Thursday, May 24, 2012

Education is King

Ignorance may be bliss but it is also very dangerous and can be the cause of great pain. This applies to so many situations in life. We do or say something that is terribly stupid simply because we do not know any better. The best way to prevent this from happening is to know everything about absolutely everything, so that we can always act and talk from an enlightened position.

This is, of course an impossible goal. We cannot possibly reach that level of knowledge, so we bumble along in life, tripping over situations that result from limited knowledge.

There is a way around this. It is to make no assumptions about anyone with whom we come into contact but to get to know them and their situation before we make up our minds about them as people. That needs us to keep an open mind about people and their situations, rather than to jump to conclusions then act stupidly.

I was on the committee of the Cape Psoriasis Association in Cape Town, South Africa, for a long time. I was also chairman of that body for a few years. During those years we on the committee came to learn of and meet various people who had psoriasis and who were very badly treated by friends, family, colleagues and people on the street. They were treated this way because those people did not know how to process what they saw in front of them.

There was a gentleman who came to our public meetings regularly. He told us that at the office where he worked, his colleagues refused to have lunch with him and would not even use the same telephone that he did. They were petrified that they would catch psoriasis from him.

He was no better off in his own home. His wife would not allow him to share a bed with her. She did not like to be near him with his flaking skin, nor to have the tiny flakes of skin that he had shed in the bed in which she was sleeping. She also would not tolerate the stains on the bedsheets that were left by the moisturisers and medicated creams that he applied to his skin to ameliorate his condition. She kept a special set of crockery and cutlery to be used only by him, he was not allowed to use the same as used by the rest of the household.

We also came to learn of a teenage boy who was ostracised by his family because of his psoriasis. They would not allow him to live in the family home, not to sleep or even to take his meals inside. Year round he lived in a tiny shed in the back yard of the home, in intolerable conditions, through summer heat and winter storms.

These situations exist because of closed minds and ignorance. The more educated a person, the more open their mind is likely to be and the more tolerant they are likely to be to others less fortunate than them. Those of us with psoriasis must appreciate how we appear to others who do not understand the condition. The worse the condition, the stronger the reaction that there is likely to be from other people and the more important knowledge about psoriasis becomes. Educating ourselves about the condition does two things.

First, it allows us to take whatever steps are needed to improve our skin. In the process we will become more healthy overall and improve our lives in general. Improving our psoriasis also reduces the visible impact when we are seen by others, so they will have less reason to be put off by what they see.

Second, it empowers us to spread the education wherever we go, into everyone with whom we come into contact. It equips them to interact with us with more confidence, in the knowledge that they and their families are not at any risk of breaking out all over with spots and scales. When they have that knowledge in their heads, they will pass it on to others, so the knowledge will spread.

There will be people who will not want to listen, not want to learn about psoriasis. Personally, I have never discussed psoriasis with anyone who did not want to learn more about it. If you do come across anyone who does not want to listen, who insists on treating you badly, move on and leave them behind. They are not worthy of wasting your time.

In your own interest, as well as of everyone else who has psoriasis, try to educate your family, friends and colleagues about the causes and results of psoriasis. I allow psoriasis to have minimal impact on my life and most of this is a result to educating myself and those around me about the condition.