Starved For Love: My Chronic Battle

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My road to inner peace was far from the quintessential, “hits-rock-bottom-picks-self-up” type of story.  This particular anecdote is more of a perpetual battle that is fought daily.  I’m twenty five years old and suffer from psoriatic arthritis; a chronic, inflammatory joint disease affiliated with psoriasis.  I was hesitant to describe psoriasis as merely a, “skin disease”, as that’s far too vague. 

Psoriasis has affected not only my physical appearance, but mental state, body-image, perception, quality of life, self-esteem and emotional well-being.  The real struggle with psoriasis is that the symptoms come and go; they flare in response to the slightest triggers (stress, illness, skin irritation, shaving, drinking, eating poorly or injury). The word “control” is found nowhere in the diagnosis.

My story is unique in that arthritis and psoriasis are often considered synonymous with aging.  I have suffered since the age of four. My skin diseases has attributed, and ultimately skewed, my perception of the world and self-awareness. 

As far back as I could remember, I felt like an “outsider”.  My family life was unstable, enervating and volatile; my home was the furthest thing from a safe haven.  Regardless, I was a seemingly sweet and happy child that internalized a lot of my parent’s issues.  At around four years old I had my first outbreak; my legs were covered in red and white scaly lesions. I never thought much of “putting on medicine” and “going to the doctor” as were my usual routines. No biggie. 

The trouble began when I entered public school. At that age, the problem wasn’t necessarily the other kids; it was their parents.

“Um, is your daughter diseased?”

“Should she be allowed around my child?”

 “That’s disgusting. Can she cover it?”

Their words didn’t scar; it was the glares of pure and utter disgust.  No matter where I went, I felt like an outcast, an anomaly. As I aged, the more my peers would give me those same “looks”, talk behind my back, ostracize and judge me.  My self-awareness was particularly altered, because despite the psoriasis, I was beautiful.  When my body was covered, I was showered with compliments from most people I met. I can’t even count how many adolescent boyfriends I had.  Despite the kind words from many, the unequivocal feeling of being “not good enough” ate at my thoughts and affected my self-worth.

At ten years old, I developed an eating disorder and began starving myself.

Since I wouldn’t acknowledge or accept my disease, my angst was directed towards my weight.

I would skip breakfast and lunch every day; tossing my premade lunch into the trash in exchange for a Snapple. This became my obsession and dissuaded my attention from my skin. At 11 I tried my first sip of alcohol and found my new vice.  At 12 I began smoking marijuana regularly. At 14 I was diagnosed with a debilitating form of arthritis and developed a love for pain killers. A cocktail of disordered eating, drugs, alcohol and unhealthy relationships became my drink of choice until I hit my twenties. 
I lived on autopilot for at least six-years until, I guess you could say, I hit my archetypal “rock-bottom”. My long term boyfriend, who had cheated on me relentlessly, dumped me and found someone else.  This ran much deeper than a breakup; it rocked my world and gave me an unexpected wakeup call. Kevin was the only person I had ever confided in about my disease.  He was also randomly diagnosed with a skin ailment, Vitiligo, a few years into our relationship. We grew up together and experienced similar struggles, so when we broke up I lost my soul mate and confidant. 

This led me into a tailspin of erratic behavior that went on for a few years. My eating disorder would morph from excessive binging, to complete starvation .  Each choice I made was more erratic than the last, which left my body fatigued and stressed.  My arthritis was constantly flaring, leaving me crippled in debilitating pain.  Most mornings, I felt paralyzed in so much pain in bed.  Simple tasks became arduous and exhausting; blow drying my hair, turning my neck while driving, and lifting light groceries.

Since my disease stifled my vitality, I began reading and exploring topics like psychology, philosophy and health rather than going out.  The more I applied the acquired knowledge to my life, the more bearable my symptoms became. I began meditating, eating healthy, practicing yoga and exercising. There were definitely some setbacks (I,e- toxic relationship that thwarted my focus on personal development), and I sporadically reached for my old reliable cocktail.

I think the last “rock-bottom”, about two years ago, was my moment of enlightenment.  Finally, I refused to let my disease dictate my quality of life; I sought professional help.

Therapy, notebook after notebook of poetry and musings, countless hours of running, a plant-based and GMO-free diet helped alleviate my symptoms and taught me what “self-respect” meant.  I have put so much effort into accepting and making peace with my past, my disease and overall personal development.  For the first time in 20+ years, I am able to talk freely about having psoriasis. I have a healthy relationship with food and view it as fuel. I have made peace with my wounded inner child and learned to accept myself, my family and people that hurt me.

Occasionally, I experience a flare up and feel helpless. My battle is chronic; each day is a fight to accept the cards I was dealt. The difference between now and years prior is surrender.  

I see the beauty in the struggle.

I refuse to succumb.

I am proud of my strength.

I am flawed, tenacious and beautiful.

Control means nothing, surrender is everything. It becomes a one-sided battle the moment you chose not to fight.
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Nicole Summa
Nicole is a Holistic Health Coach and follower of alternative medicine. She is the creator of Healthy Mind Body Me, where she promotes her health coaching practice, posts recipes and writes informative blog posts on health, healing and personal development. Nicole is an avid runner, cycling enthusiast, poet, animal rights supporter, nature lover and staunch supporter of the anti-GMO movement. She lives by the philosophy, “you are not thrown into the fire, you are the fire” and believes a healthy lifestyle has the power to heal.

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