Cruel stares and negative comments aren't always easy to ignore, even for those with extremely thick skin. Just imagine how much harder it is to cope when your skin is what's actually drawing harsh criticism. That's what every day is like for Carlene John.
John has vitiligo, a condition that causes patches of skin to lose pigment. While it affects women, men and children of all races, the disorder is more noticeable in people with darker complexions.
"I did go through the whole depressed stage. I definitely stayed in my house a lot. I did not go anywhere," says John about living with vitiligo, which she started to develop around the age of 14 or 15. As she went through puberty, John reveals in the Refinery29 video above that the white patches on her body worsened.
The now 25-year-old says she met a group of girls in junior high school who gave her encouragement. "They really showed me what true friendship was and they really loved me for who I was," says John.
When posed with the question, "Why are you always happy?" John's response is one that we can all apply to our lives: "In order for you to be happy, you've got to make yourself happy. You can't let others do it for you."
The Huffington Post interviewed other individuals with vitiligo to gain a more diverse perspective about what living with this skin condition has taught them. Scroll down to read their raw and poignant responses.
Living with vitiligo has taught me that beauty starts from within and that it's not just something that can be defined by our physical appearances. Beauty is so much deeper than that. It comes directly from within and reflects on the kind of person we are, our personality, how much unconditional self love that we have for ourselves and how well we treat others.When I look in the mirror, I see a strong, confident, handsome and overcomer guy who's had to learn to live with the cards that he's been dealt in life.What I'd like for others to know about living with vitiligo is that it can be a challenge sometimes. But once you've decided to embrace it and look at it in a positive light, it can also be a blessing in disguise.
Living with vitiligo has taught me that beauty is not always what's on the outside ... that's so cliché but it's very true.Beauty comes in all looks and sizes. Everyone is their own portrait of art and art is beautiful.
Because vitiligo isn't a part of the typical beauty standard, some might view it as a flaw. But, vitiligo is something that makes someone unique especially because it's different for each individual who has it.
I see a beautiful and confident woman. It took me a very long time to be able to say that about myself, but I no longer look at spots as something that's "wrong with me."
I learned that once you really start to step out of your insecurity and embrace it, nothing but positivity will come your way and you'll eventually feel much more confident about yourself. I also learned that by doing just that, you have the ability to touch other people with vitiligo and help them feel more confident about themselves.
When I look at the mirror, I see strength. I see courage. I see confidence. I see a person that loves to look and be different! Living with vitiligo has been nothing short of a blessing, but also a curse. So to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and love what you see even though you know it's a daily battle, it's truly an amazing feeling.
The biggest lesson I'd like others to know [who are] living with vitiligo is don't be afraid, don't be ashamed, don't try to hide your skin or who you are. Embrace that you are different and love yourself for that reason.