience

    “Something Told Me To Try Once More…So I made The Call To My Doctor…”

    Procrastination infuriates me, yet I still find myself doing it all too frequently. Very rarely do I agree to something unless I’m certain it’s the right choice to make. I’ll spend ages thinking about it, weighing up the benefits and trying to eliminate the reasons why I shouldn’t go ahead with whatever it is! However I vividly remember in 2014 when I made a life changing decision without any procrastinating at all…..

    I remember the day I called my GP. It was a Friday morning in January. Typically freezing cold. I was standing in front of a full length mirror trying to choose something that was warm enough to keep out the bitter chill in the winter air. My mind drifted (as it often does!) and I began intently studying the tiny brown spots, on my bright white hands, almost as though visualising life without them. They looked like splashes of paint, disconnected….randomly spread across my hands. Over the years I’d seen new spots come and others go, and it always worried me, that one day I would potentially turn completely white.

    Ironically, the call to my GP came when I had finally reached self-acceptance. I felt less insecure about my skin and recognised that Vitiligo didn’t define who I was. Yet here I was calling my GP asking if I could be referred to undergo UVB Narrowband Treatment….. In doing so, this raised the question of why all of a sudden now did I want to undergo treatment for a skin condition I now finally accepted?

    Treatment doesn’t mean you hate the way you look

    Whilst internally, I’d accepted my Vitiligo, loved its uniqueness and knew that it didn’t define who I was, on the surface; I still wasn’t comfortable revealing my patches. Sure, I was open to wearing t-shirts, maxi dresses and sandals in the summer, however, going that extra mile and openly wearing a swimsuit on holiday or a pair of shorts during the summer wasn’t something I allowed myself to do. I struggled to feel comfortable without my skin being at the forefront of my mind.

    I often visualised my body without its patches. My imagination took me to a place where I felt comfortable. I had clear, flawless skin like my friends and was able to wear whatever I liked without preparing my skin with tanner a few days before the weekend. I didn’t struggle during the summer because I had more freedom with what to wear. I chose beach holidays over City breaks because I no longer saw the sun as a hindrance.

    Discovering UVB Narrowband Treatment

    UVB Narrowband Treatment was suggested to my parents as treatment, when I was 6 years old. In simple terms, this type of treatment entailed standing inside a machine that resembles a tanning booth. Unclothed, you would stand inside for a matter of minutes whilst UVB light filtered across the areas of Vitiligo, stimulating the patches on the skin.

    Whilst it was a relatively safe treatment, there was a 1% risk of developing skin cancer at a later stage and so with me being so young, it wasn’t something my parents wanted to risk and so declined to register me as a patient.

    Fast forward to my 30th birthday in 2012. More patches had come and gone throughout my lifetime. Social networking had become a ‘way of life’ and so I started connecting with others who had Vitiligo. Others with the condition would discuss anything from makeup to fake tan to how it was being a child that was different. However, the one topic that kept reappearing was people’s experiences with UVB Narrowband treatment. I became curious and carried out my own research, wondering whether it was something that might work for me.

    It took just 5 minutes for my GP to refer me

    When I arrived at my GP’s surgery, he took a quick glance at my skin and within a matter of seconds he agreed that I could go ahead with treatment. I’ve had longer appointments when I’ve had cough like symptoms! He asked me the usual questions that I’ve spent my entire life answering such as ‘when did it start’? Where was your first patch? Which areas does it affect now? I then rolled up my jeans for him to take a look at my legs, after which he spun round in his chair and typed up a hospital referral letter.

    I was very pessimistic; after all, I’d spent alot of my childhood going back and forth to Great Ormond Street hospital, for various treatments that had amounted to nothing. Nevertheless, when I noticed the confirmation letter waiting for me when I got home from work one evening, I felt a sense of excitement. I felt like I was once again about to embark on a lengthy journey that would be one of two things; a major success or a complete disaster….