It’s Monday. I’m two weeks into winter break. The first Chronicles of Narnia is on. I’m relaxed, content, and moisturized. Feeling good. This is how my days look now after a hard, but enlightening journey with battling psoriasis.
I first noticed the signs of psoriasis around this time last year, after studying abroad for two months in Hong Kong. At this time, my skin just wasn’t receptive to lotions, it would flare at stressful times, and I just couldn’t bear to feel confident when I was always self-conscious of the dry patches that decorated my skin.
During winter break of my junior year, I made a promise to myself to put me first–as I always should’ve done, but couldn’t find the time to due to piling assignments and getting adjusted to a new culture while in Hong Kong. I started drinking water more. I began to meditate. I invested in oatmeal-based skincare. By the end of winter break, “that weird skin thing” had disappeared. Nothing major, just my childhood eczema coming back to haunt me, right?
My skin took another turn during the summer of this year. I was working an intense summer job, wasn’t really sleeping, and spent many hours on my feet. My skin was constantly inflamed and itchy, it just wouldn’t quit. I decided to ignore it.
Going into the fall quarter of my senior year, I was beginning to realize that I was on a slippery slope for my skin. This past semester was tough, but through it, I discovered alternative medicine techniques. I began going to natural healing stores, such as Earthbound, and investing in products such as hemp lotions and Himalayan Salt Lamps.
All seemed to work for a while, but what I had to realize was the cause of my psoriasis was not the products I was using, it was my mental health. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety in March of this year. I do find it hard to realize in times of intense stress. I love quiet environments. I love having me-time. Yet, this past semester, I’d fallen into my old ways of abandoning my body and letting my anxiety rule the course of my skin–and my life.
By the end of last semester, I’d reached a breaking point. I was tired of being in pain. I was tired of hurting. I wanted to feel like my old self again. I didn’t want to wince in pain, or lose sleep, or not be able to wear my favorite cozy sweaters anymore because of my skin condition.
I wanted to take back myself. I first started my removing myself from stressful situations, and began to explain to those around me that I may have to take breaks every now and again to prevent the psoriasis flares. Then, I started drinking herbal teas, ones with lavender and chamomile.
I invested in creams specifically made for psoriasis skin, now that I knew it was more intense than eczema. (*Three products that changed my life were a St. Ives oatmeal face scrub, a moisturizer called Psoriasin, and Garnier’s Moisture Rescue gel cream.)
I began using these twice a day and saw results that brought my confidence back. The patches had healed. I could wear my old clothes again. I wasn’t losing sleep anymore, due to the sores on my back, because they had gone away.
Besides products, I also began to research psoriasis as a way to self-care. A fraction of my struggle with psoriasis was not knowing what it was. What were this patches? What was the cause of this pain? Why couldn’t wear my clothes without feeling like there was a fire dancing in my body?
I came across the National Psoriasis Foundation, which provided me the tools to gain clarity on my condition. The website supplied everything, from recipes to relaxation techniques for those with psoriasis. It was here that I learned psoriasis has to be treated from the inside out, and it begins with diet.
I replaced my iced Coke with fruit and veggie smoothies. McDonald’s is a faint memory now as I indulge in wholesome meals with protein and fiber.
Along with diet and skincare, I had to develop my own relaxation techniques, engage in meditation, and do more of what made me happy in order to take my mind off the discomfort psoriasis had caused me.
Through relaxation techniques (which for me include jamming to my favorite boyband PRETTYMUCH, watching movies, meditating, and reading), diet, and skin care, I finally feel as if I have the perfect self-care routine for me. I feel like myself again.
No longer do I have to hide behind oversized hoodies or constantly apologize for my flares or leave dinner early with my friends because I just couldn’t cope with the itchiness. If a situation becomes too overwhelming, I now know to stop, breathe, apply my Psoriasin, drink some water, and if I can…exit the stressful situation.
I do often have to remind myself that my psoriasis can be controlled, it doesn’t control me. I have the power to relieve the symptoms, whether mild or severe. No problem or misunderstanding with a friend is worth the delicacy of my skin.
Having psoriasis has taught me the importance of slowing down. Not everything has to be solved today because Rome was not created in one day. Psoriasis, while painful, is something that can be overcome.
Watching my skin improve over the last two weeks has been a rewarding experience, and I’m committed to continuing the journey of healing.
Also published on Medium.