I’ve been mulling this blog post around in my head for quite a long time but an article about one woman’s experiences of psoriasis I read in the Daily Mail online, highlighted by fellow psoriasis blogger Jessica (@jessnpsoriasis) had spurred me on to actually write it.
In the article the woman talked about her sense of despair and desire to unzip her skin. I think we can all sympathise with that feeling. I know when my psoriasis has been at its worst, looking in the mirror can be a very upsetting experience.
I recently joined my local gym having moved to a new area of London almost a year ago. My psoriasis isn’t awful at the moment but it’s certainly not in remission. I still have it on my arms, legs, torso, scalp, back and face. On the whole though, this doesn’t occupy my thoughts that much.
However, on my first day changing at the gym I very suddenly felt extremely self-conscious. I was in the women’s changing room, surrounded by complete strangers, not people who cared about me and knew what was wrong with my skin. My mind started running scenes through my head of how I would react if someone pointed out the red spots, or suggested that there was something wrong with me and I shouldn’t be allowed in a communal changing room. I then started imagining the staff asking me what was wrong with me, having to explain and being asked to leave. None of this actually happened of course, but I shocked myself with my own insecurity and what I can only explain as a sense of shame about my skin.
Judging by the comments under the Daily Mail article and discussions I had on Twitter with other psoriasis sufferers, shame and psoriasis seems to be something more universal than I thought.
There actually seems to even be a link in literature. A few years ago I read the book “The Crimson Petal and The White” by Michel Faber. It’s a modern day novel set and written in the style of the Victorians. The book tracks the ascent of the main character, a young prostitute called Sugar. What was so striking is that the author gave Sugar psoriasis. He clearly knew something about it as he writes in details like hot bathes making it worse. I’m no English Literature expert but many have linked his use of psoriasis as being a physical manifestation of the shame and corruption of her work as a prostitute. It’s an interesting literary tool but was quite surprising to me as a reader. It also, sadly, serves to reinforce the idea that there is something shameful and dirty about psoriasis.
The Daily Mail article quotes, but does not reference, a statistic about 150 suicides a year being linked to psoriasis. I must say I found this statistic extremely shocking and I dearly hope, inaccurate. Shame can be a powerful emotion.
If you are reading this and feel shame or despair please talk to someone you care about and your GP. There are treatments available to help psoriasis.
No one should feel shame about psoriasis. It’s not your fault you have it. It’s not dirty. It’s an autoimmune disease that can affect the skin. The more we all understand what it is the more we can feel empowered to cast aside any sense of shame or despair. It’s not just your skin that makes you beautiful.