When I was eight years old, the school nurse sent a letter home saying she thought I had ringworm. My parents took me to the pediatrician expecting a simple solution. Just one tube of anti-fungal cream, and the little red patches on my legs would be gone in a week or two. As it turns out, it wasn’t that simple. I didn’t have ringworm after all. A trip to a dermatologist confirmed that I actually had psoriasis.
I’ve been wrestling with my skin ever since.
There are multiple kinds of psoriasis, but the kind I have is called plaque psoriasis. It’s the most common type.
Psoriasis is caused by the immune system, but it shows up as a skin disorder. Essentially, my skin cells reproduce at a highly accelerated rate, which doesn’t allow them to shed properly. This creates red, scaly, flaky patches called plaques. Sometimes they itch, and sometimes they hurt. Because it’s an autoimmune disorder, it can be hard to treat. It’s not as easy as using some lotion or exfoliating. My skin shows the symptoms, but psoriasis is a much more complicated problem.
It’s not contagious, and it’s not a result of anything I did or didn’t do. I can’t use any kind of simple at-home process to eliminate or reduce it, and I can’t cure it with my diet or a home remedy. It’s not a rash, and no, Karen, a paste of turmeric and essential oils won’t give me clear skin, but thanks for the unsolicited advice. This “rash” comes from the inside, and it’s an absolute beast.
To be fair, as far as psoriasis goes, my case is nowhere close to the worst. Some of the other types of psoriasis can be debilitating or even dangerous. Arthritis accompanies psoriasis for some people, and there are types that can even strain a person’s heart. I am grateful for my mostly pain-free life and the fact that my skin doesn’t put me in danger.
But it still really sucks.
It’s not curable, but the good news is, it’s somewhat treatable. Many of us will never clear up completely, but a lot of people have good results with biologics. I am on one of those right now. Biologics are injectable drugs that affect the immune response that causes psoriasis. I give myself two injections once a month. I have noticed some improvement. The medicine has totally cleared up my face and ears. The spots on my chest have improved. I still have patches on my arms, legs, scalp and stomach, but most of the ones on my arms have faded to light pink. My legs have lost most of the scaly appearance, and are now just bright red. But a few of the patches in each area remain as they were before — red, scaly, itchy and uncomfortable. I don’t know if it will ever clear up all the way.
For me, the physical part of psoriasis is manageable. As long as I work with a dermatologist and use a nice, thick, high quality moisturizer a few times a day, I can stave off most of the itching and pain. I try to gently exfoliate a few times a week, so I don’t flake too badly. I have learned how to live in physical comfort with my scaly skin.
For me, the worst part of psoriasis is how hard it is to feel beautiful when my skin — my largest organ — is covered in red, flaky plaques.
I get really frustrated with myself when I let psoriasis stand in the way of my total confidence.
I am fat, and I always have been. People expect me to be sensitive about my body, but I’m not self-conscious of my size. It took me years to get comfortable with my size and shape, but I did that work. I no longer care what people think then they see me in the world, even in a bathing suit. I’m not ashamed of the space I take up. Don’t like the look of fat people? Don’t look at me. I don’t have time for your body shaming BS. I have shit to do.
Plus, I’m in incredible company. I can open Instagram any time and see thousands of photos gorgeous women in bodies the size of mine, living adventurous lives, wearing what they want, and giving no shits about anyone’s opinion. Finding confidence as a fat woman was a path I didn’t walk alone.
You’d think I could apply the same confidence and screw you attitude to psoriasis, but it’s SO damn hard. I never relate to people who say they are “comfortable in their own skin.” I am comfortable with the size and shape of my body, but I am absolutely not always comfortable in my skin.
When I see a gorgeous model with a toned body and perky boobs, I’m not jealous of her shape. I’m jealous of her skin, smooth and glowing. Last summer, I wore a bikini top for the first time on vacation with a few of my plus-size friends. I felt amazing until I saw one of my friends wading through the water toward me with her beautiful, perfect skin reflecting the sunlight. In that moment, my confidence plummeted. I was so envious of her gorgeous skin, even though I knew she wasn’t judging mine. Her even, smooth skin felt like an unattainable dream to me. It was hard to be reminded of that poolside while my red, spotty stomach was on full display for the first time.
I’ll keep working on it. I actively choose not to cover my plaques, just like I actively choose not to hide my body in shame. It’s not my choice to have psoriasis, and it’s not easily changed, so I don’t let it force me into long sleeves or pants. I try so hard not to let it hold me back.
But I think about it A LOT. I can’t imagine a world where I’m not really, really self-conscious about my skin. It’s an insecurity I just can’t easily shake.
I know nobody else is analyzing my skin as hard as I am. Honestly, nobody has ever said anything intentionally rude to me about my skin. Most people who mention it are genuinely concerned about whether I’m in pain.
But this isn’t about other people; insecure is just how my imperfect skin makes me feel.
I know I’m not alone. There are millions of other people that share my skin disorder. Even people who don’t have psoriasis can relate to feeling different or less. It’s part of being human.
I cross my fingers that someday I’ll be able to totally clear up my psoriasis with medicine and treatment. I still dream of having beautiful, glistening skin. Until then, I’ll be out here just trying to live my best life with the skin I have.
I haven’t let my fat body stop me, and I won’t let my skin disorder stop me, either.
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