Psoriasis Stigma: A Mortifying Moment At The Pool

I've lived with psoriasis for the better half of 50 years. You see, I was diagnosed at age 5. This condition certainly comes with embarrassing moments. I'm talking about moments that can be described as discriminating, demeaning, and degrading. Moments that cause trauma and emotional damage.

Being asked to cover up

About forty years ago, on a hot summer’s day, I headed to a public pool in my Virginia hometown. Even though I was having a very bad psoriasis flare, which I had almost all the time, I was getting more comfortable being around people and needed relief from the heat.

I went into the water which felt wonderful. When I exited the pool, an employee approached me. He asked that I refrain from entering the pool again and that if I wanted to stay, I had to cover up. I felt completely embarrassed and humiliated

I asked to speak to the person who was in charge. I was told that people felt uncomfortable and that they were fearful that they "might catch" what I had. He stated that they decide what is best for the establishment. I felt so isolated, alone. I didn’t say a word and left in shame.

Living in discomfort

For the next 40 years, I avoided pools and beaches as much as possible. If I did go, I was always over-dressed. One year I even went to the beach wearing pantyhose to cover up my lesions.

Can you imagine what a sight this was? And let’s not talk about the sand that got inside the hose. Needless to say, it was very uncomfortable.

My experience at that community pool haunted me for years. It also shaped me in my journey with advocacy. I refused to be discriminated against because of something I couldn’t control. I never wanted to feel like a victim again. I learned my legal rights and what to do if I experience any type of discrimination again.

A kick-start into advocacy

To this day, I still find myself on the end of stares and remarks, but I no longer feel embarrassed and humiliated. If I hear someone say something nasty or make a rude remark, I make it my business to educate them about the disease.

I let them know in a very kind way that I am not contagious. I tell them, I know I don’t look very pleasing to your eyes, but please be sensitive to me and to others when you speak to others. Saying nasty things to people can scar and mark them for life.

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of the way your skin looks, please let us know in the comments or share your story. I hope you find the strength to allow it to fuel you instead of discourage you.

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