Proudest Moments with Psoriasis
When I think of psoriasis, my thoughts tend to turn negative or pessimistic. For example, I recently wrote about a few embarrassing moments I’ve had with psoriasis. In the final draft, I cut out quite a few moments that I thought of but didn’t have the space to share. I eventually can find the silver linings in those difficult situations, but they are not pleasant to experience or think about initially.
But when I consider the proudest moments I’ve had with psoriasis, my mind mostly goes blank. Pride and accomplishment simply do not go together with a condition like psoriasis, and the person it afflicts. I wouldn't even think about showing off my psoriatic lesions or pitted nails.
The following stories highlight two of those proud moments with psoriasis during my college days.
University scholarship interview
As high school graduation neared I needed to decide between two schools not too far from home: University of California, Berkeley (UCB), and UC Davis. My friends from school, including my girlfriend at the time, already committed to UCB. I wanted to wait until I visited the UC Davis campus and interviewed for a scholarship before making my decision.
Coming before a committee of faculty and alumni overwhelmed this shy introverted guy hiding with his psoriasis. Each interview committee member asked me a question. One question led me to talk about psoriasis. I can’t remember the question exactly, but it had to do with learning from a difficult experience.
A story came to mind about the character Eustace from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. Eustace, in TheVoyage of the Dawn Treader, is a rich, selfish boy who falls asleep dreaming about his fortune. When he wakes up he is a dragon—an outward reflection of his inward self. As a dragon, he becomes isolated and cut off from everyone. The lion Aslan tells him he must undress before he can be restored. Clawing the skin off doesn’t help. Aslan must do it—and it will hurt. Once he is restored, Eustace is a changed person.
I told the committee that having psoriasis taught me the importance of inner character and beauty. Like Eustace, I tried to get rid of the red, flaky lesions on my skin. But what I really needed was to be changed from the inside out. I admitted to a bad temper and an impatient attitude toward people and circumstances. My newfound faith at the time also reinforced the importance of inner renewal and restoration.
To my amazement, the scholarship committee granted me the full four-year scholarship. I didn’t think talking about psoriasis would benefit me in that situation. I decided to attend UC Davis after accepting the scholarship knowing that having psoriasis led me to see that what’s on the inside is far more important than what’s on the outside.
Wearing shorts and short sleeves
My wife, who I met at UC Davis, later told me she didn’t understand why I wore long sleeves and pants during the summer. Davis is in the central valley of California, not too far from Sacramento. Summers are quite dry and hot, with many days over the century mark. Even though I certainly would feel much more comfortable with summer wear, I refused to change my clothes.
From elementary school throughout much of college, I rarely showed my psoriatic skin. Since psoriasis covered me from head to toe, I covered up and avoided situations that would reveal my skin whenever possible. I didn’t attend my friend’s pool birthday parties or go camping due to my skin. The beach did not entice me one bit, even with California’s beautiful shoreline.
But something amazing happened as I made a few friends and joined a couple clubs on campus. Others asked about my psoriasis, and didn’t turn away. They wanted to learn more. One club advisor, a recent graduate who worked near campus, even drove me to phototherapy thirty minutes away once a week. By opening up more about the challenges of living with psoriasis, I felt less horrible, ugly, or afraid.
One hot summer day I wore shorts out for the first time. Even though I did get a stare or question, I didn’t let those people bother me the way I used to. My faith further strengthened my resolve and encouraged me to accept myself. Then I wore short-sleeves with the shorts—a huge step forward. Another ray of freedom entered into my life—a proud moment of confidence symbolized by wearing clothes that others take for granted.
Clearly for me, young adulthood served as a formative time of breaking free from the psychological enslavement psoriasis caused. I did struggle at times afterward to talk about my skin or wear shorts during flares or down times. But nothing could take away those moments where I displayed a courage I didn’t know I possessed.
How often do you experience brain fog?