A year ago I wrote an article describing my experience living and traveling with chronic conditions. While the responses from my readers were mainly positive, many reactions to a reprinted version of my article on News.com.au weren’t nice at all.
Lots of people described me as this pretty girl who has a few red dots on her skin and complains. Others just focused on the main cover photo that my friend took when I was working as an assistant at a wedding photoshoot.
What people who don’t have psoriasis might not know is that it does have an impact on your life and it’s not just ‘a few red dots’ but a bigger problem that not only prevents a lot of us from traveling and living abroad, but also very often from even leaving the house. Moreover, over 20% of people suffering from psoriasis are often depressed and 7% end in suicides. Still think it’s a silly skin problem?
This is why ever since my first article I wanted to write a follow up. Now I’m finally ready to share my experiences and give more tips that would hopefully encourage other people with psoriasis to travel more and not be afraid of dealing with other people.
Living with psoriasis is harder than many think it is.
When I was younger I was hoping that my psoriasis was going to go away at some point, but it never did. In fact, it was getting worse over the years. It’s been painful, itchy and therefore impacted on what I wore.
Whether you swim, go to the beach or go to hairdresser psoriasis can really destroy your self-confidence and make you resent your own body. While the majority of people have mild psoriasis my case was described as severe.
A lot of people don’t want to travel with psoriasis, as living with it even at home isn’t easy. I often spent hours picking flakes of my skin from my hair and sit on my bed scratching itchy patches.
When you travel and change the climate things it can get way worse. Moreover why would anyone go to a sunny destination when they’re embarrassed of undressing to a swimwear?
People will tell you to adjust your expectations to your condition
Ever since I was diagnosed with psoriasis I was told that I needed to adjust my expectations. My wardrobe was adjusted to my psoriasis, as I always wore long dresses with dark stockings to cover the spots on my legs. When I had flakes on my elbows, which was pretty much always, I wore long gloves when going out with friends and stopped wearing black sweaters and coats as scales from my head flaking off looked like bad dandruff. Every time I walked into a room for a job interview or even had a drink at friends’ house I didn’t want to sit on a black sofa or a chair as it was covered in ‘snow’ from my head very quickly.
I also gave up on one of my hobbies – pole fitness, as not only I was embarrassed to attend a class in shorts and a tank top, but also flared skin was often bleeding scaring my other classmates.
My public image of a ‘bikini girl’ in this case is quite ridiculous
I recently discovered that I’m being called a ‘bikini girl’ among other travel bloggers. Every major publication somehow chooses to feature my bikini photos as a cover photo of an article about me. While it may seem flattering, I think it’s quite a funny coincidence considering my skin problem. It actually costs me a lot of courage to put on my bikini and wander around the beach.
Since I currently live in Playa del Carmen in Mexico, where sunbathing at the beach or swimming at cenotes are daily activities, it’s impossible for me to avoid showing off some skin. Whether with red spots or without them.
I simply had to tell myself that I need to try to live like other people. I mean, seriously people, what am I supposed to wear the beach and swim in… a moo \-moo? That would be far more awkward, don’t you think?
I also heard that I’m this stereotypical girl with a perfect manicure and wearing dresses everywhere. I’m not going to go into the discussion about why the modern world thinks that in order to be a proper female traveler you need to wear absolutely no makeup, dress in sweatpants and tramps, as it’s a topic for a long blog post.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I actually hate shopping. I usually pick things up from Amazon (if you don’t believe me check this outfit), and really don’t enjoy getting my nails done every 2 weeks at the nail salon. But, due to my psoriasis again I have no nails when I don’t get special treatment for them and my supposedly perfect manicure isn’t actually my choice.
Your skin doesn’t define you
At some point I simply realized that if things cannot be changed I had to deal with my psoriasis everywhere instead of hiding it. I stopped carrying about covering up my spots, pretended as nothing happened and stop limiting myself because of it.
I’ve realized that no matter where I live or where I travel to, people will react to my skin in a similar way. So why would I suffer more thinking about it when my skin is painful enough already?
I quickly realized that it’s not me who can’t deal with it as I got used to it, but it’s other people. Treating my skin might make my morning routine longer than it’d take the ‘normal’ people, but it doesn’t mean it has to dictate my life.
You gotta learn is how to deal with people in public
If I had a button to put on my chest when I go into public, it would be: Hello, I’m Anna, you don’t have to stare, it’s just psoriasis. It’s not contagious, as it’s not a skin disease but an immune disorder. Do I see that people are often afraid of sitting next to me? Yes, and you know what – it’s more space for me!
Will they stop asking questions? No, and they also won’t stop staring, so instead of feeling insecure about it I’ve learned to answer their questions before they even have a chance to open their mouth.
I didn’t fall off the bike and didn’t get a sunburn, it’s just my skin and no, I don’t need your cream that worked for your grandma. It definitely made my life easier.
You might want to cut off a few people from your life
As sad as it may sound I had to cut off a few people from my life, including some friends. You don’t want to be constantly asked about ‘how’s your skin doing this week?’, ‘does it get any better?’, ‘how’s your boyfriend dealing with it?’ etc and inspect it with stares when we meet. Again, it’s enough to stress for me as it is.
The thing is that you shouldn’t rely on people who cannot deal with something that’s a part of you. Instead, you want to be friends with those who’ll tell you that you’re crazy when you’re trying to put concealer over your red spots and that you look nice without it.
In the past, I lost two boyfriends over my psoriasis because they couldn’t deal with it and made me feel awful about myself and my look. I didn’t want to date and felt uncomfortable about even considering the possibility of a long relationship with anyone. The truth is, that you shouldn’t care about these idiots.
NEVER think that you cannot find someone who’d accept you for who you are regarding your skin issues. Trust me, one day you’ll meet someone who won’t give a damn and will make you feel beautiful – I’m speaking from experience.
All I want to say is that you’re not alone! Your psoriasis is just a small distraction from everything you can do with your life! Travel, life abroad and enjoy life and ignore those who cannot handle you!