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What I Learned at a Naked Sauna with Psoriasis

I did not set out to spend a day naked in a public place. As most of us with psoriasis don’t.

I asked for a very low key meet up with friends for my ‘Hen Party,’ which is how a small group of 5 ended up in the City of Groningen in the Netherlands. We planned to have a night out in the city followed by a day at the local spa.

Yes. The local spa had a naked section. What I affectionally refer to as the naked sauna. If you live in the Netherlands or any of the surrounding countries you refer to it simply as a sauna. Because why would you wear clothes?

I got naked

As a typical British person, I would describe myself as characteristically prudish. I have never actually been naked in public before, outside of my bedroom. Even in communal changing rooms, I’m there scuffling with a towel while I try to put on a sock one-handed.

In this very peculiar place, I find myself swiping my electronic wristband against a beige keypad, which opens a sliding door. I feel like I am entering the starship enterprise; I find myself in a brave new world. In movies, people transported to a different world find themselves in an idyllic place, with waterfalls and beautiful people luxuriating in waist-high water. In the real world there is water, and even waterfalls; but nothing is covered, and there is no perfection in sight.

I didn’t know where to look, but it certainly isn’t downwards (which one man overcame, but I will tell you that part of the story later).

I notice that by standing there with my costume on, I am attracting unwanted attention. Counter-intuitively, if I want to blend in and not be noticed- I have to take off my robe.

Naked with friends?

I thought it would be weird sitting in a sauna with my friends, naked. Oddly it felt totally normal. These are people with whom I have navigated emotional crises, physical trauma, and drunken vomiting. It strikes me that it is more unusual to think that I would expect to feel exposed.

Should a naked sauna have a window?

There is a strange moment when you find yourself naked, in a room full of other naked people, as you all relax in this incredibly serene environment, to then look up and acknowledge that the entire wall (did I say window? that seems an understatement) is made from glass. As we sit there naked, we are visible to people walking around outside. Some of whom are also naked.

I would be lying if I said I am at peace- I freak out a bit and go for a cup of tea with my robe on.

My brain and my soul have a little chat. My skin is very obvious in the sauna because it is hot- bringing the blood to the surface brings all of the redness. Yet- no one has said a thing. No one has even noticed! So I take a deep breath and go back.

The moment that changed everything

I sit back on the seat (at the back in the corner), and as I relax I notice a woman sitting next to the window. I am absorbed by her in her entirety. At this moment she is the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. The warm glow of the setting sun is lighting up her face, and she is so serene. If I were a painter, she would be my muse.

I’m not a painter though, and I sit back surprised (I don’t usually look at the female body with such admiration). I look at her again, this time with a curious eye, I stare at the feet and as I run up her legs I notice she has a purple thread of varicose veins, she looks like she enjoys food, with soft rolls of fat around her middle as she leaned forwards. Her breasts are far from perfect, and she has excess fat along her arm. And still, I find her beautiful.

I realize at that moment that my biggest enemy is myself. My entire perception about my body has shifted. I can see what others see. When I am afraid, my husband won’t find me attractive because I have put on weight, or my plaques are joining together on my abdomen to form the state of Texas, I now realize I am wrong. That my husband is telling the truth when he said he doesn’t notice. All of my boyfriends said the same thing- and I thought they were all LIARS. How could they not notice! Do they not have eyes!? I saw that day what other people see when they look at me.

I am a whole person. I am not the sum of my spots

You are a whole person too, and I know that it’s hard when it’s you. When you’re having those moments of doubt, just think about your partner or your best friend. Do you notice when they get a few spots? Or change their fringe? No- because you see them for them. The other bits don’t matter. Don’t let them matter to you: You are beautiful. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

P.S.- You want to know about the man that made me look down? Jangly bells on his shoes. Sneaky.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.