BN Skin Deep Series is a 3 piece series which aims to provide an intimate account into the lives of people with various skin conditions (Vitiligo, Psoriasis and Albinism). The aim of this series is to create awareness of these conditions and help people both understand and appreciate the realities of living with these skin conditions. The final part on Albinism will be published next week
My name is Glory Edozien and I have a skin condition called Psoriasis. I wasn’t born with it. It just appeared one morning on my skin like a bad rash. At first I thought nothing of it until the rashes started to join together and began forming huge scaly scab-like features on my skin. At one point the itching got so bad, I had to start taking sleeping medication as nothing else could help. I was mortified and scared. This happened when I was 22 years old. Up until then I had perfect skin. Perfect like Joy Girl kind of skin. People would stop me on the road to ask me what cream I used and would be very disappointed when I told them I had no specific skin care routine.
I remember one of my cousins would get so frustrated with me because I never needed to use any kind of foundation. All I needed for a night out was white powder and eye liner and I was set. Today it is a different story. Different because there is hardly any part of my skin that isn’t covered with some form of rash or scar from the aftermath of Psoriasis. The transition from perfect skin to what I am today hasn’t been entirely easy.
What is Psoriasis?
Although not contagious, Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. In other words instead of your skin to shed off dead skin cells in the normal cycle of 28-30days, with Psoriasis patients it takes only 3 to 4 days for skin to mature and instead of falling off (shedding), the cells pile up on the surface of the skin, forming psoriasis lesions.
As with many skin disorders, the direct cause of Psoriasis isn’t known. However Scientists believe that people inherit the genes which create a predisposition to psoriasis, but not everyone who inherits the gene is likely to develop the disease. Researchers also believe that for a person to develop psoriasis, the individual must have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to specific external factors known as “triggers.” These triggers can be anything from stress, injury to skin, certain forms of medication and infections.
Types of Psoriasis
There are five types of psoriasis:
Other forms of Psoriasis include inverse, pustular and erythrodermic.
The most common form, plaque psoriasis, appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells, (scale). Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.
As well as the typical skin forms of Psoriasis I also have scalp psoriasis. This I’ve had from quite a young age but I always thought it was severe dandruff. No matter how many times I washed my hair, it would be full of dandruff in only a matter of days. I remember my parents being so frustrated, they chopped off all my hair hoping that the time between the old and new hair growth would give my scalp time to breathe, thus eliminating the dandruff. They were wrong. The flakes grew as each inch of my hair grew back.
The sad part was when ever people saw me they thought “why is this girl so dirty, “can’t she wash her hair”. I got tired of explaining that I had only come out of the salon 3 days ago. One time when I was in secondary school, all my class mates concluded that I must have some sort of fungus growing on my scalp. So they would carry their mattresses outside to sun dry it, if I ever sat on their beds or get very angry if I as much as touched their belongings. Today I look back at it all with a smile. I am not angry. If anything those experiences made me the woman I am today. Strong and confident. Besides, we were all kids back then acting out of ignorance.
Living with Psoriasis
I think for me the hardest part of it all was coping with the self esteem. People staring at you all the time or not wanting to sit near you for fear of ‘catching’ anything, it was really quite difficult. Even having a simple sleepover at a friend’s house could keep me awake for days. I would keep on thinking how would I explain to them about my skin, hoping they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Even having a boyfriend was an issue. Because I felt no guy would ever want to date someone with this kind of disorder. But I don’t bother myself with all that heartache now.
Another hard part is the amount of drugs and creams one has to try. With Psoriasis there isn’t any known cure (yet) and what works for one patient might not work for another. So you have to find out what therapy works best to control the skin replication process. Sometimes I feel especially sad for my dear mother. The amount of traditional/home made remedies she has had to buy for me. At one point I had to tell her to stop. I started feeling like a lab rat going through various drug trials. Today I have found a drug/cream regime that helps me manage the condition effectively. However, people still stop me on the road to tell me of some miracle cream that can ‘cure’ me. I just smile and say ‘thank you’.
Today I am who I am and I am unbelievably happy in my own skin. I know God does not give us more than we can bear. For some reason, He knows I can handle this particular trial. Without a doubt, this skin disorder has made me learn the hard way how to grow, through much difficulty, into a confident woman. I know who I am and I love myself without reserve. No one on this planet can make me feel less of myself without my permission and they do not have that permission! I realized that people only got uncomfortable around me when I was uncomfortable with myself. Today, if I see some staring and they approach me, I’ll explain to them so they feel comfortable. It really does not affect me anymore.
However, I have realized that there is a downside to my self belief. While being confident is very necessary, it also leads to a place of acceptance where I am unwilling to try new remedies or go for the various healing meeting I have been invited for. I find myself praying more for the health needs of others and I had to make a mental note the other day to pray more for my own healing.
I think my self confidence even grew more when I learnt that runway model Alek Wek also suffered from psoriasis. I remember reading once, how her mother would scrape off the lesions on her skin with a knife and she would bleed. Even America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 7 winner CariDee has also revealed her ongoing battle with Psoriasis. So I know I am not alone in my battle, if these women could overcome, why should I hide underneath baggy cloths for the rest of my life? It also doesn’t hurt having a wonderful family. Without doubt my parents, cousins, uncles, aunties and friends have showered me with so much love and strength it is impossible to feel sorry for myself.
My advice to anyone suffering from psoriasis or anything else that affects their self confidence is simple. If whatever is affecting your self confidence can be changed, then do something about it. If it can’t, then begin to dig deeper into your personality and find strength in who you are and who God has called you to be. With time you will find your inner beauty blossom and that is what will draw people to you. Trust me, it works!
Photo Credit: www.psoriasis.org