Friday, May 4, 2012

Don't hide away

When I was diagnosed with psoriasis I was very aware of how ugly it made my skin look. My immediate reaction was to hide it.

My first reading about the condition was in encyclopedias and medical books because there was no Internet yet. All of my reading described how people felt ashamed of it and hid it away with long sleeve shirts and long pants. I also read that it benefits from exposure to UV rays.

I came to the conclusion that hiding it away is the worst thing that can be done because it will reduce exposure to sunlight and aggravate rather than help. So, I quickly went back to my customary shorts and T-shirts or shorts only. My wife asked if i wasn't worried about what my friends would think or say. I said that I was not concerned and would educate them about psoriasis if needed. I had decided that if any friend objected to seeing my skin then they were not worthy of my friendship. As I expected, nobody objected and all wanted to know more about it.

I continued to spend lots of time on the beach and in the ocean. If anyone asked about my blotchy skin I politely explained that psoriasis is non-contagious and benefits from exposure, so should not be hidden away. Nearly 30 years later I still hold the same opinions and follow the same habits as I did then, they have proven to work.

I believe that it is very important for everyone with whom you are regularly in contact, i.e. family, friends, co-workers etc, to understand what psoriasis is and that it has no detrimental effect on anyone else. They must understand that you cannot harm them, there is no need for them to feel afraid that they or anyone else will catch psoriasis from you. As long as you have people around you who don't understand this you will experience incidents when they don't want to be near to you or to touch something that you have touched.

Psoriasis is no more contagious than a broken leg but can be much more debilitating in your daily life if you come into contact with people who want to persecute you because they do not understand what they see. A broken leg they can understand but red and silver blotches on the skin can conjure up images of all sorts of tropical or other contagious diseases that they don't understand.

So, my advice is to wear light and comfortable summer clothing that lets the sun get to your skin. Take every opportunity to educate those around you about psoriasis, so that they know exactly what it is and can easily accept it, rather than preferring to exclude you from their circle of contact. Your skin will improve from the exposure and you will feel better for not being a hermit.

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