Slay the Psoriasis Stigma

Psoriasis is a disease that comes with a lot of stigma. The number one thing most everyone with psoriasis has in common is that they have been treated like they are contagious. Okay, I don’t know if that is actually the number one thing, but I think it’s a pretty good guess.

I have avoided pools, playdates, certain restaurants, and basically every summer activity at one point in time or another because I knew I was in a flare and I would be treated like an Untouchable.

Stigmas through the ages

I love history. Love it. I would watch the History Channel all day if I didn’t have to be an adult and take care of responsibilities. I think the reason I like pondering and learning about the past is that it can shine a lot of light on the present. Psoriasis isn’t the first disease to have a stigma attached to it.

Did you know that polio was considered to be a disease only the poor and those living in dirty urban areas got? Until just recent years diabetes was thought of to only affect those who were overweight or didn’t take care of themselves. Those who suffer from HIV/AIDS were ostracized because others thought they could get the disease just from being in proximity to someone who had it.

My hypothesis is that stigmas occur because it makes others have a sense of control and personal safety. If you are a middle-class citizen and believe polio only affects the poor, you can get through your day without worrying.

Make it personal

The problem is that that type of thinking also leads to a lack of compassion and empathy. Holding people at arm’s length because they have a disease doesn’t necessarily protect you, it only breeds separation destroys community.

So how do we get past these stigmas? One important thing to do is be relatable when talking with someone about your disease. Ask if they know anyone with psoriasis. Sometimes I think people see our skin and instinctively repulse because they don’t know us.

If their loved one had the same lesions, they most likely would be tender and concerned. I know I have done this with other things. Once I stop and realize that I am being biased, it is a real paradigm shift.

Be patient

Slaying stigmas takes time. I try not to get too discouraged when my family member who I have explained the disease to a handful of times still offers me some lotion thinking it will cure me.

If we want others to have empathy for us, we also need to display understanding. We know how complex a disease psoriasis is, but we can’t expect others who never have had to live with it to know all the inner-workings and aspects of what we go through right away.

Normalize it

This one is a little tougher. In order to normalize our condition, we need to make it known. I know for me this goes against every natural instinct I have. I spent 15 plus years shrinking away from any mention of my skin, so if you aren’t ready for this—it’s ok. But those of us who are, need to show it off like there is no tomorrow.

Wear shorts, go to the public pool, make honest posts on social media about how your disease affects you, etc. As we talk about and show our disease we will begin to see a ripple effect.

Then, by the next time a person is asked if they know someone with psoriatic disease, they can say yes! It goes full circle.

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