I was diagnosed with severe plaque psoriasis 17 years ago at the age of 13. At its worse, my disease covered 85% of my body with thick, itchy plaques that would crack and bleed. It feels like chapped lips, but all over my body. The pain from my open wounds and the constant itching sensation would keep me up all hours of the night.
Psoriasis has also impacted me at a psychological and emotional level. I have suffered years of embarrassment caused by an endless trail of skin flakes and disgusted stares. I was even asked by a family member to not come over to their house because they would have to spend hours cleaning up my skin sheddings after I left.
I am thankful that I was able to find a woman that wasn’t bothered by my condition, but the symptoms have still impacted my family life. Intimacy with my wife has been altered. When I take my kids to the park or a restaurant, other kids’ parents think I have a contagious disease and keep away from me. Going to the public pool was out of the question. Not only was I treated like a leper, but the chlorine would feel like acid on my skin. On our family trip to California, I was uncomfortable and sweating the entire time because I felt I had to wear long sleeves and pants to cover my lesions.
As you can imagine, all of this has caused my self-confidence to take a big hit. Because of that, my work life has suffered as well. I have only had minimum wage labor jobs my whole working life. It was impossible to hide my skin in interviews, and I always worried it would disqualify me for any job that was in the public eye or in a professional setting. As you can imagine, blue collar jobs paying minimum wage do not offer the best insurance. I have had to fight my insurance for every medication my doctor has recommended. Topicals are the least expensive, but when your body is 85% covered in thick plaques, it takes a whole tube just to get one coat of medication on. Biologic medications are the first treatments that have actually provided me with the clear skin I have today.
My psoriasis journey has been filled with ups and downs. I know this is something I will live with the rest of my life, but I will continue to do whatever I can do raise awareness in hopes that one day every person with psoriasis will be able to feel powerful and confident. I let my disease control me for far too long and am now ready to be loud and proud of who I am.