Awkward 101: Psoriasis in the Classroom

I’ve been looking into going back to school recently, which has brought up some unexpected memories about having psoriasis in a classroom setting. Being in close quarters with peers for the majority of your day already lends itself to some interesting encounters, but throw in a disease that some people assume is contagious and you have the perfect curriculum for Awkward 101.

The pencil

Sharing is big in school. We are taught from a young age that sharing equals caring, and the school system continues that lesson well into our upper grades. Couple that with the fact that teenagers are not always the most responsible humans and you can understand why the phrase “Hey, can I borrow your ___ (insert graphing calculator, piece of paper, gum)” is so frequently used.

I can say with all confidence that I didn’t have to worry about that. Most of my personal items became scratching apparatuses, which made them an unappealing choice for others to use. This was especially true for my pencil. The psoriasis in my ear was horrible, and that eraser was just the right size to soothe the unrelenting itch. Most of the time I didn’t realize I was doing it until I saw a dramatic teenage look of disgust from a classmate. To this day I can still say a good scratch trumps popularity.

Library dilemma

The library was another hub in the sharing world. As fun as it was to look at the library cards to see the names and dates of everyone who checked out a book (major score when the cutest girl in class had this book right before me), it wasn’t my favorite part of school. First off, unless it is a comic, I am not a huge reader. Something has to really be of interest to me for me to finish a book. Secondly, the pages of books are the perfect hiding place for flakes. Anyone who picked up To Kill a Mockingbird after me was going to open up that book and think it was about a snowstorm since they would get a blizzard on their lap. The worst part is they could look at that tiny card in the front and know who was responsible for the unwelcomed surprise. I made a habit of shaking my books out and fanning the pages before returning them.

Getting called out

Another recollection that came to mind as I was browsing admission webpages was a specific encounter I had with my high school English teacher. It was one of the moments that I would stick in my humiliation bank for years to come. We were in the middle of a test or reading time or some other activity that left the room dead quiet, and she walked by my desk. As she paused, I thought it was to check my work or give some feedback. Oh how I wish that was the case. Instead, she pointed to my skin and very loudly proclaimed “That looks horrible!”

Now, it is expected for kids and teens to have no filter, but when it comes from an adult—a teacher no less—it can be a bit jarring. It is easy to get up in the morning and think to myself that maybe my skin doesn’t look too bad; that I am just making it worse than it really is. But when someone calls you out like that it is akin to being the dunce in the corner of the classroom. I don’t think I wore another short sleeved shirt or pants for the remainder of the school year.

I can look back at most of these memories and laugh now. There will always be good and bad memories associated with this disease, but the key is to not let them dictate your future.

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