Around 10 years ago or so, when I was in high school, I began noticing dry skin on my elbows. I assumed that it was eczema, which is something I was familiar with because my dad has very bad eczema. I never went to a dermatologist for whatever was causing the dryness on my elbows, because as far as I could tell it wasn't severe enough. In fact, I used my dad's prescription spray on my skin, which worked well enough for a time. I didn't really go for treatment until I had graduated college.
I don't know that I ever got any questions from anyone throughout college about what was on my elbows. I noticed it, of course, but there weren't huge plaques or anything like that. If there had been, I definitely would have gotten it checked out. But it really didn't affect my life -- until after college when it spread to my lower scalp, my stomach, and my legs.
When I did finally get diagnosed with psoriasis, it was a bit shocking. And I think that, like most people, I really didn't know what psoriasis is until I was diagnosed with it. I thought it was just a skin condition, and I'd get some ointment or some medication and that would take care of it. I didn't even know what an autoimmune disease was at that point in my life. Learning about that -- plus the fact that more of my body was becoming affected -- was definitely upsetting.
I found it difficult to look in the mirror. I put makeup on different parts of my body. I think that I was more impacted psychologically than physically after the diagnosis. I certainly didn't feel like, "Oh, I'm going to die young," or anything like that. I didn't start thinking about psoriatic arthritis or any other possible autoimmune comorbidities. My main thought was really just, "Crap, I'm going to have to deal with these red plaques on my body for the rest of my life. That's really annoying. And it's probably really expensive, too."
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I'd tell anyone recently diagnosed with psoriasis to look on the bright side. Obviously, no one wants to have a chronic condition of any sort, but in terms of overall health, I think there are many far worse diagnoses. For the majority of people, it really does manifest in terms of one's appearance. It can be irritating, for sure, and even depressing at times -- but people should know that, for the most part, it's not as though you will need to live with it at is absolute worst for the rest of your life.
At first, I was ashamed of it, then I was annoyed, and after I accepted that this was going to be with me for good, then I began playing around with different treatments. I wouldn't say that I began to enjoy it, but I worked hard to make the best of it. You know, it takes up a lot of time to treat an autoimmune disease properly -- I'm going to the doctor's office one to two times a week, so obviously that's time-consuming -- but luckily I have a great dermatology team, and I actually look forward to going there because I love the staff. So there might not be one big silver lining to any of this, but there could definitely be a number of little silver linings to watch out for.
And yes, there are risks associated with any condition like this. I'm getting light treatment every week, for example, so I am more prone to skin cancer than someone who hasn't received any light treatment at all. But deep down I know that it could always be worse, and somehow that has given me a way to find acceptance, and even a kind of gratitude.