Flaring with Flair
Last updated: June 2018
My psoriasis was so severe for so long, that I didn’t actually learn about flares until after I started to clear up. My patches would move around, but I never went through cycles of getting better and worse. I know it sounds crazy, but I almost think it was less stressful when I was covered constantly because I knew what to expect. Now, I can be nearly clear one day, and then without warning my leg or the inside of my elbow starts itching and BOOM red scaly patches seem to appear like a clown from a jack-in-the-box. (Just for the record—psoriasis flares and clowns scare me equally.)
The first thing I have learned to do at the start of a flare—other than curse under my breath—is to manage my stress. I have a tendency to immediately start stressing when I see my skin change before my eyes. My concerns are valid; I have a million thoughts that pound through my brain with every itch. Is my treatment failing? Will I be covered again? I don’t want to change medications again and deal with the anxiety of wondering how my body will react. What did I eat? What did I expose my skin to? I must have done something. I am to blame.
You can see how I spiral inside my head pretty quickly. The problem is that stress is my number one trigger, so as my stress accelerates, so does my flare. It may sound childish, but turning my mind to mush is what helps me keep it from accelerating. That means that usually when I am starting to flare I zone into television or video games. I know, I know; it isn’t the healthiest thing, but it has worked for me. If my mind is mindlessly on fluff, I forget about all those daunting worries for a little bit.
After I have gotten my mind to sit down and chill out on the stressors, the next thing I end up doing is to try and help the flaring skin. Since I am already treating with injectable biologic medicine, topicals are usually a good second line of defense. If it is summer, I will also let my skin get some natural sunlight, but unfortunately, my flares are most common in the winter. There are a lot of great over-the-counter topicals for psoriasis, and if the flare areas are particularly stubborn I will ask my doctor for a steroid-based treatment.
You may be like me and are not thrilled about the idea of topical treatments. They usually have to be applied multiple times a day, feel greasy or sticky, and yield little reward for the effort it takes to use them. However, in a flare, they really can be a game changer. I just always remind myself that it is only temporary; I won’t be a slicked up ball of snot forever.
Treats All Around
Finally, one thing I have found that helps me mentally and physically through the long days of a flare is treating myself. No, I’m not talking about stuffing myself full of candy bars like a piñata; I am talking about doing something to make the time special. It isn’t usually anything extravagant, but just a small purchase or day of indulgence to help me program my mind to not freak out every time I flare. Flares are inevitable for me, so when they do come, I have changed my mindset to instead think, “well, this sucks, but now is the perfect time to check out that new fishing hole or go to that fun make-your-own-pancakes place with my family.”
If you are reading this in the middle of a flare, know that you are not alone! Reach out on social media, through the forums, or by sharing your own story. Do what you need to do in order to get through the emotional and physical discomfort, and don’t feel bad about it (as long as it is legal, of course). Flares come and go, but your value never wavers.
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