My Psoriasis Written Resume
As a boy, I wanted to grow up to be a ninja turtle. Now that I think of it is humorous since my skin turned out to be somewhat reptilian! On a more serious note, as I grew older, and especially after my diagnosis, I wanted to be an actor.
Living with psoriasis, well, I didn’t like myself. The idea of portraying someone else intrigued me.
I was never comfortable...
I took a few acting classes after school at my local community college in my teen years. My lack of confidence left me shy and unsure of myself. Throughout high school, I was viewed differently because of my skin.
Even though I knew my disease wasn’t contagious, my mind was always preoccupied with worrying about what others were thinking about it. After all, don’t actors have to look like models? I ended up dropping out after my first quarter.
I ended up doing labor work throughout my twenties. My exposed skin was always a factor when I was looking for a job. Since it wasn't 80s or the movie Dumb and Dumber, a light-colored suit that would hide my flakes was not an option.
I was never comfortable during an interview. From the initial handshake to the question about “what my biggest weakness is,” I obsessed over my skin. I would sabotage myself by expecting to be rejected because of it. It was easier that way — I felt prepared for disappointment.
Still facing stigma...
Therefore, the only gigs that kept me away from suits or uniforms were minimum-wage, unsavory positions. I worked as a furniture mover, a pizza delivery guy, and a general workhorse for a temp agency.
These positions did nothing to help my self-confidence, and I encountered a lot of questions about my skin from rough, blunt coworkers. One such guy didn’t even speak English but managed to find one word to ask me: “catchable?”
For the last three years, I have worked in a group home, taking care of men with developmental disabilities. This has been comfortable for me because they, too, have been labeled “different,” and I don’t feel as nervous going to work. The downside is that I make barely above minimum wage while subjecting myself to physical attacks, adult diapers, and rigorous medication administration.
Although my clients don’t seem bothered by my skin, I have still experienced discrimination from colleagues. One weekend, I took one of my clients to Special Olympics practice in the company car. Soon after, I began hearing rumors that some people were disgusted by the "mess" my skin left.
Knocking down walls...
The first thing I have learned to do is be upfront about my condition. I knock down the awkward walls if I notice a coworker staring at my skin.
Aside from just explaining that it is not a contagious disease, I also let them know it is a genetic and autoimmune disease. Some people might not know what psoriasis is, but chances are they have or know someone who has an autoimmune disease and can relate, or at the very least show compassion because it creates a personal connection.
Now that I have publicly “come out” about my disease and actively being in front of a camera and audience within my advocacy, I don’t try to hide my skin as much. I still have moments of reservation, but they pass much more quickly.
The best thing I have found is to do what needs to be done to feel ok. Sometimes that meant carrying around a lint roller, a portable vacuum, or wearing clothes that covered every square inch of me. Being prepared gave me a sense of security and was worth the extra effort.
Wanting more for myself...
Everyone is entitled to a safe and harassment-free workplace, including those with chronic diseases such as psoriasis. In my experience, usually, discrimination comes from fear. The news and media make everything a million times scarier—so when someone sees my large lesions, it is understandable that they feel like they need to protect themselves.
Usually, explaining the disease and talking to them more about it brings resolution. If discrimination or harassment continues, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to discuss your rights.
Now that I am in my thirties and expecting son number three, I want more for myself in a job. I don’t want just a job; I want a career.
I finally am at a place where I want to succeed and not let my disease hold me back. I want to be the breadwinner for my family and show my sons how to persevere through difficult circumstances. I know it will take a lot of work — physically and emotionally — but I am finally ready.
Where on your body does psoriasis bother you the most?