To My Teenage Self,
You’ve never known a day without psoriasis since you were five years old when this disease decided to flare up and cover your skin. All these years later, I can tell you it’s been a long journey. At times it felt like a curse: you grew up accepting that people could be cruel when they made negative comments about your skin. You remembered being pulled out of a swimming pool after someone accused you of being contagious. Complete strangers often made you so very aware of the fact that you were ‘different.’
Then you hit your teens, and the curse got worse. Your hormones raged. Everything about your body felt awkward, especially your skin—which flared, flaked and shed, rebelling against treatments that had worked before. Your parents always told you that psoriasis was a gift. It would make you strong. It would help you understand the world in ways that others wouldn’t. You didn’t believe them, of course, but you tried your best to show the people around you that being different didn’t have to be a bad thing.
During your teenage years, psoriasis would cause more heartbreak than boys. You would spend so many evenings shedding tears trying on outfit after outfit. You were desperate to find the one that magically made your psoriasis disappear—only to realize that no outfit like that existed. And psoriasis affected more than just your skin. All those years of dealing with psoriasis negatively impacted your self-image, your willingness to open up to others and your mental health. Years of living with these burdens, both physical and emotional, can become difficult to bear, especially when it does not feel like anyone can help.
Of course, it’s so easy to talk in hindsight, having now grown up and grown into our skin. I can say it’s been a rollercoaster—and there are definitely still bad days—but the experience has taught me a few key lessons. I can’t give everything away (that’s the thing about experience), but here are some things I’ve come to learn that wish I would have known when I was your age:
If I wish anything for you, I wish you could have known how strong and brave you will become, so that it didn’t hold you back so much in your teenage years. I wish you could have found this confidence sooner so you didn’t have to live with the burden for so long. However, you will grow up and, alongside a whole community of psoriasis warriors, will help change the lives of so many people. You will encourage many other teenagers, like yourself, who are heading into the storm. You’ll reassure them that there’s a whole world of people who understand your struggles and see your potential. So…our parents are right: our psoriasis is a gift and we have found a way to use it to give hope to so many people in this world.
You deserve to feel confident in your skin, but how do you have a clear conversation about your psoriasis goals with your doctor? Sometimes speaking up can be the hardest part.
Be clear about your goals. The power to speak up, feel confident and demand the best care is within you. Sharing your story could be your next step to feeling free from psoriasis—and possibly inspire others to do the same.