Psoriasis and Loneliness
Having a chronic skin condition like psoriasis can be a difficult experience. Not only have you got the issues to deal with in terms of the physicality of the condition – red blotches, scratching and perhaps pain – but it can also be difficult mentally.
Mental health and psoriasis
Lots of people with psoriasis suffer from anxiety and depression. Many may find it hard to make friends, it may impact romantic relationships and it may make them angry and upset. These issues can lead to isolation and loneliness.
Having lived with psoriasis since I was 11, I know all too well how socially disabling it can be. The condition started on my scalp but quickly spread to affect all parts of my body including my face and neck. This made interaction with others particularly difficult.
Coping with loneliness
However, I did plow on and do the best I could. I tried to embrace a career in journalism in the hope that by being forced to constantly speak to people, I would eventually lose some of the anxiety and depression that had begun to be part of my everyday living.
And things slowly have improved. Though I do still have days where I wish I had more interaction and had the confidence to fully be myself. But I recognize that living with psoriasis gives us a few more challenges than most. We, therefore, need to be kinder to ourselves and work on those aspects of the condition, physically or mentally, that bother us.
Here are some things that have helped me when it comes to loneliness.
1. Keep seeking help – both with psoriasis itself and the mental health side
I know this sounds obvious but I’ve had a few periods where I’ve been tempted to just give up with ever getting this condition under control. But you mustn’t take that attitude: keep going to your doctors, dermatologists and any other health professional you deal with on your psoriasis.
I started trying the topical off-the-counter products but none of them worked. Then, I moved to light treatment. This had some impact and helped keep the condition under control for a few months but long-term it didn’t help.
I even ended up buying my own unit to try and keep the condition under control. Again, while it helped in the short term, it didn’t help in the long term.
Since then, I’ve tried immunosuppressant medication, but it’s what I’m on now that’s really helped: biologic treatment. In fact, the clearance I’ve had from the one I’m currently on has been like I’ve never had previously. So, it pays to keep trying and keep going back!
In addition, if you’re having difficulties with your mental health, it’s important to consider what help is available. Self-help resources can be good: books, for example. I bought an array of different materials on confidence, happiness and how to feel good about myself. These, I found, really helped. Other forms of help are medication and therapy. Don’t forget family too if you don’t want this. But don’t suffer in silence.
2. Be kind to yourself – and take it slow and steady
It’s easier to get swept up in the fast pace of day-to-day life. But it’s important to remember how chronic, lifelong and difficult it can be to live with a condition like psoriasis. Take care of yourself: have a bath, read a book or watch your favorite TV show.
Work on small steps towards feeling less socially isolated. Can you, for example, initiate contact with a friend who understands the condition but you’ve not contacted in a while? Ask them to meet up at a local coffee shop, or perhaps you can invite them round yours for tea.
Again, try not to feel ashamed at feeling isolated. Many people are very understanding and if they know you suffer from psoriasis they will want to help.
3. Join support groups or online communities
There may an array of different support groups for people with psoriasis in your local area. Or, instead, if you can’t find any seek a national group for your country. This way you will be able to go to conferences and other events all about your condition, and speak to people in a similar situation to yourself.
You also have the option of online help. This can be equally as good because some people don’t always have the confidence to speak about their condition face-to-face. You can find therefore individuals facing similar difficulties to yourself and they may be able to offer different solutions for you.
4. Be brave – and try something new
What in your life have you been too ashamed to do that you would like to do? Is it go for a swim? Join a football club? Or perhaps a debating society? Whatever it is, if your skin is holding you back try going in slowly. Email the individuals responsible and find out what the group is about and how you can get involved. Take it slow. If you don’t fancy going straight away, sleep on it and go in slowly. Explain that you’re new, you may not have done the activity before and want to give it a try. Be brave. But do take it slow. See what your limits are and try and relax.
5. Be open about your condition
This can be especially difficult. I found it hard at first. Try and recognize you have a lifelong disease and it’s not your fault. You’re doing your very best with the circumstances you have been given. However, try and speak about it as much as you can. Tell others what you’re going through and become an advocate. Most people won’t really get what you’re going through but that doesn’t mean you don’t have an opportunity to educate them.
Whatever you decide to do, remember you’re on a journey. It’s going to be a long journey but try and enjoy it nonetheless. Having a lifelong, chronic disease like psoriasis is difficult enough with you adding unnecessary pressure on yourself too. You are brave and people out there will recognize and admire your courage. Don’t look back; keep looking forward.
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