I wanted to find the version of me that welcomed self-acceptance, and wholeheartedly loved herself — spots and all.
My psoriasis journey began when I was only 4 years old. Since then, every stage of my life with psoriasis has presented itself with different challenges, each of which inspired tremendous growth.
I have only faint memories of what my life was like as a child, but I do remember how early psoriasis began shaping my experiences.
I recall nearly being denied entry to a public pool, because the patches on my skin raised concerns. The security guards inspected my skin, trying to make a judgment call without any knowledge about psoriasis. My mother had to explain that the patches were not contagious, and I was finally granted access — thanks to my mother’s persistence.
There was also a time when I was sent home early from kindergarten, because my scalp psoriasis was mistaken for lice. At the time, my young mind could not comprehend how my skin condition was being perceived by others, so I was barely affected.
Despite psoriasis being present early on in my life, I have beautiful memories throughout my childhood. I remember visiting my favorite lake with family, performing in ballet recitals, and creating happy memories with friends. There was never a time when I felt different from my peers.
As I became a teenager, though, I became acutely aware of my skin condition and how it made me stand out. Thick sweaters and long-sleeved shirts soon became my self-assigned school uniform.
Eventually, I began to conceal my skin at every social event. I could no longer brush off the comments I received from others, especially my new classmates. Their facial expressions and jokes played over in my mind like a never-ending broken record.
I began to perceive my psoriasis as a burden.
Feeling unattractive and self-conscious in my own skin became a staple of how I understood myself. Many times, my skin journey left me feeling lonely and misunderstood.
Although I had my family’s support, there was no one around me who could relate to me or who could understand what I was feeling.
Isolation, along with my long-sleeved sweaters, quickly became my go-to coping mechanism throughout my teenage years. Keeping my psoriasis hidden was the only way I could feel comfortable stepping outside my home.
For most of my teenage years, psoriasis felt like the center of my universe.
It dictated the way I dressed, how I interacted with people, and it significantly impacted my quality of life. Within me, I had the desire to break free and just live a “normal” life, but I just couldn’t figure out how.
I constantly felt like I was waiting for my skin to clear up. I would tell myself, “I’ll wear those shorts when my skin is clear,” or “I’ll start dating when I feel comfortable in my skin and ready.”
I experienced my worst flare at age 20, and it was a big turning point in my life.
It was particularly frustrating, because my skin had seemed like it was starting to clear up. Then, as the flare started, it felt like every effort to feel optimistic went down the drain.
After several weeks, I remember having a hard conversation with myself, asking: “Is this what the next 10 years will be like?”
All I knew was that I could no longer continue living my life in such a restrictive way. I no longer had the energy to keep my psoriasis hidden. I no longer wanted to continue isolating and putting my life on hold.
I certainly didn’t want to hate and punish myself for something that would always be a part of me.
At this point, I forced myself to focus on healing and finding peace of mind. I wanted to meet the version of myself that felt at peace with her skin. I wanted to find the version of me that welcomed self-acceptance, and wholeheartedly loved herself — spots and all.
Once I set that intention within myself, my life slowly started to change. I began showing up more and more as my true myself.
With time, long sleeve sweaters were replaced by cute short-sleeved tops. I started embracing social events that challenged my insecurities.
Of course, I still felt triggered stepping into this unfamiliar version of myself, but I was now able to be introspective and examine why I was feeling triggered.
These conversations also weren’t just happening within my own head. I started speaking honestly with others when they asked about my psoriasis. I took their curiosity as an opportunity to educate more people about psoriasis. In doing so, I created a safe space for myself and hopefully for others as well.
Through these changes, I began to fall in love with life and with myself again. Leaping out of my comfort zone allowed me to discover new passions, re-create my self-image, and form new happy memories.
Now that I look back, it was the moments of adversity that substantially shaped me as a person.
The years I spent in isolation, hiding my skin, inspired me to create beautiful experiences by traveling and exploring different parts of the world.
I’ve learned about the importance of surrounding myself with people who love and care for me. I know now that having support and community makes a big difference when you’re facing difficult times.
I try to welcome flares with an open mind and take each one as an opportunity to learn and work on myself. My experiences have taught me to be more conscious about my habits and mental health. It’s OK to be vulnerable, and it’s OK to reach out for help.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that the desire to enjoy life fully always remains in me. I do my best to live each day with that intention.
Now, I see the world through a different lens, and it looks beautifully spotted.
Fact checked on March 14, 2022
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