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.
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.