March 22, 2022
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Living with psoriasis can be challenging. Answering personal questions from strangers about psoriasis makes it so much harder.
I’ve lived with psoriasis for over 24 years. While many things have changed over the years, one thing that’s remained consistent is that, when I reveal my skin, the questions come rolling in.
Wherever I am, it seems like someone always wants to know, “What is that?”.
The questions pop up at school, on the train, or even at work. I try not to fault others for their curiosity, but sometimes their questions about psoriasis can be insensitive or even hurtful.
These sorts of questions can be challenging to avoid and sometimes lead to uncomfortable conversations.
Having these experiences time and time again can make it difficult to feel confident when meeting or connecting with new people.
I thought about the five questions I commonly get asked to share how I’ve learned to navigate some of these uncomfortable conversations.
Let’s face it, when it comes to health concerns, there always seems to be room for unsolicited advice.
I once worked in a department store selling kids’ shoes. During this time, my psoriasis was often flaring. One time, as I was helping a customer find a pair of shoes, she noticed the spots on my neck and asked what they were.
In the middle of the shoe department, I gave her a quick overview of my skin. She proceeded to recommend that I take an oatmeal bath and moisturize my skin with coconut oil.
I did not sell the shoes, but I did receive a free skin consultation at work.
I always try to keep an open mind with these conversations, especially when I know the intention is not to be harmful. I try to remember that someone may be trying to be helpful even though they aren’t an expert.
Although it doesn’t always happen this way, in this case, she happened to be right. Oatmeal baths work wonders to help soothe my skin.
Yes, I will.
Hearing the word “forever” can be scary and deceiving. It can make you feel like where you currently are in your journey is a permanent place.
It’s important to remember that nothing is permanent or static, even with a chronic condition. Your journey with psoriasis, and in life, will take many turns.
In my 24 years with psoriasis, I’ve overcome so many challenges. I’ve gained a sense of self awareness, and I’ve rebuilt my confidence. When you start to realize that your experiences will ebb and flow, “forever” doesn’t always seem so long.
I spent much of my teenage and adult years covering my psoriasis with long sleeves and long pants. A part of me always thought I did this out of shame. What I’ve recognized more recently is that sometimes covering up my skin was also a form of protection.
Hiding my skin allowed me to avoid sharing or discussing things that I was still trying to figure out myself.
Always remember it’s absolutely OK, and necessary, to set healthy boundaries. Just because you’re asked a question, it does not always mean you’re obligated to answer it. It’s OK to not engage in a conversation that makes you uncomfortable.
This question is one that often triggered me while I was growing up.
As a child, I would worry that, when other people saw my skin, they might be too afraid to be near me. I didn’t want them to think that what I had could transfer to them.
Becoming more open, and learning how to talk about psoriasis with others, helped me to overcome this fear. It may seem ironic, but talking about psoriasis before I am asked, has become an important way that I create a safe space for myself.
I often explain that psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder, and the patches on my skin are not contagious.
When I visit a hair salon, nail salon, or a massage parlor, I often mention I have psoriasis. This is a great way to avoid any uninformed questions about it being contagious. I’ve found that, in creating a safe space for myself, I can also reassure others.
For me, psoriasis is mainly itchy and dry, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t “hurt” to live with psoriasis.
It’s important to remember that, for many people, what’s seen on the surface isn’t representative of what’s felt on the inside.
Sometimes, the dryness and redness isn’t painful, but the emotional impact of living with psoriasis is. For me, navigating the way psoriasis keeps me from doing the things I want can be very painful.
Psoriasis is different for everyone, and it can come with both physical and emotional challenges. People make assumptions about what they see — but also about what they don’t.
I’ve found that sharing these challenges and feelings with people I trust, can make a big difference.
Over the years, I’ve learned about the importance of being kind and open, even in the face of people who are unaware.
I’m careful with how I interpret the questions and statements I receive from others. If I’m asked something that does not sit well with me, I set proper boundaries, and I try to remind myself not to take anything personally.
There are days when I feel more inclined to connect with other people, and share these parts of myself. I value community, and I think connecting with others and allowing myself space to be vulnerable and open is important.
Still, on the days when I do not feel like engaging in conversations with others about my psoriasis, I respect how I feel and set boundaries.
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