Why You Need a Healthcare Team

Two years ago I decided it was time to try something new. I had been managing my psoriasis well with diet, but it was January, and I thought that instead of spending another year making do with my skin in its current state I would try acupuncture.

Trying something new

Now don't get me wrong, I did not expect this to work. The World Health Organization supports the use of acupuncture for things like neck pain, but there is insufficient evidence available for them to be able to support it as a treatment for psoriasis.1 I read several academic studies which had limited praise for the effectiveness of this treatment modality and somewhere along the line I came across a review that stated after three months there was insufficient progress (I have since tried to find this study but it turns out typing psoriasis + acupuncture + three months into Google is not a very specific search term).

Three months.

This meant I would need more than three months of treatments to make this a worthwhile experiment; the personal financial cost was going to be significant. I set aside £500 for treatment. If this failed, I would at least know for the rest of my days that I tried. I hate that having psoriasis costs so much money but that is another topic entirely.

Trying acupuncture for psoriasis

I visited a few different practitioners before I found the right person. I really do believe that part of the success of any treatment relies on both the competency of the specialist and the relationship dynamic. It took three months, but then I started to see clearing. My general coverage improved but the most striking change was my legs- both thighs cleared entirely. This may not seem like much to some people, but I have had psoriasis on my thighs for 30 years and never have they ever cleared spontaneously without topical, systemic or UV treatment. I was a total convert.

However this article is about a healthcare team, so you are probably waiting for where things go wrong.

They went wrong slowly.

When things started to go wrong

Chinese medicine is about getting all aspects of the body back into balance. I was out of balance in a big way, and I knew it. I was tired all of the time and fed up with my skin. I had got into a bad habit of consuming caffeine to help me function through the day and so of course, I was to remove it, which I did for 9 months (my youngest child was a baby, so this was quite an achievement). The other concern my acupuncturist had was that I was training for a triathlon. The problem with this is that it is depleting. It is what Chinese medicine calls a very Yang activity. A very masculine, active energy. As I was depleted, as almost all chronically ill people are, I needed to nurture myself in calming restorative activities such as yoga. After my skin started clearing, I conceded she was right and dropped the cycling and swimming aspect of my training and retained only 1-2 runs per week.

Making changes to my routines

I was hostile to stop running because I felt like I needed it. It was the only time I could leave my life, my young family and all of those pressures to be free for 45 minutes in nature, and by myself. My practitioner recommended walking, but that stressed me out. I can't get childcare to walk, and I just don't find it satisfying, but I was healing so, in the end I stopped running too. I fell in love with yoga and for the briefest time, all seemed well.

My descent into depression seems a bit of a blur. I don't know if the depression had started earlier and whether removing running had been the last thing tethering me to normality, but I found myself depressed. I stopped seeing my practitioner, stopped taking my supplements and just tried to heal with yoga. My muscle mass dropped, my weight increased. I was tired, lethargic, unmotivated and sad but I did not know why.

Building the team (and rebuilding myself)

I should have told my doctor that I was trying to heal naturally using acupuncture, using him as a touchstone, a central point of reference. Someone who had more perspective than me, someone who has all of the data to join the dots. I know why I did not. It felt like I would be wasting his time, and I knew he would disapprove of my unconventional, evidence poor decision to use acupuncture for psoriasis. Neither of these factors is particularly motivating when it comes to booking a doctors appointment.

When I was too unwell to run I visited my doctor, and he suggested depression, but I thought that was outrageous and left with a diagnosis of post viral fatigue. The same conversation repeated itself 6 months later. It was a year after I first visited my doctor when I finally conceded I may be depressed.

Finding ways to manage both my physical and mental health

Once I accepted I may be depressed a more effective support team was put in place. I opened up and problem solved with my fiancee to address the things I had been struggling with, I confided in a friend so I knew she was there to talk to and to drag me out when I tried to cancel our dates for a coffee. I saw a counselor to help identify if there where mental challenges I had repressed in my 30 years as a psoriatic and I employed the services of a nutritionist because most of our happy hormones are made in the gut.

I am almost back to where I was.

I really do believe in acupuncture if it is not a financial burden, and when I am in a stronger position, I will go back. I also feel I should note that my acupuncturist did notice my decline and referred me to my nutritionist.

What I learned

What I have learned from this, is that it is important to invest time into the relationships we have with our GP or if that is not possible then someone else who can take that central role in our healing journey. It can be a trusted friend, you need someone who can give you feedback on your decisions and who can tell you when things have gone too far. A healthcare team when you have psoriasis is essential because it is a condition that affects so many parts of who you are. Unfortunately, it is our responsibility to make sure that it works, but a good non-judgemental friend is an excellent place to start, as is an honest conversation with your GP.

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

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