“Does somebody have flakes on their butt?” This is what I overheard a college suitemate yell out in disgust as she griped about the mystery flakes she saw on the toilet seat. Little did she know: Yes, those flakes came from my butt — it was psoriasis.
Although she didn’t know the “bathroom fairy dust” was due to my severe patches of dry skin, I was embarrassed. There was no way I was going to admit the flakes were from me, nor was I ready to open up about my battle with the disease. Based on how my suitemate treated people, I already knew there would not be much sympathy on her behalf. From that point on I did my due diligence to make sure I wiped off the toilet seat, eliminating any evidence of me and my psoriasis-covered rump.
In a Facebook messenger interview, HealthCentral learned more stories from people who have dealt with embarrassment from living with psoriasis. Feeling embarrassed with a visible disease like psoriasis is bound to happen, so here are a few more of these stories and some of my experience-based tips on how to alleviate some of the awkwardness that comes along with them.
Flares of unknown origin
Lori-Ann has lived with psoriatic disease for several years. She shared the following story about trying to cover her lesions at work, before she knew she had psoriasis:
“When I was new in New York City, I started my job as an assistant in an important law firm. The stress of moving brought out all my psoriatic symptoms at once. The embarrassing part? I was trying to hide the open lesions atop both feet! I wore opaque tights and sneakers with my cute skirt suits for months, blaming my podiatrist. I did not know what was wrong with me. I had not yet been diagnosed. It took me about a month to go see the doctor.”
It’s not your fault
It’s up to you to decide whether to conceal your flare-ups or to wear whatever you want and carry on with your life. Whatever you choose, you don’t need to apologize! You can’t help that you have psoriasis. You can’t control the flaky patches that fall from your skin. So don’t apologize for them. Often, we feel guilty about exposing the visible symptoms associated with the disease. No matter what others say, you must remember you can’t help it, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
To moon, or not to moon
“Jessica,” another woman living with psoriasis who wished to use a pseudonym to protect her privacy, shared a story about a light-hearted almost-prank during a road trip with friends:
“A few years ago, two friends and I did a road trip from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon. On our way back, there was a guy in a jeep who was keeping pace with us from the California/Oregon border. The girls were flirting with him and one of my friends suggested I moon him from the back seat. I started to take off my pants then I shouted out … ‘OMG I can't do it, I have psoriasis on my butt!’ There was about five seconds of silence before we all busted out in laughter. I really wanted to moon the guy, but I was completely embarrassed, and I think my face was as red as my psoriasis at that moment.”
Do you really need to feel embarrassed?
Ask yourself: “Will I ever see these people again?” This question has helped me to overcome a lot of fears. When I’m about to do something uncomfortable or embarrassing, I ask myself: What are the odds I will ever see these people again in life. If the answer is “not likely,” I go for whatever it is … This includes wearing shorts when I’m flared, or mooning if the situation presents itself (just joking).
An unexpected kiss
Another embarrassing moment (one of many) for me happened when I was working at a retail store.
A gentleman walked up to me, grabbed the back of my hand, and kissed it. My heart started racing, palms became sweaty, and my mouth became dry. Not because the kiss was just that amazing, it was because I had plaques of psoriasis on my hand and I was terrified of what he would do when he saw them.
Luckily the kiss happened so fast, either he didn’t see the psoriasis or he chose not to acknowledge it. At any rate, I was relieved the awful scenario in my head did not become a reality.
Use the opportunity to educate
Prepare for awkward moments with an elevator speech. This is a 30-second explanation of what psoriasis is that you can quickly share in awkward situations. These moments can be an opportunity to educate someone who may not know that psoriasis is out there, it’s not contagious, and it shouldn’t be a source of shame.
It's up to you how you handle these moments that will no-doubt come up in your life with psoriasis. Take a deep breath. Keep them in perspective, and be reassured: If it’s happening to you, it’s probably happened to someone else, too.
Have you had an embarrassing moment with psoriasis? Share it with us at our Facebook page!
See more helpful articles:
What Your Psoriatic Disease Says About Your Microbiome