A big question people have when the first meet me is: is my hair dyed or natural? My response when they actually voice their question is, “God did it.” Though a short response, there is a much more complicated story behind it.
It all started the fall of 1999. You already know about my difficult family situation. To that add 18 hours of hard course work my Sophomore year of college and a close friend, Jodie, dying in a car wreak at the very beginning of the semester. Jodie had graduated the past spring and I had stepped into her roles in many activities. One role that was especially hard was the tutoring of a little girl with emotional problems. Because of these problems, her father didn’t want me to tell her that Jodie had died. So every week for the whole semester I had to tell her that Jodie had gone “home.”
Due to all this stress and my refusing to deal with it or trust God to help me through it, all that fall my stomach had been messed up, but instead of stress, I chalked it up to the stomach problems that run in my family and completely ignored it. That was until December when my cousin, Mallory, found a white hair during the rehearsal of my other cousin, Randy’s, wedding. I immediately ran back to my mom to have her pull it.
NEVER pull that first white hair. What they say is absolutely true! Just a few weeks later a lot of my hair began to come in white at the roots! As a sophomore in college I freaked and immediately began to dye it. Unfortunately, my hair wasn’t just white. Instead, it lacked color completely, so any dye I tried just fried it instead.
To top it all off, I began to lose my hair in patches, too. So much so that in the back, where I now have a strange swirl, I lost my hair in a circle the size of a quarter. It was bare as a baby’s bottom. All this happened to a girl who loved her hair and never had fantasies of dying it strange colors or doing odd things to it. God sure has a sense of humor, and sometimes to get our attention, He has to touch us where we have the most pride and sense of control.
Nobody seemed to know what was going on. My hair dresser didn’t know, and the natural doctor my Grammy took me too didn’t have a clue. He had me try a handful of this and that, that left me drowning myself taking a ton of pills twice a day.
Finally I gave up. I stopped trying to figure it out what it was and taking a bunch of stuff to fix it. I even stopped dying it the summer I spent in Belgium, since it was just too much trouble. By that time I had met Jeremy and I figured if he didn’t care, I didn’t care.
On chance, during a summer break the between my sophomore and junior years, I just happened to go to a hair dresser other than my usual one. She recommended a product by Nioxin that quickly began fixed the bald patch. If you know me, you know I am crazy loyal to my hairdressers (Love ya, Darren!), so me even walking into another salon was a random chance. Much less letting her cut my hair and finding the bald spot I had tried to cover up.
Then a few months later I just happened to go to a doctor appointment with my mom. The doctor took one look at me and said, “Oh, you have vitiligo like my son.” Finally, I had a name!
Come to find out, there really is nothing you can do for vitiligo. It is where the body for whatever reason attacks the melanin in the skin and the color is gone. There is nothing you can do to reverse it. To be honest, I’m extremely blessed. Blessed, that it happened in college when my peers thought my white streaks in my hair were cool and not sooner when I would have been teased and tormented. Blessed, that my skin coloring is so light that unless I’m really tan you can’t see the spots on my face and neck at all. Blessed, that most of the vitiligo effects my hair where the color looks fun and not on my skin in splotches that cause people to really stare.
Most people who have vitiligo are not so blessed. Many have a darker skin tone, and it usually effects their hands and face. Some even have it move around their body. So for awhile the patches might be on their face and then change and move to their arm. I’m the only one I’ve even seen with it in their hair.
The only draw backs to my vitiligo are that I have to be very mindful of sun exposure, since I’m more likely to get skin cancer because of it. It has also effected the melin in my left eye, so sunlight is painful. Thus why I wear sun glasses all the time outside even in the rain and at dusk. Those are really the only draw backs for me.
To keep it under control, I have worked very hard the last 13 years to minimize my stress levels and to manage better when I do feel it getting out of control. Stress was what triggered my vitaligo and in some cases can cause it to spread. So over the years God has really worked with me on trusting Him instead of relying on myself.
Some of the ways I’m learning to trust Him more are spending time with Him when I feel myself beginning to stress out. I might even find favorite verses and carry them around with me, so I can look at them whenever I feel tense.
I also have a box that I put worries into that I just can’t seem to let go of. One of the verses I have written in the top of the box is Jer. 29:11. I also have a little paragraph written that says how anything that goes into the box is no longer mine but God’s and I have to leave it in His hands. I love going back through this box from time to time to see how God answered my prayers and came through for me. Sometimes I write down the answer to the prayer or the solution to the problem, so I have a record of God’s provision for our family.
Several years ago. Monema Stephens, one of our elder’s wives at Quail when she heard my story said, “How blessed you are to have that daily reminder to rely on God.” I really hadn’t thought of my hair in that way before, but I guess it is. It’s a reminder to give my worries over to Him because I never had the strength or the wisdom to handle them anyway.
Without God, I would have never made it through that time in my life during college. Without vitiligo, I would not have been forced to deal with my stress and trust issues head on. And for everyone who asks, It’s now my opportunity to point them to God as well.