Celebrating A Year of Being Just Us!

This time a year ago Christmas had already crept into my mind. I was pondering over what presents to buy family because I didn’t want to do my usual and rush around two days before, and I was giving thought to how I would spend twixmas because once again I was finishing the year as a single woman! I was also dreading the end of October when the clocks would go back and another cold and dark winter would officially kick in.

It was also the same time that my blog, Being Just Us was born. At the time, I’d been writing blog posts for the past 6 months in draft mode because I was apprehensive about revealing my skin in photos and opening up about the thoughts and feelings I’d been storing for the past 10 years. Writing my first post, ‘About Me’, followed by ‘Life with Vitiligo; The Early Years’ made me realise just how important my story and journey was to me. It became my new writing outlet (as opposed to scribbling in endless notebooks!) and I was excited by the prospect of it being public….one day, when I was comfortable.

Looking back, I wasn’t certain I’d see a year, which I hate to admit as it meant I doubted keeping it up. Working full time, volunteering as a mentor and managing my social life, family life and all the other various things that filter into life, I was convinced I’d end up neglecting Being Just Us, after all, the only person it would impact is me.

So this post is about looking back. Looking back over the past year and asking myself ‘What have I achieved and will ‘Being Just Us’ see another year after this one….’

A lot has happened in 12 months. Some things I knew about…others I didn’t. Since allowing myself to feel comfortable within my skin, i’ve always felt like growth is a life long journey with no end date.….and its only now I realise that. I am still conscious of my skin, however these days it doesn’t act as a ‘barrier’ to anything I want to do. This year, I enjoyed short breaks in Madrid and Valencia and loved that I was leaving Britain for much sunnier climates. I felt completely unfazed by how hot it would be, because I was more excited about wearing my new ‘summer wardrobe’ that consisted of dresses in nude shades, midi dresses and my favourite blushing pink pleated skirt with a thigh high slit up the side! It was a 2012 buy that I wore for the first time in 2016!

I know longer need people to ‘validate’ my look. I recall on so many occasions checking with friends or with my Mum, asking if ‘my legs looked okay’ in my denim shorts. On their ‘say so’ I’d instantly feel relieved and ready to leave the hotel (it was always whilst on holiday!). Now, I get ready, glance at my own self in the mirror, check my hair and leave because I know the only person who should validate how I look, is me.

In relation to being a spokesperson for Vitiligo, the opportunities have been constant. Earlier this year, I became a Trustee at the Vitiligo Society. A charity, which I became a member of in 1986 because my Mum wanted me to be part of a ‘community’ of people that had what I had. So to now be an influencer in how the society operates is an honour. I’m a real people person, so being the Social Media and Community lead, is the absolute ideal role for me! As part of my role, I get to manage all our social networking platforms (I grew The Vitiligo Society Instagram page from scratch!), interact with support groups and individuals and I also liaise frequently with magazines and TV production companies who are creating opportunities for Vitiligo to be in mainstream media. I joined the Society at an exciting time as they are currently going through digital change. We recently introduced a guided meditation app for those with skin conditions, have relaunched the annual open day which takes place on Saturday 11th October and we are soon to go live with a new story telling platform, The Vit Life. Working at the society does take up considerable time, but its time I love investing.

I’ve also worked closely with two other amazing charities who strongly support those who have an ‘altered appearance’. Changing Faces, who campaign for face equality, and the British Skin Foundation, who invest time into research for various skin conditions. This year Changing Faces turned 25 and to celebrate they created a coffee table book which I was fortunate enough to be asked to feature in. Entitled ‘Faces of Equality’ (you can purchase a copy here), it was a great way to showcase and interview the various faces of Face Equality. I also recently attended a training session that would prepare me for speaking in schools about being body confident and living a fulfilled life, irrespective of what you look like. Addressing children has always been my goal, so to finally be in a position where I can speak out is an incredibly important step in my journey.

In May, I recorded a segment with Dean Edwards, celebrity chef and Masterchef runner up! It was recorded for the Lorraine show on ITV and not only did Dean pop round to bake a heavenly banana cake, but we got to chat about life with Vitiligo and how its been for each of us growing up. It was incredibly inspiring to converse with Dean. The conversation felt so natural…especially when we started comparing our patchy hands….the only difference being my cherry coloured nails!

Also in May, I was interviewed by women’s luxury lifestyle magazine, Phoenix. It was probably one of the best interviews I’d given because I was able to talk ‘freely’ without having my words misconstrued to mean something else. The photos that accompanied the interview were elegant, dark and really captured my Vitiligo in a beautiful light.

Whilst I don’t want this post to be a CV of what I’ve achieved over the past 12 months, its great to have been given the opportunity to get involved in so many great projects and most importantly, that Vitiligo has gained a platform which has allowed many of us to raise awareness in such a public way. Even now, three years after my first live interview on London Live, sharing my story still forms part of my own self-acceptance and further cements my ability to love the person I am as a woman with Vitiligo.

2017 year hasn’t finished yet, and there is still more to come which I’m sure I will share as they take place. I love that I have a diary that I can fill with schools talks, interviews and opportunities to share my journey…..and I hope this time next year, when I write exactly the same blog post marking year 2, I’ll have even more positive achievements to share….. just bigger…

Before I leave, I’d just like to thank all those that have read any of my posts, left a comment or even scanned through for a few seconds. I thank you from the heart 🙂

Photo: Kaye Ford @ Fordtography

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