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Patient Insider: Alisha's Journey

Patient InsiderHey,I’m AlishaPsoriasis can be so misunderstood.Agree?

Psoriasis was a family affair

I was 7 years old when I was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis. The details are a little foggy, but I remember it being a fairly quick diagnosis. Being diagnosed at such a young age, there wasn’t a close person in my life that my psoriasis didn’t affect. My retired grandparents took the responsibility of helping me manage my condition – and I'm grateful. They didn't wait around trying to find me a semblance of relief. Sometimes they drove up to 2 hours for a phototherapy appointment. Spoiler: it didn’t work in clearing my skin.
I was 10 years old when I began lying about my skin.

Growing up & glowing up

It wasn’t until I was 10 years old that I processed that this skin condition was going to be a part of my life forever. I was in a 5th-grade swim class, with my skin exposed, when the stares began. The more questions people asked, the more ashamed I felt. That’s when the lies began. I told my classmates I had eczema, an allergic reaction – anything to get the questions to stop.

High school brought more anxiety-inducing moments. At 15, I preferred to be hot and uncomfortable in long sleeves and pants than be faced with my biggest insecurity. It was in humanities class when my biggest fear was confirmed. A fellow classmate caught a glimpse of my skin underneath my shirt and called me out, meanly stating, “Ew, that is disgusting. What is that?”. He confirmed how I felt in my own head: disgusting. I’ll never forget that.

Every thought and insecurity feels insurmountable in high school. I could write a book of all the embarrassing and shame-inducing moments I experienced. Even thinking back on it can feel like an open wound. As we grow older, we also grow wiser and more self-accepting. We have the ability to find closure on our own. We’ve come this far, haven’t we?

I constantly wonder how psoriasis has affected my personality. I consider myself a good judge of character after being judged so frequently myself. My go-to response when an ignorant or unsolicited comment comes my way? “I’m doing what’s best for me.” Feel free to use it. It gets easier to say with practice.

My skin was stubborn

And so were my doctors. During those early days, my skin wouldn't respond to treatment and because of that, every doctor I saw tried to label my psoriasis as something else. When I saw my first Black dermatologist, I was confident I would feel validated. She looked at my skin and stated assuringly, “I don’t think you have psoriasis.” I felt like a fraud. My first skin biopsy confirmed psoriasis and a sense of relief came over me. So much unpredictability requires us to advocate for ourselves at these appointments. If we don’t, who will?
Plaque psoriasis on black skin

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The art of holding space

Would you call yourself a curious being? Maybe not, but curiosity may be the answer to a few different questions we constantly internalize. If you love someone with psoriasis, playing emotional detective can make all the difference. Offer compassion, not solutions. We’re always worried about our skin and it might take us some time to step out of it. And you, yes, you – the one reading this who may feel alone and lost, as if you’re bound to be friendless forever. I advise you to build your network slowly and softly. Find the people who embody compassion and kindness. These future friends live in support groups and volunteer events. You don’t have to manage these insecure feelings alone. There are people out there worthy of knowing you and being on the receiving end of your friendship.
People take clear skin for granted.