The Gift of Psoriasis
The Chronic Disease that keeps giving.
I HAVE PSORIASIS — ARE YOU HAPPY? I SAID IT!
I H-A-V-E P-S-O-R-I-A-S-I-S EVERYWHERE ON MY BODY.
Let’s start with: “What is psoriasis?” According to the Mayo Clinic, psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes skin cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin creating scaly red patches. Psoriasis is a persistent, long-lasting (chronic) disease where at times the psoriasis symptoms get better alternating with times psoriasis worsens. The World Psoriasis Day consortium states that 125 million people worldwide or 2% to 3% of the total population, have psoriasis. Taking the ‘glass is half full’ perspective, we with psoriasis are overachievers.
For over 20 years I have been at war with psoriasis, and have created a slightly different definition of the disease. For me, I define psoriasis as a shit storm that culminates on my legs, arms, back and chest, manifesting itself in red, itchy, and not to be too graphic, bloody spots on my body. But, mostly, it is just downright embarrassing.
I have seen dermatologists countless times on four different continents, and there are two consistent themes I get from doctors regardless of where I live.
The first bit of wisdom that I was told by the all knowing dermatologist (do you taste the bitterness?) was, in a matter-of-fact tone, that “you need to reduce your stress.” To that, I say f*ck you! I have four kids (that alone is highly stressful), work full-time, own a small business, and host and produce a globally-distributed podcast. So, yeah, unless I cash it all in, move to Tahiti and live on the beach, reducing my stress is no easy feat. Now, I can take a couple of things off my plate, but let’s be real, this is life. So, option one is not really viable. Don’t get me wrong, I have a casual relationship with mindfulness, and read about ways to be more present, let go, or any other current trendy way to be ‘here’ so I can reduce stress. It is just not that easy.
The second question I often get is, “do you feel embarrassed when you go out in public?” If you saw my body right now, you would know it is a resounding yes! Imagine the eyeballs staring at super red itchy legs.
The embarrassment is how psoriasis gets you. You can deal with the red itchy bits, but it is the psychological boxing match that leaves you sad, depressed and feeling overmatched by a disease that adapts to most interventions. Currently, I am on sabbatical from swimming with kids, wearing shorts, going to the beach or any other activity that may require me to bare a little skin. If you knew me during my college days, baring skin wasn’t much of an issue and happened more often than I would like to admit.
But here is the thing… We over-achievers who deal with psoriasis on a daily basis have a choice. I have begun to think about what message I give my kids when I go to the pool but don’t get in or when I wear jeans in temperatures over 100. Do I want to live in shame and embarrassment, cheating my kids out of fun experiences with Dad, or do I want my red, scaly skin to splash in the water no matter who stares?
As I write this, it has made me realize that I am in a psoriasis prison and it is time to break out. Perhaps I should take my advice that I give my kids, “Don’t let fear conquer you, conquer your fear,” because once I do that, I can break out of the prison, and start living! Don’t let psoriasis trap you in your own personal prison.