This content reflects the views of the individual blogger and is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.
Before I go on with this blog post, I would like to start with saying that this is all based upon my personal experiences.
Being Indian and having psoriasis
Growing up and having psoriasis has been a challenging journey in itself, but coming from an Indian heritage with a visible skin condition has brought its own twists to the journey. Generally speaking as I was growing up I always found it difficult to speak out about how my condition made me feel. I couldn’t recognise that the psychological and emotional rollercoaster I was going through was down to my psoriasis.
It’s been harder to speak out about the emotional and mental side of things and this in part has been due to the culture I have been brought up in. It has got easier as I’ve got older and as I’ve grown in confidence I feel able to educate others about my condition. I have learnt a lot about my culture during my journey. I have found that people are not shy in saying their thoughts, opinions and asking questions. When I was young I did not understand that this was just a cultural difference! At times I found this difficult to deal with and felt that this impacted upon my mental health.
A trip to India
When I was 13 years old, my family and I went on a trip to India. And I felt like this was a very significant point in my journey with psoriasis. It was an age where I was starting to experience a lot of changes in myself. My psoriasis also started flaring up severely at this age, which was leading to a state of confusion as I didn’t quite understand how to deal with it. In hindsight, I don’t think a trip to India was the best thing for me at that point but that was not something we were to know at the time. It was also the age where I had started to realise there was some sort of connection between my skin condition and mental health. I didn’t quite completely understand how I was feeling and I wasn’t quite sure how to express those thoughts either.
During my trip to India I found that people were very open about their opinions and that they weren’t afraid to ask me questions about my skin which at this point in my psoriasis journey I felt to be quite overwhelming and knocked my confidence a lot. As I was only 13 years old, I felt vulnerable. It made me think that if I keep getting stopped and being questioned on my skin then it must be really noticeable. It wasn’t something I was used to as I found that I didn’t get many questions asked when I was at home in the UK, it is just a cultural difference and I have a greater understanding of that now that I am older.
One particular time that still sticks with me even today was when we were travelling back home from our trip. I got stopped by security, taken into a separate room, and the officer checked out my skin and started questioning why my skin looked different, this was quite traumatising for a 13 year old and again shows a lack of understanding and awareness of the condition.
Dressing up in Indian clothes
Growing up it was always a dread when it came to wearing Indian clothes. Even though they are pretty, Indian clothing isn’t the best when it comes to covering up your psoriasis. It’s most likely that your arms, back and some of your stomach will be on show. So there was literally no hiding, my skin would have to be exposed.
Now that I’m older and more confident in my skin, I absolutely love wearing Indian clothes! I have previously written a blog post on 'Building Your Confidence' and this really applies here. As I have got older I have become so much more confident in my own skin and now can embrace my culture without letting my psoriasis get in the way.
Opening up about your mental health
It took me a long time to make the connection between my mental health and psoriasis. I have found within my culture that mental health and psychological stresses are not something that are commonly or openly spoken about. This was even more so because it was related to a skin condition that wasn't widely understood. I felt that because psoriasis was ‘only’ a skin condition it wasn't taken seriously and made it even more challenging to open up about how it was making me feel.
I’m lucky that my family are really understanding and I started to open up to them. I would say to anyone else with psoriasis it is really important to have that close network of people that you can be open about your feelings with. It was difficult because it was something that none of them have been through but they tried their best to live through the journey with me. For me what really helped break through the ice was hearing about Rena’s (another QualityCare(tm) LEO Pharma blogger) experience of living with psoriasis and watching a documentary that she was part of. Her journey mirrored mine so well that it made it easier for my family to visualise and understand the mental and psychological side of psoriasis that I was experiencing and also helped me not to feel alone.
As I’ve grown older and my confidence has grown, I find it easier to understand cultural differences and not to take offence to things so easily. I also find it easier to answer questions about psoriasis and use it as an opportunity to educate people in my society about my skin condition rather than feeling self conscious. It has taken me some time to get to this point but if you are earlier in your psoriasis journey I hope that this insight into culture and psoriasis has been useful.
UK/IE MAT-25367 Date of Preparation: May 2019
Blog post developed in partnership with LEO Pharma