Years ago, before I was married, I went to Malta from the UK on holiday. As far as I can make out, all these years later, my skin had some sort of reaction to the perfume or perfumes in the fairly cheap suntan lotion I brought along for the trip. So the very thing that was supposed to be protecting me from the sun might very well have been a catalyst for my first serious psoriasis flare.
For years, I had had this mark or spot on my leg that was maybe two centimeters [one inch] in diameter. I barely noticed it anymore. Suddenly, in the space of just a couple of weeks after getting back from Malta, I had what looked like loads of insect bites, or pimples, covering something like 80 to 85 percent of my body. I thought it was probably sunburn -- especially after my skin started peeling. And that's probably why I waited longer than I ordinarily would have to go to a doctor and really get it checked out.
When I was finally diagnosed with psoriasis, I had no idea what I was in for. I knew nothing about it. I thought perhaps it was another type of dermatitis. I didn't have a clue, and I was not prepared for what was going to happen over the next 10 years or so.
Looking back, I know that my reaction to the diagnosis was similar to how a lot of people react when they hear the word. They think it involves a bit of dry skin. You know, "Put some cream on it. It'll go away." I don't think many people realize that there is this other, extreme side to the condition, where it can literally take over your whole body.
I like to think of myself as fairly well-educated but I never realized until I was diagnosed that the skin is an organ. In fact, when they told me that this was going to affect my biggest organ, my reaction was something like, "What do you mean? My liver is under attack? My lungs are under attack?" That's when they informed me that the skin is an organ. I was amazed.
Think about it. How can something that attacks your body's largest organ not be a major issue?
About four years ago I was also diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. I'd had aches and pains for a while -- especially one incident with my left foot, where the pain when I tried to walk was excruciating -- but incredibly, psoriatic arthritis wasn't mentioned. Then, maybe a year after that problem with my foot, the thumb on my right hand began aching, and then the knuckle on the thumb swelled up to about twice its normal size. It was totally bizarre. Fairly quickly after that, I was diagnosed with arthritis. I still haven't gotten the movement back in my thumb that I used to have, but I went through a series of cortisone injections that helped immensely. They were excruciatingly painful, but that lasted about half an hour, and the relief afterward was just incredible.
There are a lot of ways that people deal with their psoriasis and the emotional issues that come along with it -- depression, anxiety, all sorts of things -- but one thing I would absolutely recommended to anyone suffering from this condition is to talk to people. Talk to those closest to you. My wife would say I still don't do that very well, but that's one of the key reasons I started my blog, My Skin and I. [https://myskinandi.wordpress.com/] You know, in a blog post I can talk to people I've never met, and be very straightforward about my illness, but talking to my family is a totally different thing. Maybe that's because when I talk to someone face to face, I can see their reaction, and to this day that can still get me very emotional.
The most difficult thing is trying to stay positive in the midst of all this. Like everybody else, I still have my down moments. There are times when I need to take a break. I think to myself, "Hold up. Psoriasis is something that I don't want in my life, and here I am spending most of my life talking about it, blogging about it. Enough!"
Eventually, though, I get back to it. Because communicating with others about this illness is one way to feel like I'm in control, rather than feeling like psoriasis is controlling me.