The Enemy Within

7 Aug 2012

I am in the middle of what is probably the worst flare up I’ve had in ten years. I’m getting little patches of it on my hands and feet which I’ve never had before and my skin makes me resemble a flesh coloured leopard. I’m not feeling very happy about it.

Stress, not psoriasis, is my nemesis. Its subtle and sly, whispering as I try to go to sleep and slips away in the night. As I look at my skin, covered in the bright red patches that are growing larger by the day and more numerous, I know stress is in there somewhere. Stress. A feeling so fleeting yet permanent that its impossible to pin down. Like a Joker, as soon as I think I’ve found it, its behind me laughingly putting more patches on my back. Every flare up I have had always comes at times when I have been most stressed usually because of the pressure I put on myself more than anything else.

“You need to relax”. There is nothing so stressful as consciously trying to relax.

I took a holiday recently and went with the sole aim of relaxing. Walking up hills and along waterfalls that really were beautiful and the fresh air filling my lungs and gently brushing the few bits of skin I dared show to other holiday makers. My thoughts most days were: Do I feel relaxed? I’m scheduled to feel relaxed so I really should. Why isn’t my skin clearing up if I’m relaxed? It’s itchy so its clearly not getting better. Why isn’t it getting better? It’s because I’m not relaxing properly. I need to be better at relaxing. I need to concentrate on feeling relaxed. Why aren’t you capable of relaxing? It’s not that hard. BE RELAXED. NOW.

I’m almost certain my psoriasis got worse that week.

My enemy, Stress, like all the clichés ever written in comic books and thrillers, is really just me. I’m fighting with myself and my skin is a reminder that I’m not winning. I don’t consciously feel stressed but its getting worse so I must be. The vicious circle and the reason it keeps getting worse is that stress brings psoriasis, seeing the psoriasis upsets me and makes me stressed, I consciously try to not be stressed, which makes me feel stressed so the psoriasis continues to get worse.

I’ve had to admit to myself that this isn’t a circle I am likely to break any time soon. Having not had any formal treatment for my psoriasis for nearly a decade I’m being referred to a dermatologist. I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes.



Jennifer White is a public affairs consultant who specialises in health at Lexington Communications. She has had psoriasis her whole life and is keen to share her experiences with others in the hope it might help them feel better about the condition. She regularly tweets on health policy and can be followed @JOCWhite.

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