A woman with a skin condition was branded “infectious” and “disgusting” by cruel classmates growing up – but she’s learned to embrace herself by covering her body in tattoos.
Hairdresser Anna Nass from Stockholm, Sweden, first spotted a white spot behind her knee when she was eight-years-old.
She didn’t think much of it until secondary school though, when more patches began to spring up on other areas of her body.
Doctors diagnosed her with vitiligo as a teenager, which is a condition that affects pigmentation of the skin.
The 25-year-old recalled: "I got my first spot behind my knee and at first, my parents and I just thought I had sunbathed strangely.
"Then when I reached my teens, it started to spread all over my body and it soon covered my hands and my chest.”
Anna continued: "When I started to develop more spots, we chose to visit a doctor who confirmed it was vitiligo.
"The only treatment they could offer was radiation and it did not feel like it was a good option as it entails health risks.
"I remember feeling very helpless and thinking that there would never be any help available to me.
"When I was a teenager, social media did not exist in the same way and I had never seen anyone else with the same disease as me.
This was very isolating for the teen, who was picked on by kids at school.
Anna said: "I felt very alone and tried to search online for what to do but found nothing so I tried to stay as pale as possible so that the spots would not be visible to my classmates.
"When people did notice my vitiligo, they would say that it looked 'disgusting' and would not get close to me, saying that they 'did not want to be infected.'
"When I was young, I was asked almost daily about what had happened to me and why I had spots on my body.
"When people did not ask, I saw that they were staring at my vitiligo. To avoid that, I started wearing clothes in order to cover up my skin and later began to get tattoos so that my vitiligo would not be visible.”
But a turning point came in the hair stylist’s life when she was in her 20s.
Anna decided to start posting about her skin condition on Instagram, where she was inundated with support.
After learning to embrace her vitiligo, the tattoos on her arms, hands, and chest helped to showcase her skin pigmentation instead of covering it up.
She explained: "As I reached my twenties, I was so tired of feeling limited because of something as ridiculous as white spots on the skin so I thought that if I started posting pictures on Instagram with descriptions of what my vitiligo was, then no one had to ask me constant questions about it.
"This was one of the best decisions I ever made.
"The more I started to appreciate myself, the more positive comments I got from friends and strangers too."
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Anna hopes to inspire her 15,000 followers to be body confident and ignore what bullies have to say.
She added: "It is not worth spending time hiding and feeling bad about something you can not change.
"You do not have to love every part of yourself all the time, but there's no use spending the whole time thinking negatively about your skin.
"If you want to be on the beach in a bikini, do it with pride.
"Today I am not ashamed and I barely even think about having vitiligo.
"Life is far too short to limit what you decide to do due to what others may think."
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