plus my thoughts on ducks, country walks, ships and ecosystems!
Yes - you read the title of this blog post correctly. Read on, and all will become clear :)
I am very fortunate where I live, in a rural part of northern England, to have some lovely country walks right on my doorstep. I have always enjoyed walking because I love fresh air and beautiful scenery. I am also acutely aware of how important it is to stay fit and active if you want to keep chronic conditions like vitiligo and arthritis under control. Both of these health problems plagued me for most of my life and I have always suspected they were linked in some way. I just don't think that it was a coincidence that my arthritis was at its worst during the years when my #vitiligo was spreading fast; neither was it a fluke that my joint pain and stiffness diminished massively when my skin re-pigmented.
After several years of digging into the subject, I have come to believe that genetics and poor digestion lie at the root of both of these conditions. Since there is not much I can do about my genes (at least not unless or until a genetic cure for such disorders is developed), I like to focus on making the best lifestyle choices I can to support my overall health, in the knowledge that the human body has immense capacity to heal itself, given half a chance – as I have found out from personal experience.
A #holistic practitioner once told me that anyone with long-term, compromised health is a bit like a cargo ship on the ocean: if it is well maintained and loaded correctly it will stay afloat; but if you let it rust or weigh it down too heavily, there comes a point where it will start to sink below the water line. Because of this, a person with chronic disease must take care not to weigh their body down with too many of the things that might overload it (like inflammatory foods, poor nutrition, too little sleep, smoking, too much alcohol, etc.) These pieces of cargo might not pose a risk to a person in normal health because their body is more buoyant and bounces back more easily. But for someone with an autoimmune, or other chronic condition, there is a much finer line between floating and sinking.
I haven't always thought of my body as an ecosystem. But ever since I regained my pigment (and simultaneously started to get the arthritis under control) as a result of taking nutritional supplements, it has seemed entirely logical to me that if replacing deficient nutrition was able to heal my skin, it might also improve bone and soft tissue health, arthritis and any other chronic condition at the same time. It has also made me more aware that keeping fit and active every day is bound help maintain healthy circulation, digestion, elimination, muscle tone, etc. which, in turn, is bound to bring about further improvements, lifting the human ship a little further above the water line.
Anyway – back to the walking, which I find such a pleasurable part of leading a healthy lifestyle… I was admiring the views from the top of a nearby hill a couple of days ago when I noticed two pairs of ducks waddling across a field a few yards away from me. The sight was quite comical because, for one thing, there was no water anywhere around (just grass as far as you could see) and, for another, the two drakes were walking side by side and the two females were sauntering along together too. It looked for all the world as if they were two neighbourly couples out for a leisurely stroll and a sociable chat with their opposite number.
Always fascinated by pigmentation in nature, I was struck by how very different the male and female ducks' colouring and markings were but how identical to each other the two males and the two females appeared to be. I'm sure the ducks themselves have no problem telling which partner is theirs but, to us humans, one species and gender of duck all look pretty much alike. Humans, on the other hand, come in all shapes, sizes and colours. On the whole, we relish this wide variety on offer when it comes to playing those initial stages of the mating game that so often rely on outward appearance. (Yes, some gentlemen really do prefer blondes and some girls really do fall for tall, dark and handsome guys.) Sometimes opposites do attract, but then again sometimes we seek a partner who shares our physical characteristics. “Vive la différence” has acquired a broader meaning over the generations since the 1960's when western cultures and fashions began celebrating greater individuality.
And yet, there is still a primitive instinct in most of us that makes us fearful of straying too far from what is considered to be “the norm”. It is that desire to blend in, not to be too different, so as not to risk rejection by the rest of the ducks in the pond. Many of us, at some time in our lives, find ourselves feeling like the Ugly Duckling. Whether we are unusually tall, have a prominent birthmark, a nose we hate or a skin disorder like vitiligo, acne or psoriasis, the whole prospect of socialising, can be fraught with feelings of insecurity and dread. And never more so than when dating or searching for a significant other.
Which finally brings me to the TV part of this post. I am contacted from time to time by programme makers who are looking for people with vitiligo to feature in various documentaries. If you live in the UK, are single, over 18 and would like to raise awareness of vitiligo by taking part in a #TV-programme, please get in touch direct with the programme makers using the contact details on the flyer below. (That's telephone number 0207 290 0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.) The series will follow single people who feel that their love lives have been affected by a medical or physical condition and as a result may not feel entirely comfortable with being open about their condition when they first meet people.
Looking back on my own single days, I hid my vitiligo so well in my teens and twenties that most people never knew about it and I now realise I had no reason to feel so anxious about how it might affect my love life. When I met my husband, he was amazed that I should feel so insecure about something that, as far as he was concerned, had zero relevance to his feelings for me. He found me beautiful then, and throughout the 30 odd years since - while my vitiligo spread – he still found me beautiful. Interestingly, now that the white patches are virtually gone, his view of me is still exactly the same. It just goes to show that ugliness can be a state of mind, whereas beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
My name is Caroline.