Coming Out the Closet About Psoriasis
In 2011 I decided to “come out the closet” about something I hid for almost two decades. It was something I grew ashamed of - an issue I hated and despised. I would often ask, “Why me?" Why was I chosen to deal with this horrible problem? I tried to ignore it for years, hoping that others would not notice my sorrows; prayed that if somehow I pretended my issues were not there, it would be invisible to the world around me. But no matter how hard I tried to hide it, it just could not be done. It was a part of me and something that I needed to accept in order to have a somewhat normal and fulfilled life.
My itchy, flakey, and painful secret was psoriasis. After a bad case of chicken pox at seven years old, my skin developed a mysterious rash on 90 percent of my body that would not go away. That’s when my grandmother decided to take me to the doctor, who took a look at my skin and determined I had psoriasis. Little did I know, life would never be the same again.
Psoriasis is a non-contagious autoimmune disease caused by an over-reactive immune system which creates skin cells that are not needed. In a normal body, skin cells reproduce within 28 days and then flake away. A person who has psoriasis creates skin cells at an abnormal rate, which does not allow the skin to flake off correctly. My skin cells reproduce approximately nine times faster than they do in someone without psoriasis. Dead skin begins to build on top of one another which creates a crusty, flakey, and itchy rash called psoriasis plaques. Although plaque psoriasis is the most common form, there are five other types of psoriasis one can develop.
Due to psoriasis, my skin sheds, bleeds, cracks, itches horribly, and worst of all, it can be embarrassing. Since my diagnosis, psoriasis has played an intricate part in every aspect of my life. It has honestly been a surreal experience.
I decided to come out about my disease back in 2011 after attending a conference the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) had in Washington, D.C. Prior to the conference I felt alone. I had never met anyone who looked like me or who dealt with the pains of having my disease. But while at the conference - for the first time in my life - I met hundreds who were dealing with psoriasis.
During the conference, the NPF had a workshop on how to get your story out using social media. That’s when the light bulb in my head lit up - I could start my own blog! Initially, my social media efforts were a source of protection. I could tell my story without ever coming in contact with people. But after all the positive feedback I received from my friends and family through my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, I decided that my outreach and advocacy efforts could go far beyond the computer screen.
Life with psoriasis has not been easy. I’ve suffered from a lot of disappointments, hurt, feelings of inadequacy, and low self-esteem, and the list could go on. But psoriasis has also brought moments of great joy to my life. It has given me the opportunity to live for something greater than myself. It has taught me compassion and has changed my opinions on the definition beauty.
My name is Alisha Bridges. I have psoriasis, but it won’t have me!