I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was 17. I remember thinking, What's that? There was no Google back then, so I couldn't find any information. I was a freshman in college, and all I knew was that it was hard to start at a new school with scaly red patches on my hands, arms, legs, back, and neck.
I had a wonderful friend whom I went to crying one day. He looked at me, knowing full well that I had psoriasis and what it was. He stood up and yelled, “Oh my gosh, you have psoriasis!” and ran down the hallway screaming, which made me laugh. And I thought, Well, there you go. It's not going to get easier, so I need to live with it.
Up until three years ago, I had never interacted with other people with psoriasis, besides my mother. I became a patient advocate because I got tired of whining to myselfmy pity party of one. In 2005, I saw that the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) was sending people to Capitol Hill to push for more research and better treatments. I decided I should go and do something instead of sitting around all day. So I went.
How I handle it when people are rude
In Target the other day, a shorter woman was trying to reach a pack of gum. I asked her if she wanted me to reach it for her. She said, “Oh yes, thank you very much.” So with my hand that has psoriasis on it, I took the pack of gum and set it down in front of her. She looked at my hand, looked at me, and looked at the gum. She sort of smiled meekly, picked up the gum with a piece of clothing, andIm not kidding youhanded the piece of clothing to her friend and swapped out the gum for another pack. I was flabbergasted.
At times like that, Im at a loss for words. Its a hard balance, because you dont want to start an argument. For me, how I react depends on the person and how I'm feeling that day. Sometimes I feel comfortable enough to say to someone, “I have psoriasis,” and then explain the disease. But sometimes I feel better just walking away from it. I don't recommend insulting someone back, though many times I have been tempted to say some pretty awful things.
Ive actually been in and out of therapy since I was diagnosed. Therapy helped me to learn that its OK for me to be unhappy about psoriasis sometimes. I cant beat myself up about it. Youre allowed to have a horrible, bad day, and to want to throw things at the wall, and to be pissed off about it. Its important to have that. If you dont, it can cycle into depression. So go ahead and get pissed, throw things at the wall. Yell at the TV. Get it out of your system, because if you dont, its just going to sit there.