What Is Your Quick Response When Asked About Your Skin?
Living with psoriasis is a painful reality. It's not just debilitating fatigue or tightening skin. We also are victims of people's frowns, disgusted expressions, and inconsiderate stares. We somehow painfully manage to face and answer their unfair, uncomfortable, and sometimes hurtful questions.
When people aren't aware of psoriasis, it usually leads to curious people and curious questions. Colleagues, friends, family, and even their kids have approached me with a big question mark on their faces. They want to know about the flakes or the dark skin patches.
Jeez, how many times do I have to answer this question?
At first, it was really traumatizing. I would freeze and go blank when someone would ask me about my skin. They asked me if I had allergies. And, of course, you get the most painful follow-up question of all: Is it contagious?
It's not scabies, it's not ringworm, and it's an autoimmune condition - which ultimately means, and I'll say it louder for the folks in the back: It's not contagious!!
These and many other heartless statements have made me painfully uncomfortable throughout my psoriasis journey. It forced me to lose my confidence. I avoided going to public gatherings. I always found myself wearing loose clothing layered with even more clothes.
As if living with a painful autoimmune condition wasn't enough of a reality, being faced with questions about it hit me hard, especially from strangers. My worst years were between 8 and 16 years old. You couldn't pay me a million dollars to ever lived those years over again.
The quick response that helps me
I've had psoriasis since the age of 5. When faced with ignorant and inconsiderate people, I would live my life in a shell and put myself in a position to have the least amount of contact with other people. Yes, I shut out the whole world. Nighttime became my favorite time of day.
Though, this is not the end of my story. For somebody who is an extrovert, confining myself could no longer be an option to me. I wanted to find a way to live. Many years ago, I started writing about my psoriasis journey. One of my first essays was about how to respond to people when they ask about my skin. I even had my sisters and close friends give me some ideas.
I learned from this drill that yes, people can be harsh, but this harshness comes from their ignorance, and it's important that we not respond with the same kind of ignorance. We must create and raise awareness about this condition, and the people around us could help us.
So, what did I learn? When someone asks about the bumps, rashes, dry patches, or flakes, start by telling them that the raised plaques they see are because of an autoimmune disease.
We all just want to be understood.
Sharing and stating the truth should stop any questions about you being contagious, which is usually, without fail, their next question. Relieving this worry would disarm them and, hopefully, allow them to be more engaged when you begin telling them about the autoimmune response and the production of skin cells.
Sharing is a way to relinquish control. If you feel comfortable, share the physical pain, emotional toll, and unknown symptoms. When I told my friends and family about psoriasis in detail, I felt less alienated. It was refreshing and made me more comfortable in their presence.
For the rest of the people, what I do know is when they start asking questions. I announce to them that it's not contagious and it's not transmissible. And that in some cases, psoriasis is an entirely genetic disease, so they should not be worried about it.
I try not to worry about strangers and what they think. I just wanted my close family and friends to understand me completely. Please stop asking me about my skin every time you see me. It's been decades now!!
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