Building Resilience on My Journey With Plaque Psoriasis
I couldn’t possibly understand as a 9-year-old child the impact my moderate to severe plaque psoriasis diagnosis would have on my life. My father took me to the dermatologist soon after rashes broke out on my skin. He later told me the dermatologist said that he was sorry that he had to give that diagnosis.
Through those childhood and teen years, I learned that having plaque psoriasis would mean more than physical discomfort. I also faced a barrage of bullying, teasing, and questioning stares that came with having a visible skin condition.
Forty-plus years later, I am still living with plaque psoriasis. If I could send a message across time to my 9-year-old self, I would let him know it’s going to be hard. More difficult times are coming. You will need to be brave and resilient. And you will need the support of others to face everything life and plaque psoriasis will throw at you.
Opening Up About Plaque Psoriasis
I hit a low point with my plaque psoriasis when I began attending the University of California, Davis. That’s when I moved out and lived away from home for the first time. I had trouble making friends growing up because of my plaque psoriasis so my underdeveloped social skills made it difficult for me to get to know students in the dorms. As a result, I wasn’t close to my roommate, and I ate by myself in the dining commons. Withdrawn and isolated, I fell into depression.
At the invitation of a floor mate in the dorm, I reluctantly visited a campus Christian group that met down the hall from my room. For much of that school year, I attended the group’s activities but rarely spoke. A kind student leader of the group began to chat with me outside of meetings to check-in.
I shared openly for the first time about my experience living with plaque psoriasis during one of our conversations. Emotional healing from my childhood and teen years started during our time together. His help gave me a needed break from the stress of school and managing my health.
In the fall of my fourth year, I met my roommate’s friend, Lori. She and I connected immediately through sharing our health journeys and faith.
Coming Out of Hiding
Lori didn’t have plaque psoriasis, but could understand living with a lifelong health condition having been born with spina bifida. The nerve damage that resulted impacts her leg function. Lori can walk today because of a surgical procedure done hours after her birth.
One of Lori’s first memories after we met is of me wearing long sleeves and pants in hundred-degree weather. She didn’t understand how I covered my plaque psoriasis at all costs to avoid stares or comments from bystanders. When the topic came up, I appreciated how she didn’t judge me or say anything rude or disparaging.
Her compassion and acceptance provided me a safe place to talk about sensitive topics like showing my plaque psoriasis in public. The more confidence I gained through her and the campus group’s support, the more open I became to wearing clothing that showed my plaque psoriasis. I opened up about my plaque psoriasis to more people as well.
Lori and I married less than two years after we graduated from college.
A Broken Spirit
Lori hadn’t seen when plaque psoriasis covered my skin in those early college years. But a few years into our marriage it worsened again to a place where my skin became covered in thick, painful plaques that often bled when I scratched them. She mentioned that she didn’t know until that time how much worse it could get.
In fact, that instance broke my spirit. I contemplated quitting my job and became withdrawn once again. My dermatologist referred me to a university health system psoriasis clinic for a second opinion. Lori drove me over an hour to the clinic as I didn’t feel up to fighting San Francisco traffic.
Lori and I will never forget how I broke down in tears as I plead for help from the world-renowned dermatologist. His gentle and reassuring bedside manner calmed my nerves and gave me hope again. My family supported me too.
Around that time my parents graciously offered to have my daughter and me join them on a two-week cruise. Lori agreed to take care of our two preschoolers at home. The cruise provided the break I needed to start rebuilding my life.
Don’t Give Up
I’ve heard a person is strongest in the broken places. Although plaque psoriasis broke my will and spirit at different times in my life, it made me more compassionate to others’ suffering and resilient in my own.
My mantra with plaque psoriasis is “Don’t Give Up!” As a runner, I know what it’s like to want to stop in the middle of a long, tough race. Pushing through those moments takes perseverance and determination. Running also taught me the power of not going it alone. My friends, family, and Lori, along with my faith, give me the courage I need to face the uncertainty that living with plaque psoriasis brings.
When you’re feeling the lowest, confused, or hopeless, know that you aren’t the only one. Have the courage to step out and draw close to those who can support you in your journey. Down the road, you’ll be able to look at and see how far you’ve come.