Many, many years ago, years before I was around, a product was advertised to deal with psoriasis, or as the advertisement said, “the heartbreak of psoriasis.” That brings me to the 2000s and my own “heartbreak.” As the name implies, my disease of psoriatic arthritis involves not only arthritis but also psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an auto-immune related skin condition. It’s marked by rashes or patches of white, silvery, or red skin. It’s itchy, uncomfortable, and unattractive. Some people with psoriatic arthritis get arthritis first and psoriasis later. Some get little to no skin involvement. Me, I’m an overachiever. I started off with plenty of skin involvement. My psoriasis was, let’s say, prevalent. I had scales on my calves, knees, a few on my thighs, back, sides, forearm, elbows, scalp, and my face.

Yes, I had psoriasis on my hairline, forehead, eyebrows, cheeks, and across the bridge of my nose. I wasn’t pleasant to see, feel, or have. At times, I felt like one of the lepers Jesus met and would have gone to a dirty river to bathe if it had given me any sort of relief. As unpleasant as it was, I didn’t fully hide. I still went to work, and I still went to church, and I still hung out with my closest of friends.

I didn’t feel like putting myself too much out there though because, well, because I had a mirror. I don’t have many pictures of me during this period of my life. I didn’t like the way I looked, I didn’t like the way I felt, I didn’t like the way I was. I felt like some scaly alien being who had pain when moving. This should not be a normal life for someone in their late 20s.

Sometimes, my psoriasis decided to flare up on me. One such flare-up sticks out very vividly in my mind. My flare-ups could happen for unknown reasons. My skin could get sensitive and react, or I could get stressed and react. This happened on a Sunday morning. I woke up and my face was much redder and irritated than usual. It was extremely evident. Normally, I didn’t let my skin condition stop me from doing my normal activities. This day, I wanted to get back in bed and hide. I couldn’t do that though. It was Sunday, it was church day, and guess which rosy-faced Baptist had the solo in choir? Yep, so I went and felt like every single eye was on me that whole morning.

Usually I could try to block out the all-eyes-on-me feeling I had with my psoriasis. That day, I couldn’t. All those years of trying not to care evaporated in a morning. I had moments throughout those few years when I felt way too seen. My dad would sometimes ask why a doctor couldn’t do anything about that stuff on my face, and meant well, but Mama could see how it upset me having to talk about it. I guess a mother knows.

I came to appreciate soft clothing during this time as well. No matter what creams, ointments, salves, and balms I would try, my skin still felt irritated. To try to combat this, I would do a weekly tub soak and scrub to try to help get rid of some of my scaliness. This moderate to severe psoriasis, however, was key to me getting approved quicker for my second medication. Since my skin was so involved, my doctor used that to get me approved quicker with insurance. Also, I was able to get a loading dose of that medication. That just means a higher dosage at the beginning to give it a jump start. It was a successful jump start.

I was also doing light therapy at the dermatologist office during this. That consists of me standing in a version of a tanning bed, but with the right kind of UV light.  Because my face was clearing quicker, and because the skin there was more sensitive, eventually I had to cover my face during this therapy. That was solved by putting a pillowcase over my head during therapy. It all felt very bizarre, but I decided to trust the process. Within a few weeks, my scales started to fade, especially on my face. It had been more than 5 years since I had clear skin, so joy is putting it mildly.

I’m not fully done with psoriasis. I have very faint pink reminders on my skin of where my scales used to be, and it does come back from time to time. But it hasn’t come back as severely as before, nor for as long. While the arthritis is a very real and painful part of psoriatic arthritis, the psoriasis was very real and painful as well, in more ways than one.


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