How to Manage Being a Teen with Psoriasis
Last updated: April 2019
Thus far, I have experienced psoriasis in every stage of life from adolescence to adulthood. I would say the hardest time to date was my years of being a teenager with psoriasis. Before the age of 12 society ideas of beauty hadn’t really set in, it was almost as if I was ignorant to them at that time. With me being covered in psoriasis from head to toe people couldn’t miss that I had the disease, they didn’t know what it was, but they knew something wasn’t right.
Challenges of being a teen with psoriasis
I remember being in the 5th-grade swimming class where my classmates inquired about my disease. I would lie and say it was eczema, but at that time I didn’t think I had to cover up. It was just a “thing” I had to deal with, that is until middle school. The 6th grade is when looks became the focal point of everyday life. That’s when I realized the state of my skin was not acceptable in social standards. That’s when I began covering up, hiding, and living in fear of what others would think about my disease. This is a lot of pressure for a 12-year-old child and as time went on, things didn’t get better but worse. I internalized a lot. There was a lot my family didn’t know I was going through. I didn’t bother to tell them because I figured I could get through it alone, and honestly, they didn’t bother to ask. Not because they didn’t care, but because they didn’t know to question.
Managing the emotional toll of psoriasis
Back then I dealt with depression which included anxiety and panic attacks. I also lacked self-esteem and confidence. It’s already hard to be a teen and go through puberty, but when you throw in a chronic illness things become a lot more challenging. Although I’ve never attempted suicide there were times I definitely thought about it. I was truly suffering from the mental destruction of this disease and no one knew. I hide my hurt well. I was a fun, outgoing, goofy teen but when I was alone negative thoughts plagued my mind.
What I've learned mentoring a teen with psoriasis
15 years later and I’m currently mentoring a young lady with psoriasis who is 13 years old. It’s honestly one of the most challenging things I’ve done. She cries out to me about her issues with psoriasis, how she feels less than, how she feels like no one likes her. She shares with me the struggles of surviving with this disease in school while attempting a social life. She tells me things she is afraid to tell her parents. I try to give her words of encouragement, but honestly, I can tell she feels hopeless and that kills me inside. I was her once. I know exactly how she is feeling. Sometimes as I talk to her it feels as though I am talking to my 13-year-old self. I tell her things will get better, I’ve been there, just be patient. I attempt to give her ways to hope. But the truth is as a teenager, you can only see the NOW, you can only address how you feel in the moment, it’s hard to see past the current hurt and pain and honestly as a woman who was once a teen with this disease, I know it feels as though it will never end. This is life with psoriasis as a teenager, it’s hard.
Tips for coping with psoriasis as a teenager
- Find a trusted adult to talk to: Talking to someone your age is natural, but the person you are talking to probably doesn’t have any more insight than you. It’s good to have an adult you can speak with because they have been where you currently are. They can give you coping tools that your friends can not. If you aren’t comfortable with this being a parent find someone at school to talk to or check out the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Mentoring program.
- Find a safe buddy: This is a friend you can refer to when you are feeling overwhelmed and need comfort. This is a person you trust to reveal when you are hurting and their job is to comfort you.
- Find ways to do what you desire: I let psoriasis stop me from playing sports, modeling, and so much more. Don’t let psoriasis stop you. Find ways to do the things you love most but remain comfortable. If you want to play sports but don’t want to wear the uniform, pair it up with a long sleeve work out top and exercise pants. If you want to do swimming find a long sleeve and pants wetsuit, they are out there. If you want to model do it! The designers can provide outfits that contain long sleeves and pants. The possibilities are endless!
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