Today is World Psoriasis Day. I'm featuring a guest post by my gorgeous friend Hanah. She has psoriasis - an inflammatory skin condition - and she does so much to raise awareness of the condition. When I saw her promoting the cause on social media, I asked her if she could write a post for my blog.
When I read her words, it struck me how confronted people are about skin conditions. Any skin condition it seems. The questions she answers are similar to what I am asked - and so sare the recommendations for cures. I am forever wondrous (and relieved for the empathy) that while people's conditions - whatever they are - may be different, we can all relate.
"A little over 10 years ago, out of nowhere, I broke out in red, itchy scales all over my body. It was soon diagnosed as psoriasis (suh-rahy-uh-sis). I don't think I have to tell you; this wasn't the easiest thing to happen to a 16-year-old girl at high school.
Since then, psoriasis has impacted my life every day on and off. There have been days where I have kept myself covered rather than wearing bathers or shorts; and days where I couldn’t go to work, because my psoriatic arthritis was playing up in my feet and I couldn’t walk. I’ve hidden parts of my body when photos were taken and untagged myself from Facebook photos. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on treatment options that were time-consuming, disgusting smelling, difficult to administer, and didn’t work. I’ve spent days throwing up from drugs that made me sick.
Most significantly, I’ve answered thousands of questions since that time about why I am ‘covered in red spots’. Most commonly, when my skin is at its worse, I am asked if I have chicken pox, was burnt in a fire, or if I have sun-baked too much. For the first couple of years, when I was covered almost head to toe, the sunbaking question always annoyed me the most, because it put the blame on me. When I was about 18 and working in sales, a lady lectured me for sunbaking and getting burnt and it was mortifying.
Then there was the pregnant woman who jumped back in fright and said (not quietly, either), ‘Is that chicken pox?! I'm pregnant, you have to stay away from me’. Thanks for turning my disease into something to feel guilty about, pregnant lady. Another time, my cousin (12 years my junior), who was about 6 at the time, said to me, ‘Hanah, I liked you better before you had the spots’! Being very young and self-conscious at the time, it hurt a little, but the innocence of the question makes me laugh now.
Nowadays my skin looks substantially better than it did in the early days (the drug I’ve been on for the past year has been very effective and cleared up most of my body). After initial questions these days, I’m then lectured about how to ‘cure’ it. Comments like ‘My friend had psoriasis and she cured it with X’. And ‘Oh yeh, I have dry skin too. You just need to moisturise’. I’ve snapped at sales people in shops who have told me their ‘cure’ and lectured me about how I am doing something wrong to treat it.
I’m a lot tougher than I was as a teenager and most questions don’t faze me now. It’s good that people ask (polite) questions, because hopefully they will learn something. I can only imagine how hard it is for very young children with psoriasis, and I hope the awareness that comes with World Psoriasis Day will help you feel confident and not hide away – it’s not worth hiding, and in fact, sun is so good for psoriasis that it’s worth showing some skin at the beach!
The disease needs more awareness and understanding worldwide – and hopefully one day there will be a cure. Thanks to Carly for featuring this piece and helping raise awareness of this disease. I'm writing this, because it's therapeutic – and because World Psoriasis Day is so important for raising awareness and supporting people who struggle every day hiding their skin.
Remember, psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that is genetic and not contagious. There is no cure, however there are treatment options to manage it.