How to Talk to Someone with Psoriasis

I have had enough awkward conversations to know that sometimes people are uncomfortable talking to me because of my psoriasis. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. I look different, and they may be feeling a variety of things: sympathy, fear, uncomfortable, compassionate. But, would you talk or stare at someone with acne or a brown tooth? Probably not, depending on your age. I had the horrific pleasure of teaching my son we don’t make comments about appearances after he asked a Target employee why she had a dead tooth. So here are a few tips that I would give to anyone who is engaging with a fellow psoriatic.

Ask them how they are

Yep. Easy as that. Just like people without the disease, I have good days and bad. Sometimes it is tied to the condition of my skin, but other times it is just due to either positive or negative experiences with my coworkers, kids, finances, relationships, or all of the above (best just not to talk to me if it is all of the above!) Many mental health issues such as depression and anxiety go hand and hand with this disease, so a simple “how ya doin’” can be surprisingly meaningful.

Maintain eye contact

Don’t stare into my eyes like I am a long lost lover, but also remember that my eyes are up on my head. Too many times to count I have had a conversation with someone and the entire time they were scanning my skin. Sometimes I would just pretend they were trying to find familiar shapes—like kids do with clouds—to make it feel not so weird. But it is weird. It’s weird to talk to someone while they are locked onto your arm, leg, or neck. I’m not a piece of meat! This is not the zoo!

Don’t talk to them

Ok—I am just kidding! I was making sure you were still reading.

Talk about ANYTHING…

Other than my skin. Even if it is a comment like “Whoa! You skin looks amazing!” Yes, that is a very nice compliment, but all I can think of is that it must have looked the opposite of amazing before. I’m already constantly dreading the real possibility of my skin symptoms coming back and don’t want to be reminded of how awful it was before. On the flip side, a comment like “Eek. Man. Your skin looks like it hurts today” can also be misconstrued. My logical brain knows that you are trying to convey your sympathy, but unfortunately all that does is make me self-conscious. I probably left the house that day worried about my skin drawing attention, and that small sentence that is meant to be concerned is now confirming my fear.

Forgo the game of 20 questions

That game hasn’t been fun since like 2002. I will save you the time and just answer your most common questions here:

I’m not trying to be a jerk here. I love to raise awareness and educate about my disease! But I want people to remember that I am more than this condition. I like to talk about sports, movies (mainly of the horror or superhero variety), and my kids too. No one likes to be one dimensional.

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