It didn’t take long for me to see how much psoriasis would affect my life. In middle school, I got into a huge drama with some neighborhood girls who started a rumor that my grandparents were abusing me and that I had cigarette burns all over my body.
Another time was when my 9th grade drama teacher told me I couldn't use the stage makeup because she didn't know "what was wrong with my skin." She said this in front of the entire cast. All I could do was cry.
As I grew older, this disease affected my life in every way, from what clothes I wore, to the way I used the restroom, to the way I dated. I always had to think over what I had to do keep others from knowing my secret.
If I tried on clothes, I made sure to wear stockings so that others in the store didn't see my legs under the bottom of the door. If I went to the restroom, I had to make sure not to leave any flakes behind. If I was invited to something that required me to show skin, I had a list of excuses ready so I wouldn't have to go.
My condition changed my life before it had a chance to begin.
Until last year, no one other than close family members had seen my skin. But “coming out of the closet” about living with psoriasis has been wonderful. Recently, I did a photo shoot revealing my psoriasis-covered legs, something I had never had the confidence to do before. I hope it inspires others to show off their flaws without regret.
Through this journey, I’ve learned to love myself wholeheartedly. I used to hate who I was. But that started to change when I was 24 and wrote a blog in a support group. I called it my “suicide letter.” It was about killing those parts of me that made me hate myself so that I could truly live.
That blog post received so much attention that the National Psoriasis Foundation invited me to a volunteer conference in Washington. For the first time in my life, I met hundreds of people just like me. The positive response I received from that changed my life. The NPF has played such a pivotal role in my life. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them.
Now, I know that until you truly love yourself, you won’t be able to believe that anyone else loves you. I’ve also learned to not only accept those parts of me that people love, but also the parts that aren’t so lovable.