Thursday, November 8, 2012
Psoriasis--By Elise Silva
It’s that time of year again.
The time of year that my skin starts drying out, that the large dry spots start showing up, and also, the time of year that I get to cover up with long sleeved shirts and warm pants.
I was diagnosed with psoriasis as a young child. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. As with any autoimmune disorder, my immune system attacks itself—and this is manifest through large, red, itchy, flaky patches that cover my body.
Psoriasis comes in all shapes and sizes. For some people, the patches are large. For some, it only shows up in the folds of their skin, for yet others, it shows up as small, itchy pox. You can get psoriasis on your scalp, under your finger nails, and it is also linked to painful arthritis symptoms.
What people don’t often talk about is the fact that no matter what the psoriasis looks like, one of the common symptoms among many sufferers is low self esteem, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
Why? Perhaps my story can illustrate: a few months after I was first diagnosed I had an itch on my side. I lifted my shirt up to expose a bit of my torso, and the little boy sitting beside me in class pointed at me, shouted “ew!” and asked to be moved. I didn’t know I was supposed to be embarrassed about how I looked—I knew it was uncomfortable to have my whole body itch and bleed, but I didn’t know that I was supposed to hide that from the world.
I learned my lesson that day and started to do just that.
I was a pre-pubescent girl who was already ashamed of her body. I was embarrassed to swim because parents would look at me funny—as if I was going to infect their kids with my disgusting skin (psoriasis is genetic—not a communicable disease). I was embarrassed to wear shorts because someone might ask what those spots were on my knees. I was embarrassed to itch my scalp for fear that my psoriasis would flake and cover my shoulders. I was afraid to be noticed. All I wanted to do was cover up as much as possible and disappear.
And so my formative years were spent doing just this—hiding in the background, pretending I didn’t have skin problems, and using harsh topical creams and sometimes painful light treatments to control my own body. I’ll admit it: I did battle depression and low self esteem as a result.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized I wasn’t the only one hiding. People hide for all sorts of reasons—many of them related to their bodies. What I realized, especially through my teaching career, was that hiding isn’t worth it. When I turn my back to my students now to write on the board I force myself to forget that they might be looking at the back of my arms and those pesky spots. Instead, I focus my attention to what I’m writing, where I’m going, and what I’m showing my students. Because what I’m showing is significantly more important than what I hide.
I decided not to let myself be covered any more.
· What do we hide, and why? How can we overcome the need to hide and “show” our bodies (insecurities and all) in productive ways?