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Psoriasis was something I overlooked as a child. Seeing my mother apply cream all over my father’s red back was a thing I saw every day; sure, I knew not everyone’s father struggled with a skin condition, but I definitely didn’t see it as anything odd. I never took into consideration how I may also get it.
Growing up around psoriasis meant it wasn’t a huge unknown thing for me when I first started to develop it. It wasn’t a panic, more of a ‘well at least my mum will know how to help treat it’. Nor was I confused about what it was, and in a way I’m lucky for that. I’m lucky that I grew up knowing what psoriasis was, even if I didn’t fully understand it at least I knew of its existence. At least I was not left wondering and worrying what it was like so many others.
Perhaps, at first, my entire perception of my psoriasis was completely crafted from my dad’s perception of his? I know my dad hates his psoriasis and no matter how positive I try to make him, he may always feel the same way. Perhaps that’s why at first I detested having psoriasis. Not only was I just starting at a new school, I now had psoriasis to deal with. Of course it was natural that I would use the opinion of the only other person I knew with the illness to mold my idea of psoriasis.
As my psoriasis spread over my skin my dad would repeat the same thing to me, ‘if I could take your psoriasis for you I would’. It’s quite heartbreaking, my dad had suffered with this illness for years, only for me to develop and suffer too. If I could take the guilt he feels towards me having psoriasis away, I would in an instant. I know it’s not something he nor I can control, and so for me it is not something to feel regret and guilt towards.
At some point my view of my psoriasis changed from my father’s. I had begun to learn that many of my peers at school didn’t pay it any attention, the same way I did as a child. I realised that there was nothing I could do to change the fact I had psoriasis, all I could do was care for it and manage it as best I could. I had to stop wishing it would go away and learn to happily coexist with it.
Learning to love yourself for who you are at a young age was something that wasn’t normalised for my dad, he wasn’t raised in this millenial age of self acceptance, and it’s probably the reason he finds it a lot harder than I do to be at peace with his skin. While I’ve suffered for 6 years, learning to love it halfway through, he has been struggling for 20+ years. Being told to love your skin suddenly when for so many years you’ve battled in a war you never won seems practically impossible, but maybe that's just me.
Whether my dad can learn to love his skin or not, there is no doubt that witnessing him living with it has helped me learn to love myself. He taught me that while it may be tough, you have to continue your life, no matter how down you get about it. Not only has that helped me with my psoriasis but has been applicable to any hurdle in my life that I’ve been terrified to jump over. There is no denying that growing up around psoriasis has made me a much stronger person.
Odd as it may seem, I have to thank my psoriasis in a way. It has brought me close to my dad as we share a common struggle in our lives. While we may feel differently about it, it doesn’t take away the fact that we both still struggle with it. While positivity is amazing, it is impossible to be positive about psoriasis all the time, sometimes you just have to accept defeat before getting back on your feet stronger than ever. Sometimes I feel a bit down about it but nothing is more therapeutic than complaining about it to someone who completely understands where you are coming from, and it's thanks to that that I’m able to feel positive about my skin again. Psoriasis in a way has molded me into the person I am today.
To be completely honest, I didn’t realise this until reflecting back on it all. If you asked me what I remembered from when I was first developing psoriasis it would be things to do with school or my friends, not about my family. But looking back on it all, I truly appreciate how close I am with my family and how supportive they are. They have been there every step of the way on my journey with psoriasis, helping me take care of it in a way that made me feel confident enough to grow into the person I am.
My childhood was full of different elements of psoriasis but I didn’t truly acknowledge them or that my dad was struggling until I too was struggling and could empathise with him. To me, he was just dad. He was the person who brought sweets and ‘pop’ from the corner shop whenever he came to pick me up from school.
Most people with psoriasis don’t realise that our skin condition isn’t always a huge deal to other people. Most people don’t pay it any attention, the same way you would hair colour or eye colour, meanwhile we spend hours obsessing over how obvious we think it is. While there are sometimes the odd couple of people that make a comment, most people, the people who truly love you, never see you as any different and see straight past it. To them you are simply … you and they are the ones that matter.
You are a sister or brother, son or daughter, best friend or soulmate. You are the person that makes them laugh, the person who makes them smile when they’re sad. You are a happy face, one they miss when you are not there. You are more than your appearance, but that’s beautiful too. You are more than this skin condition, no matter how consuming it may feel. You are not your psoriasis. You are your own person, separate from this condition that’s joined to us the same way our shadow is. You are a psoriasis warrior, and while it may not be seen by most, you are unbelievably strong and should be proud of who you are.
Article developed in partnership with LEO Pharma.
MAT-33936 Date of Prep: April 2020