Autoimmune Conditions Are Not a Joke…
A Few Thoughts About the Now Infamous Slap
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I'm Andrea J. Miller and this is my “On Leading Well” Newsletter. I send this to people in my networks, people I’ve met recently, and friends I want to keep in touch with. You can unsubscribe (SEE THE VERY BOTTOM OF THE EMAIL) anytime, I won’t be offended
Please forgive my late arrival to the Oscar after-party.
Normally I don’t attend these things…
But this time I had a special invitation.
You see, I’m part of an elite club.
Like Jada Pinkett Smith, I have a very visible autoimmune condition.
I have vitiligo (it’s when the skin loses its pigment cells).
So, I thought I’d share how it feels to be a member of this “club” and why Will Smith may have been (overly) protective of his wife.
After five very difficult, stressful years, during which time I lost both parents, had three surgeries, and was hit by a car (you can’t make this stuff up) I finally recovered enough to get back to living a “normal” life.
Then, one day, I noticed a small white patch on my arm.
I did what most people do, I ignored it.
Until it started to spread.
The dermatologist told me it was vitiligo (thankfully, now mostly in remission).
After discussing it with her and a lot of Googling I realized my options were few.
Like with alopecia there aren’t any real cures.
For me, in some ways that diagnosis was more difficult than those five years of what I sometimes refer to as my own personal hell.
While all of the things that happened during that time were more difficult in many ways, they were, once I recovered, hidden.
I was able to choose, who knew about them…that isn’t the case with a visible autoimmune condition.
Slowly that small white patch spread over both arms, my chest, shoulders, and face. At times, I tried to cover it up with makeup, but it was impossible.
I don’t live in the public eye, like Jada and Will Smith.
In fact, the worst of it occurred during COVID (stress often impacts AI conditions) when I wasn’t meeting many people face-to-face.
And still, it was hard.
Looking into the mirror, I saw a different version of me, the version that others would see.
In a society that worships a certain standard of beauty, one with hair and evenly colored skin, I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for a very public figure like Jada Pinkett Smith, who grew up in Hollywood with the expectation of not just living that standard but embodying it, to go through this.
I can only guess how emotional it was for her when her hair started to fall out.
While she may have looked fierce at the Oscars with her clean-shaven head, I can only assume she must have gone through a lot to try to keep her hair, before finally deciding to shave it off.
While I don’t condone violence in any way, I’m sure her husband and BFF of so many years went through that pain alongside her, that he wanted to protect her, knowing that it was a deeply personal part of her life that though she may have wanted to keep it hidden, she couldn’t.
So, while Chris Rock thought he was being funny, the fact is, for those of us who have autoimmune conditions, it’s really no joke.
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Andrea J. Miller
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