Psoriasis Superhero Spotlight: Reena’s Journey
Meet Reena Ruparelia. Diagnosed in her teen years, she was scared, confused, and lonely. She’s come a long way – now one of the most influential advocates for psoriasis awareness, Reena sits down and shares her journey.
What type of psoriasis have you been diagnosed with and how did you get diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis. The lesions began as red spots all over my stomach and torso. I was misdiagnosed at first. My doctor thought I had chickenpox. After a week of discomfort and noticing my lesions worsening, I went back to the doctor who then told me I had psoriasis.
I was only 14 or 15 at the time and had no clue what was happening. I was so scared and confused and my only question for all the doctors was “Will this go away?”He then proceeded to refer me to a dermatologist.
Being diagnosed was a very isolating experience. It felt sterile and I don’t believe healthcare practitioners were equipped with the tools or had the time to help me understand what was going on in my body. I also didn’t have an opportunity to express all the emotions I was having like self-doubt, sadness, social anxiety.
It was a difficult time for me and I began to resent my body for ganging up on me. This skin took control and the spots just kept popping up. In the blink of an eye, my life changed forever.
My worst flare ever! About 3 or 4 years ago. I still remember I was working with a coach to get my own Mindfulness Business started. Every time we were supposed to meet, I would cancel because I was in so much pain. My psoriasis was cracking, red, sore and angry. It was rapidly spreading all over my body and I couldn’t think of anything but getting through the day.
It was at that time, my coach said to me “What if psoriasis is the way forward?”
She encouraged me to express all of the emotions I had been sharing with her through an Instagram account (my favorite Social Media Platform).
And so I started my page, @psoriasis_thoughts, and focused on the psychological impacts of the condition. I didn’t only share messages of, “Be positive” but made sure to include moments of, “This sucks.” I believe it was a fresh and unique approach at the time and I am so happy to see so many others sharing the ups and downs, the realistic view, of living with the condition.
Its safe to say – connecting with the psoriasis community through my Instagram account has helped me more than I could have ever imagined.
What is the most difficult symptom you deal with currently?
Previously I would have said the mental and psychological impacts of the condition were the most difficult symptom. I spent years hiding and anxious about people seeing my skin. I didn’t want to give them a chance to reject me or judge me. To see my skin as dirty or contagious. But as I worked on self-love and acceptance I have found more peace in this area.
Nowadays, the most difficult symptom I deal with is the ITCH! Although my skin isn’t flaring right now, it’s very itchy! I sometimes can’t help myself and scratch until I draw blood. Which I know is the WORST thing for my skin, but some days it just gets the best of me.
To help myself get through the itch – I have been eating an anti-inflammatory diet, taking antihistamines when I need them and also using mindfulness practices to observe the itch without reacting to it (very hard!).
How do you stay positive when you’re going through a flare?
I believe a flare is our bodies cry for help! And so I remind myself when a flare begins that my body is expressing itself and needs a little extra love and care. I refrain from negative self-talk because it’s of no use. I mean, why kick myself when I am down at my lowest?
I recently went through a bad flare when my father passed away in March. My body blew up with Psoriasis and I’ll be honest – I was really upset about it. I couldn’t believe it returned after being calm for so long. I knew radical self-care was the way through this flare and so I incorporated things like yoga, journaling, healthy diet, water, sleep and talk therapy into my routine. I took more moments for myself than usual, my flare was my priority. Three months later, my skin is a great place and I continue to care for myself!
So, my advice for anyone flaring is to remember this flare is TEMPORARY. Bring some kindness to your flare and try your best to do things that make you feel good.