Let's talk about psoriasis

I’ve always been an anxious and stress-prone person. I used to get really bad stomach pains every morning before school (intermediate and high school) because I was so nervous about what the day would bring. I’d be fine during school holidays and then as soon as the first day back would roll around my stomach would cramp up and I’d be up at ungodly hours thinking I was going to be sick — and it was all in my head.

Well, I think I’ve nearly completely grown out of that — I still get the odd anxious stomach upset for big days at work or auditions — but, instead, something I’ve been battling for the last several years (since I was diagnosed with Glandular Fever in high school) is a little thing known as psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a skin condition that, according to DermNet NZ, affects 2–4% of males and females. And they say it tends to be something that sticks with you for life, and often comes and goes in different severities. It’s an immune-mediated inflammatory disease and often appears as red patches on the skin, with often flaky skin (because the skin cells overproduce in these areas). OK, enough doctoresque information — that’s not my specialty.

What I want to talk about is how it’s affected me, and how I deal with it.

I know that my psoriasis is a pure stress-related infliction. When I get particularly stressed out, the skin on my forehead, my neck, my hairline, and my back just goes absolutely mental. It can go from one little spot on my neck (which is always really tricky to explain — so please stop assuming I have constant hickies, because that’s not it) to a full on episode in the matter of a day. I’ve tried remedy upon remedy, and, as there is no cure for psoriasis, I just have to keep chopping and changing between medications to see which one it wants to respond to during a specific episode.

I’ll give you a hint — if you’re going to open your mouth and tell me I have a rash, I’m probably not going to be entirely happy about it. As I’m getting older I’m starting to deal with my insecurities in a bit more of a blunt way. If I think my work is being criticised, I’ll get on the defensive. If someone tells me I’ve got a rash on my face, I probably won’t respond too pleasantly. I used to fob it off as an allergic reaction to a shampoo, or something like that — just something that didn’t make me sound weak or someone that fell down at just a small bit of stress. Because that’s not me — I can take a hell of a lot, and I can produce some incredible things when I am filled with adrenaline and super rushed off my feet — it’s just my body’s reaction to being overworked and stretched a bit further than I probably should stretch myself. I’ve never understood why people point out people’s flaws anyway — like if someone’s made the effort to come out and see you, or go to work on a day where they may be feeling pretty vulnerable — shut your damn mouth.

Yes, I have thought about slowing down and getting a job where I don’t need to work to strict deadlines, may they be daily, weekly, or monthly. But I don’t want it to impact my quality of life — I love my job, and I love the career path it’s leading me on, and I don’t want to throw that away because of a skin condition. Instead I’ll wear my hair down on the days that it’s really bad so that it stays fairly covered — I may just be a little bit more introverted on the days that I feel particularly sore and uncomfortable, but I’ll get on with my life — because it doesn’t change who I am or what I can do.