"This condition is not your entire existence."

Hannah Thompson
Chapter 1
Enough Already

In 2010, during my freshman year at college, I started using Accutane for my acne. In the midst of that treatment I developed some psoriasis plaques on my skin. It definitely weirded me out, because I wasn't sure what it was. I've always had sensitive skin, so I figured it was just drier than normal for some reason. It wasn't until the beginning of 2011 that I was diagnosed with psoriasis. I wouldn't say that it was terribly scary as much as it was embarrassing and, above all, annoying. Here I was, just starting college and meeting all of these new people, and not only am I dealing with acne and Accutane -- which is a really intense medicine, by the way -- but now I'm diagnosed with yet another skin issue? I mean, come on.

Chapter 2
The Long Journey

Fortunately, ever since the diagnosis my psoriasis flare-ups have never been too severe, or I've always been able to cover them up with clothing. Honestly, the primary discomfort that I have to deal with usually involves the psoriasis on my scalp. That's a major annoyance. I do have some other areas on my body that are prone to getting patches, but I have to pay more attention to my scalp.

It's been a pretty long journey. I've tried probably 10 or 15 different combinations of shampoos, oils, topical lotions, steroid creams, and other treatments, and with that many options, of course, the number of possible combinations is enormous. Not to mention the various strengths or potencies of the steroid creams alone. So far I've never really found any combination of oils, creams, and shampoos that has worked for me -- or had any lasting effect at all, really. I'm constantly, constantly monitoring it myself.

Chapter 3
The Big Brush-Off

I just started my first post-college job last November, and I remember that when I finally got hired, the stress of going into this new environment and really wanting to do well brought on a few flare-ups. It does make you step back and say to yourself, "Okay, do I need to be this stressed right now? How can I get this under control?" So you kind of step back, and look at what's happening in your life as a whole, and you try to remember that this condition is not your entire existence.

You need to include other things in your life in order to relax. That sort of control over your physical and emotional well-being is just as important as working full-time. I do go to the gym as often as I can, and that usually helps quite a bit.

Then again, stress can come from anywhere. For example, you might not be able to see the psoriasis on my scalp, but if you look at my clothes, you'll see the flakes. I don't go a day without someone -- from strangers to my good friends, who know about my condition -- pointing out that I should brush off my shirt, or suggesting that maybe I should not wear dark colors so often.

And I get it, because if you see something on someone's shirt, you might make a comment without really thinking about it. I know I've done that myself in the past. But when you hear it over and over, sometimes several times in a single day, it can chip away at you, little by little.

Chapter 4
Knowledge Is Power

It's a cliché, of course, but you really do have to take it day by day. Do your own research, but balance that by really speaking with your doctors to get an understanding of what you're dealing with. You know, there's nothing worse than the fear of the unknown, so for anyone who gets diagnosed with a chronic illness like this, you definitely want to know what your disease is about. You want to know what can happen to you, but remember that every single patient is different, that you're more than just your disease, and psoriasis doesn't have to define you, or confine you.

All of us are capable of much more than we think we are, and in my experience we can handle anything with support from family and friends. Giving up hope isn't really an option.