Going off to College with Psoriasis
Eleven years ago, around September 2005, I was a freshman at Alabama State University. At that time I was unsure of myself but determined to have the best college experience possible-- even with psoriasis. Most college freshmen are worried about their future careers, making new friends, and grades. This college student at the time was worried about introducing someone new to her psoriasis. I grew up as an only child with a family who understood my psoriasis and all that came with it; the scratching, bleeding and flaking, Now as a college student I would have to introduce this to someone new, a person who may have never come in contact with the disease. I was a nervous wreck to say the very least.
All the college students arrived on campus the third week of August. I finally met my roommate, a what seemed like a happy-go-lucky young lady from Wisconsin. We greeted each other, hugged, and engaged for a moment. I didn't know how or when I was going to tell her about my disease. I was embarrassed and nervous about what she would think. At that time I was very uncomfortable with explaining my condition, but I knew it was something that had to be done.
Confronting the myths
So the moment had come, it was time for me to tell her about my psoriasis. I sat down and told her I had something to tell her.
I said, "So I have psoriasis. Do you know what this?"
She said, "No, never heard of it."
"It's basically a disease of the immune system where I'm producing skin cells I don't need. It's not contagious, though..." I responded as my hands started sweating, and butterflies began to move around in my stomach.
I remember it kind of being an awkward moment, I could tell she didn't really understand. I didn't want to explain any further so I left it at that which in hindsight I regret. Yes, I told her the premise of the disease, but I didn't give her the full story. I didn't tell her that sometimes at night I scratch excessively and because my skin is so dry you can hear it. I failed to mention that because of my skin flaking the room could become really dusty. I didn't tell her that there might be blood stains on my sheets from scratching too hard. Even as I write these words it's really embarrassing to admit those issues, but that is just a small glimpse of the reality of this disease, the part that some people are too ashamed to talk about.
Well, it didn't take long for my roommate and I to find out we couldn't stand each other. I'm not exactly sure where it went wrong or what caused it, but we did not like one another at all. At that time I had low self-esteem, and was very unsure of myself, and didn't know how to properly defend myself in a non-conflicting way. What followed next between her and I will never forget. She began telling people on campus she believed my condition was contagious, including the dorm supervisor. Luckily I had already spoken to the dorm admin who was aware of my disease and knew exactly what it was because her granddaughter also had psoriasis. Shortly after, my roommate and I moved apart and I was able to room with a close friend I had met that semester.
Tips for the conversation
If you are trying to figure out how to tell a roommate about your condition, here are some tips I wish I would have utilized:
- Have a conversation before you move in together. Some college campuses will give you information about your roommate, such as email or telephone number. If this option is available to you, take this time to chat and get acquainted before the move in. This would be a great time to explain your disease, so that if they are comfortable you can save yourself the headache of moving in with them. This also gives them time to do research on their own if they feel it is necessary. This would be a good time to inform their parents too so everyone is on the same page.
- Have the conversation in person, but be prepared. Before you have the conversation with your roommate, know exactly what you want them to know about your disease so that you don't miss anything important to you. Tell them what it is, how it makes you feel, and how it may affect them. If necessary provide them with pamphlets or print offs from the National Psoriasis Foundation that contains information you may miss or may be too nervous to explain.
- Write a Letter. if verbally explaining your disease is a no go, write a letter outlining everything stated above.
- Inform Residential Assistants and Dorm Administrators. It's good to have everyone on the same page. I was extremely relieved that I had had a conversation with the supervisor in the dorm about my disease, therefore she was able to address my roommate's misinformation immediately.
How often do you experience brain fog?