I have guttate psoriasis, which affects my face. It’s not always there, so I sometimes have clear skin, and on other occasions, my psoriasis flares up and I have red patches which make my face look different… I’d say unique!
I’ve had plaque psoriasis since I was around 14 years old. However, it was only two years ago, when I was 31, that a case of virus tonsillitis triggered my first flare up of guttate psoriasis.
Initially, this was a truly frightening and upsetting experience for me. I was able to manage my plaque psoriasis because it was located on parts of my body that were easy to hide. But my guttate psoriasis was different, it covered most of my face and body rapidly and completely knocked my confidence.
I lived alone at the time, but I chose to stay with my mum for those initial two weeks, so I didn’t have to cope with the changes in my appearance alone. I felt so ugly and so alone, like I was the only person in the world going through this. I avoided people for weeks, I even avoided looking at myself in the mirror.
I woke up every morning with the same dread of how I was going to cope with how my skin looked and the pain it caused me. Until one day when I made a brave decision to post a photo of myself on social media. This was only to explain to my close friends and family what I was going through and to ask them not to ask questions as I was still fragile.
The response to my photo was completely overwhelming. I didn’t expect that overnight I would get many new followers and messages of love and support from total strangers! Although I did receive many positive comments, there were still some nasty comments from trolls as well.
I’ve had groups of people laugh and point at me on the street. Some people don’t even hide that they are whispering or talking about my appearance and, even worse, people have trolled me to tell me to take my own life.
I had a customer at work request to be served by another member of staff because they said that I looked like I had the plague and might be contagious. As the store manager, I’m usually the one people turn to when faced with difficult customers, so I dealt with this situation myself. I didn’t tell my employer, but they have been very supportive through all the challenges I’ve faced.
One of the most shocking comments I will never forget was from a woman in her 40s on social media who said, “If my daughter looked like you, I’d disown her.” I am shocked that we live in a world where people can still be so uneducated and cruel to each other.
Well, luckily the positivity has always outweighed the negativity towards me. I see negative people as bullies who I don’t want to waste my time being upset over. They are unimportant to me. In these situations, I just remind myself of what sharing my story on Instagram does for other people who look different.
And with the support of my friends, family and the amazing community on Instagram, my confidence has slowly come back. I’m now able to embrace my skin and I’ve learned to love myself for the first time. I’d much rather be unique and stand out from the crowd than blend in. Being perfectly imperfect is beautiful.
My advice isn’t easy to follow but I truly believe self-acceptance is the key. If you can learn to love and accept yourself just as you are, then what everyone else thinks becomes so much less important. You realise the only opinions that matter are those of the people that love you and are kind to you.