Fearing the Flare

Having dealt with psoriatic disease for about 14 years, I have learned a few things that tend to make my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis all crazy: too much junk food, the weather, and stress.

I can control the food-based flares pretty well since I eat healthy foods most of the time anyway. However, all bets are off if there is chocolate in the room. I have little self-control when it comes to avoiding that.

Hot, humid summers and even quick changes in weather are difficult to avoid while living in Michigan. I love this state, but Mother Nature has a strange sense of humor. We have a saying out here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.” This really is not hyperbole.

As for stress, that’s my number one cause of flare, and I have yet to get a good hold on controlling it.

Mild disease

For the first few years after my diagnosis, my disease was mild. While I was extremely grateful, I was also heartbroken and felt guilty that my disease could be managed with topical creams and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, while my son’s disease was out of control. It’s that pit in your stomach when you know you’ve passed on the psoriatic disease genes to your kid, but your own disease severity was no comparison to how much pain he was in.

All of this changed when life changes caught up with me.

My world turned upside down

In 2012, our family knew five friends and family members who passed away in the first four months alone. My son’s disease went full-on angry, so managing that was difficult. By spring, I was knee-deep as chairperson for the Walk to Cure Arthritis in Detroit.

I was also planning a piggy-back vacation in Las Vegas for my volunteer work trip for the Arthritis Foundation. My husband and I decided to renew our vows in August for our anniversary, so getting everything set (including Elvis) was a bit overwhelming.

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And don’t even get me started on the amount of stress at work.

All that said, it’s easy to see how the stress of life caused my biggest flare I’ve ever known. I was covered on my chest and back with psoriasis plaques. I walked like a penguin from the arthritis in my hips. I also couldn’t drive because I could no longer grip a steering wheel.

Finding the right biologic

After a few years of trying and failing biologic medications, I finally found one that stuck and worked well. For three years now, my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis has been well-controlled. I’ve had a few minor flares since starting this biologic - and my scalp psoriasis has never completely cleared – but overall, I owe my great quality of life to finding the correct medication for my body.

Another stressful time

The past few months, I have been one giant ball of stress. Among stress at work, home life and other issues, my step-mom was declining rapidly due to liver disease. It was a great miracle that she received a liver transplant in mid-June. She only had five days left to get a new liver before doctors would take her off the list and she would enter into hospice.

The month of June was filled with lots of sadness as we prepared for the worse, and lots of excitement as the surgery went well and she’s on the mend. But she still has a long road ahead, and she’s having setbacks. This emotional roller coaster is testing my breaking point. I’m very much on edge and ready to snap at anyone who looks at me at little strange.

Flare on the horizon?

In many respects, I feel like I’m back in 2012 with one misstep landing me in another disease flare. My gut tells me it is coming, but this time, I’m a little more prepared. I’m taking time for me, even if it is just five minutes.

Reducing stress

While I continue to go to kickboxing classes while my body allows me, I’ve also joined another local gym that has quick 25-minute classes that allow me to escape work during my lunch hour. I have found that exercise does the most good to keep my stress from boiling over.

I’m doing my best to get to yoga at least once a week. The strength, flexibility and breathing practiced during class helps me feel in control of my life, even if it is just for an hour.

I’m learning to say “no” more often. For someone who overcommits herself daily, this is a big challenge.

I’m listening to more music. Music makes me happy, and sometimes I forget that simply turning on the tunes can lift my mood immensely. If you have any great songs to recommend, please send my way.

These practices won’t get rid of my stress completely, but I sure am hoping it will keep my levels of anxiousness and fear of the future a little more in check.

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