When people talk about depression, it’s hard to truly understand the feeling of feeling completely lost in the abyss from statistics or from other people’s experiences. For me it was the feeling of being stranded at sea without a life jacket, fighting to stay afloat, with nothing on the horizon.
My depression didn’t develop with a sudden storm of emotions but something that slowly eroded the cliffs of my being, until I no longer felt like myself. It started with me second guessing my value after everything I did, looking in the mirror and loathing the person I saw.
Much like my depression, I used to feel as if my psoriasis eroded the identity I used to hold. I thought that everyone would perceive me differently than if my skin was clear and perfect. It took me a long time to accept that psoriasis is part of my life. Just like I did with my depression, I denied my psoriasis until it got to a suffocating point where I could no longer turn my head in any other direction. I had to look at what I had been refusing to acknowledge for so long in the eyes and stare at my own fears long enough for me to understand them.
I had always assumed the mentality I had towards myself and my worth was because of my view on psoriasis. I also just thought that if I learned to love myself like everyone said I should, then the battle inside my head would come to a truce. Don’t get me wrong, loving my psoriasis has helped me in so many ways but learning to love your skin is more than just telling yourself it’s beautiful, it is tackling your whole thought process that created the negative beliefs around your skin in the first place.
But when does low self-esteem with your skin change into something like depression? That’s really for you and your doctor to decide, either way, both should be talked about more often. For me, I knew I was struggling with depression once it affected more than just the way I thought about my skin. It changed my entire personality, my whole routine and my life for years.
I didn’t get help until last year, when my depression became much more severe, but that isn’t to say you shouldn’t seek help if you are struggling with low mood or low self-esteem. If you feel as though you need to talk to someone about your mental health, you should do so, even if you feel it isn’t as serious as it may seem. If it is affecting you and your life, you should seek ways to improve it.
Understanding the connection
Over the years I have come to understand the link between my skin and my mental health. I was silent about the toxic relationship I had with my own mind but during my darkest days my skin would also flare for the whole world to see.
The same way your psoriasis can make you feel more self-conscious, your stress, anxiety and sadness may make you flare. My experience is if one is bad and struggling, the other most likely will suffer too, the two have a symbiotic relationship. I had to find a way to break that cycle. I realised that I needed to address mental health to also help with my psoriasis. To take care of one, I must also take care of the other.
Much like psoriasis, I have had good and bad periods with mental health. It's about enjoying those ups and knowing that no matter how impossible it may be to imagine; you will be able to get out the downs, there will be a better day.
Last year was one of the most difficult years of my life with my mental health, and if you told me where I would be now back then I wouldn’t believe it. September 2019 was the lowest point in my life but now I am starting university and with a much more positive outlook on life.
This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have struggles. I still get frustrated at my psoriasis, about how it looks and how it makes me feel. I still sometimes look in the mirror and get confused that the person staring back at me is myself. I still cry over small things. I still feel isolated and alone at times, even though I know I have a great support system around me. It’s a work in progress, and it's the tiniest steps that get you up the mountain.
Start with small things
Start by smiling at the person looking at you in the mirror. Tell them they look good today. Tell them you’re proud of how hard they’re working not only to better their skin but their mental health too. Start by talking to friends or family when you start to feel low. You do not always have to tell them what is going on, that usually takes a lot of courage, and one day you’ll get there. Just talk to them about something you love, whether that be a TV show or a certain food, keep reaching out. Remind yourself of the small things that make your heartbeat a little faster.
For me, the small things are the most important, and are things that get me through bad days. They’re the way my cat purrs on my lap; the way my friends laugh at my jokes. They’re the warmth of hugs from my mum. They’re the feeling of freedom you get when looking at open fields when you drive past them in the car. There are so many things that make you the person you are loved for being. While it can be hard to think about them when you’re feeling so low, they can help give you the motivation for the future.
The most important part when it comes to dealing with psoriasis and your mental health is to have a support system, someone you can share things with, however personal or impersonal they may be. That could be family, friends or even the community we have online with so many other people going through the same struggle with psoriasis and their mental health.
It’s also important to be open and honest with your with doctor, whether that is about your psoriasis or your mental health. To care for your health is to address both physical and mental health, talk to them about what that relationship looks like for you. What is the impact beyond what can be seen? There also are charities, such as Samaritans or Mind, who can also provide mental health support services.
You are not alone
When we struggle with things like psoriasis, depression or anxiety we have the tendency to feel isolated. We feel like a lone island in the ocean, with no one else around us. In reality we are just islands in the ocean, but the bridges of friendship and trust we build with loved ones lets us know we are never truly alone.
There’s always someone else out there, if you look across the horizon, you’ll realize there’s been someone standing right next to you the whole time. Sometimes it just takes a little more time to see them.
MAT-38552 September 2020
Article developed in partnership with LEO Pharma.