My Psoriasis-Written Resume
As a boy, I always wanted to grow up to be a ninja turtle. Which, now that I think of it, is sort of humorous since my skin did turn out to be somewhat reptilian! But, seriously, as I grew older, and especially after my diagnosis, I wanted to be an actor. I didn’t like myself, so the idea of portraying someone else allured me. In fact, that is how my wife and I started dating. We both were assigned to the drama team to coordinate plays for our youth group.
I took a few classes after high school at my local community college, but my lack of confidence left me shy and unsure of myself. All through high school, I was viewed differently because of my skin. Even though I knew my disease wasn’t contagious, my mind was always preoccupied worrying about what others were thinking about it. I ended up dropping out after my first quarter. After all, don’t actors have to look like models?
Because I only had a high school diploma and lived in a small town, I ended up doing labor work throughout my twenties. My skin was always a factor when I was looking for a job. Since I wasn’t from the 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.
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, a merchandiser, and 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 was able to manage to find one word to ask me: “catchable?”
For the last three years, I have worked in a group home taking care of men that have 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 had to take 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. These types of experiences have left lasting scars, but I have also learned valuable lessons and ways to cope by enduring them and not giving up.
Nip it in the bud
The first thing I have learned to do is be upfront about my condition. If I notice a coworker staring at my skin, I knock down the awkward walls. I let them know that those silvery plaques and flakes come from psoriasis. Aside from just explaining that it is not a communicable disease, I also let them know it is genetic and an 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 am in front of a camera and audiences, I don’t try to hide my skin as much. I still have moments of reservation, but they pass much more quickly. I can’t say I would go so far as to itch my skin while sitting on a black microfiber couch, but it has gotten better. I wasn’t always this comfortable, and if you are reading this, you might not be either. 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, 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.
Psoriatics have rights too
Everyone is entitled to a safe and harassment-free workplace, and that includes those with chronic disease 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 talk about your rights.
Time for more
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.
How often do you experience brain fog?