Growing Up with Psoriasis
I can still clearly remember waking up one morning in April 1998, itching and covered practically head to toe with vicious, scaly red spots. So many things ran through my head. “Did I get bit by some kind of super bugs? Did I have an allergy to something I ate or touched? Did I get injected by some kind of mutant potion that was making me a high school super villain who would unveil her secret plan at the prom?” So, maybe that last one was a little dramatic, but I was a 15-year-old girl at the time.
The family connection
I did know what psoriasis was because my grandmother had mentioned having it in her life and all she needed was one look at me to confirm it. The next day my dermatologist double confirmed it and started discussing treatment options with my mom and I during my appointment. I figured he’d write me a prescription for some pills and I’d be on my way to clear skin in just a few days. But then he started saying things like “we’ll try this first” and “could work” or “might work” and suddenly I was faced with trying to understand that psoriasis is a disease that typically does not ever go away completely. He explained that there were time periods where I could be free from flares, but at that point, there was no cure. I couldn’t believe there was no magic pill or cream that just made it go away. So I was given the first of many topical prescriptions to “see how I’d do” and then we’d go from there.
Like I said, my grandmother also had psoriasis but she took a trip to Alaska in the 80’s and never flared again. She never understood why or how, but at least I knew someone else who had it in my family. But being an overly dramatic, not super confident teenage girl made it incredibly hard for me to understand what was happening to my body and how it would affect my life moving forward. I was forced to start a journey that I didn’t want to be on to learn how to control it and live with it.
Life goes on
My mom was (and still is) a champion with it, by learning everything she could to help understand it and treat it. She attended seminars with me and drove me multiple times a week to get light treatments when the original topical prescriptions failed to provide any decent results. That spring quickly got warmer and I played on the lacrosse team so the heat brought shorts and the traditional pleated uniform kilt. That spring also brought the junior prom, my first big event with a flare. My boyfriend at the time was a junior, where I was only a sophomore (an older man…swoon), so it was a big deal to be going. I found a very pretty, light blue lace dress with a high neck that also covered my back and legs. My arms were exposed but I was learning how to (at least trying to) be comfortable with my psoriasis showing.
My friends are very understanding and I went to high school with a lot of really nice people, so they were pretty accepting once I explained what it was. I’m sure there was talk behind my back and I definitely saw the stares but overall my biggest critic was myself.
As time passed and life progressed, I learned to ignore the stares and insensitive comments from strangers and sometimes acquaintances or colleagues. I learned that most people are just uneducated about what psoriasis is and that strangers who make rude comments weren’t worth my time or energy. I learned how to adapt my lifestyle to live with flares and how to dress around it so that I felt confident. So many of my major life events and accomplishments have been made with psoriasis along for the journey – from lacrosse championships, proms, and boyfriends, graduating high school and college, to building a successful career, falling in love, getting married and having two amazing daughters. I grew up with psoriasis and I believe that it’s a part of who I am today.
Where on your body does psoriasis bother you the most?