These days it is more accepted that mental health and physical health are intricately intertwined. It is hard to distinguish one from the other, especially when a chronic illness is involved like psoriasis. Mental and physical health cannot be separate because both are ‘you’. If one is out of balance, it affects how the other reacts.
This was the sudden realisation I had when I was hospitalised a few years back. I had a particularly difficult year at work and my self care went downhill. Work took priority and I stopped looking after myself. I already had scalp psoriasis and tiny patches on my body but as my mental health took a beating, larger areas of my skin began to flare. As my skin got worse, my stress levels rose. As my stress rose, work became unbearable and my whole body continued to flare. It was a vicious cycle.
After being in hospital with pustular psoriasis I knew something had to change. My perspective on life shifted. I felt lucky to have been given the time to heal and get a fresh start. Hospital can often be viewed as a negative but I was thrilled to finally be getting the care I was after. It was like a reset. My skin got the treatment it so needed.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned because of my psoriasis -
I wanted a simpler life. I had to decide what was most important to me and make my choices. I love socialising with family and friends and when I stop seeing the important people in my life, my mental health takes a turn. Work had to come second. I was choosing to take on extra projects. I was choosing to be as busy as possible. I was choosing to turn down engagements because I was too tired or run down. Stress was a choice. I decided to choose another way. I had to learn to start saying ‘No’ to things and admit when I was struggling.
As a teacher, I live by forward plans, term time and ‘surviving’ to the next holiday. I think we can all be a little guilty of looking forward or wallowing in what’s come before. Projecting into the future and always thinking about what could be, stops you from living in the now. It means you miss so much of the present. Living in the now was something I vowed to do. It’s not easy as a constant worrier, but I try.
Wants Over Needs
Similar can be said for your hopes for the future. It’s nice to dream and make plans but always wishing for clearer skin, a bigger house or a fancier car doesn’t come with happiness. You have to remember that happiness is a journey and each day has positives and negatives. A bad day has good bits in it, and a good day has bad bits. No amount of superficial changes or possessions will change how you feel. Thinking that clearer skin will make you happy puts a lot of pressure on yourself. You have to make that mindset shift yourself. Why not change your mindset today?
One Insecurity For Another
I’ve always had insecurities. Everyone does. In my younger years, I had a LOT of insecurities. My main insecurity especially around summer time was being so pale. My white skin that didn’t tan was always my biggest bug bear. I would wish to have a tan. As I got older, fake tan became the obvious answer and I always felt more confident “with a tan”, albeit a fake one. I have plenty of other insecurities that aren’t about my skin too. However as I’ve got older I have started to realise, humans are funny creatures. Sure we are social animals but we are all pretty self involved. We spend a lot of our lives, in our own heads. No one is bothering about your imperfections, because guess what, they are too busy thinking about their own. If someone does pass judgement about you, it is usually deflecting from them because they are so insecure about themselves. So be confident in your own skin, we only get one chance to live the life we have, why let one physical feature define your life. And no one has ever been to a funeral where they discuss the dearly departed’s skin, so don’t let your life revolve around it.
It’s Not You, It's Me
You can’t guess or control how others will react to situations or conversations but you can control what you say and how you act. Become aware of how you portray yourself and how you react in certain situations. If there is someone who irks you at work or something that always seems to bother you at family occasions, think of ways to politely remove yourself or turn the conversation around. Sometimes the best thing to do is say nothing and move on. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make to your mood and how others start to behave around you as you become more positive.
For the past few years I have kept a journal. At the end of the day, I write a couple of sentences about my day and what I got up to. It is a lovely way to keep memories and a nice reminder that my life is very full and does not revolve around my psoriasis. Seeing the variety in my life and writing down the good and the bad shows me that there is way more to my life than psoriasis.
Prioritise Your 'Me Time'
Self care is super important. Deadlines, plans for work and family commitments can sometimes take over our lives, but when do you stop and give yourself some 'me time'? If you are a busy person or someone who struggles to say no, start to prioritise yourself. The same way you put important engagements in your diary, start to schedule some much needed ‘me time’. Put time aside to read that book you keep ignoring, or time to have a walk outside by yourself or even some time to have a nap. Ask for help or organise childcare and plan to do nothing. Sometimes that’s more important than being busy. Be a human BEing, not a human DOing.
UK/IE MAT-18068. Date of preparation: June 2018
Blog post developed in partnership with LEO Pharma.