I was a little nervous about going off to college. Making new friends, making good grades, and moving to a new state were the least of my problems. See, I wasn’t going to college alone. I was going with something that had entered my life at 7 years old and wouldn’t see to go away. My biggest fear entering college was having a room-mate and having to introduce them to my psoriasis. The late night scratching to the point of bleeding, flaking, and pain was something I until then hid very well from others.
I arrived to campus excited but nervous about this new expedition. I met my roommate and she seemed nice. We introduced ourselves and hugged. I wasn’t sure how I was going to break it to her about my disease, but I knew it had to be done. After about 3 days of shacking up, I sat her down and started to explain my disease the best I could. She responded with an “OK,” asked me a few questions, and I believed everything was cool - although I could tell she needed to know more.
Well, eventually my roommate and I discovered we HATED each other. There was a lot of drama and we just didn’t see eye to eye on things. When things really started to “hit the fan,” my roommate took some low blows. She went to the dorm supervisor and told her I had something contagious on my skin and she did not feel comfortable being my roommate.
Luckily the lady she told had a granddaughter who also had psoriasis, and she was able to cease the rumor in its tracks. The dorm supervisor and I had had many conversations about my skin and even shared treatment options.
That following semester I roomed with someone I knew and trusted…
College can be a hard transition for someone with psoriasis. Here are a few tips to use if you have a chronic disease and would like to share it with your roommate.* ** Do it privately:** Telling them at a game or while they are watching their favorite TV show may not do you any good. Tell them at a time when they can really concentrate on what you have to say. Also explain the things that make you uncomfortable when it comes to your disease. Insist they ask you questions so that no assumptions are made.
- Casually mention it: To eliminate some of the pressure, you can also mention it in regular conversation. Years ago, an acquaintance asked me how I liked the heat in Georgia. I told her that the summertime is the hardest for me, because I’m not comfortable showing my skin due to psoriasis. Therefore it’s either cover up and be hot or show my skin. This sparked more conversation about the disease, and led her to ask more questions about psoriasis. It was a great icebreaker!
- Tell them how it makes you feel: When you tell a person the struggles you have with the disease they may be more sensitive and empathic to your situation and hopefully less likely to ridicule you.
- Give pamphlets: If you are scared to verbally explain your psoriasis, write a letter, or send an email with information attached about the disease.
- Inform Residential Assistants and Dorm Supervisors: Make sure to inform leaders in the dorm of your condition so if anything is presented to them without you knowing, they can put misconceptions to rest. It is the responsibility of the dorm supervisors and RA’s to help with a healthy and comfortable living environment.
In some cases, no matter what you do, some people will still choose to be ignorant! It’s a hard pill to swallow and it hurts! But you have to continue to get the word out about your disease! There are more people who will accept you for your psoriasis than those who will not!
Alisha Bridges is a freelance health writer on the topics of sexual health, skin care, and psoriasis. She has lived and thrived with psoriasis for over two decades. Alisha is the creator of www.Beingmeinmyownskin.com, a site dedicated to sharing what it’s like to live with psoriasis. She is also a student at Georgia State University pursuing a career as a physician assistant with a concentration in dermatology. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @alishambridges.