My experience so far with psoriasis has been a bit different from that of most people with the condition, because the first official diagnosis I received was for psoriatic arthritis. I was 17 at the time, a senior in high school, and I had this weird pain in my elbow. It was swollen, and I couldn't extend it fully. I just figured I had hurt it somehow, maybe banged it against something or sprained it, and just couldn't remember how it happened. My regular doctor took a look at it and referred me to a rheumatologist, who told me pretty much right away that it looked like arthritis. Of course, I thought to myself, "Arthritis? That's impossible."
Then he asked if I had had any other symptoms that might fit with a diagnosis of psoriasis, and I remembered that even from the time I was in elementary school, 10 or 11 years old, my scalp was super flaky all the time. I had kind of forgotten about that, but when I finally saw the rheumatologist it all sort of made sense.
I was pretty confused when I first learned that I had psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis. At the time, I really didn't understand what it meant. Especially this idea of a chronic illness -- when you're a teenager, like I was when I was diagnosed, the thought that I was going to be dealing with this for my whole life was pretty much impossible for me to grasp. I was confused and definitely a little bit frightened. I remember that one of my primary concerns at the time was wondering if I could find the right medicine to help me deal with it -- which of course shows that I was still in the mode of maybe thinking that this could be cured, somehow.
I'm in remission right now, but I do have to deal with flare-ups. When it's really cold, for example, it can be pretty tough. It also sometimes depends on what's happening in school, because if I'm super stressed with my coursework, then my scalp will instantly flare up and become incredibly itchy and uncomfortable. There haven't been too many days over the last few years when it hasn't been very uncomfortable for me, and often it's actually painful.
Right now, I see my doctor every three months, and his advice for dealing with the stress -- which really does seem to be the key trigger for my flare-ups -- is to pay attention to my body and the signals it's sending, and to try and relieve the stress through fairly simple means. For example, when I realize I'm getting way too stressed out, I usually listen to some music or even just take a break and watch a TV show. People have to find those things that can take their mind off of their illness for a little while. Something as simple as just taking a walk -- I've found that those sorts of things can really help a lot. Something like this can really eat at you, especially when you're first diagnosed, so anything that might be able to help you step back a little bit, any simple pleasure, can be a plus.
You know, I was in so much pain when I was first diagnosed. I would have terrible stiffness for half the day. It was not a good feeling at all. Back then I thought that maybe I would never get better, that I would never be okay again and that it would just get worse and worse with time. But I was on a new regimen of medication, and I have to say that I started feeling a lot better. At this point, I'm confident in the medicines I'm taking -- I do feel that they'll help me in the long run. For the first time in a while, I feel like I'll be okay.