I Want To Work!
I am a 58-year-old woman who has been living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis since the age of five. I got my first job at age 14, and have been going strong ever since. My very first job in life was working at a school for kids with disabilities. I knew immediately that my having psoriasis was going to a life-long problem. People were whispering and pointing all at once. My psoriasis was visible for all to see. I have always had kids pointing and carrying on, but I thought the adult working world would be totally different. Boy, was I wrong!!
Dressing the part
I didn’t know how to cover up or hide my condition for a job in the corporate world. As the years went by, I would learn how to take extra care of what clothing I wore or how I wore my hair so people wouldn’t focus on my psoriasis. I found out early on that choosing the right clothing and styles when you have psoriasis and flare-ups can be a challenge for work. I had to wear loose clothing that didn’t irritate my skin because of pain. Fabrics made of cotton were more comfortable than synthetics.
I knew early in life that I couldn’t wear jewelry. It just irritated my skin too much. I loved to wear pantyhose. It was good for hiding my condition. I worked in offices where it was mandatory to wear them. I was so happy when all the other woman hated them. However, there were days that I had to wear three or four pairs at a time to hide my psoriasis, making my skin itch like crazy. I remember being in meetings and not wanting to fidget or scratch because I knew flakes would be everywhere. My worst fear at any job was that I would leave flakes wherever I went. I have lost count of times that I have been on my hands and knees in bathrooms, near other peoples’ desks and hallways to clean up flakes.
Pain and fatigue work against you
People don’t understand that psoriasis is not just a rash. Sometimes, smells such as perfumes would cause my skin to be irritated, but in the workplace, you can’t tell someone not to spray perfume or can you do that in the bathroom? In addition to dealing with psoriasis in the workplace, I started having signs of psoriatic arthritis at the age of 25. I had to seek the help of my doctor because I hurt so badly. There were days I couldn’t walk without severe pain. However, because I always looked great and had a smile on my face and appeared normal, people didn’t take the severity of my pain seriously.
I began working in the banking industry almost 30 years ago. It was a demanding job with long hours and an extremely stressful environment. However, I never let my psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis stop me from doing my job well, but it could make working incredibly difficult. I always had questions in the back of my mind. What if I can’t work in the corporate world? What would I do with my life? What if I have to go on disability? I remember being on a medication that the only thing I wanted to do was sleep. I was just exhausted all the time. The minute I got home I would fall asleep and sleep all weekend; just to have enough strength to get through the following week.
Don't let the disease boss you around!
When I was 40 years old, a doctor who didn’t think I should be working wanted to put me on full disability. But I didn’t take that opportunity because I knew I had so much more to offer. I am so glad that I didn’t jump at it.
The one thing I have learned after all these years is to talk to your colleagues about your medical conditions from the start so people don’t have to guess what is going on with you. If you have psoriasis, let them know you’re not contagious and be honest about how it impacts your life. Educate them about your condition; they will respect you more. Become an expert by learning all about your condition and the right way to describe it, and you will feel more informed and confident when explaining it to others.
Does your psoriasis skin feel out of control? How are you managing?