I’ve had psoriasis for seven years now, and during that time I have had to get used to a lot of different things. One of the things I never thought I would have to get used to with my visible difference, was getting used to when it wasn’t there.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition which appears on the skin. However, the patches can come and go depending on numerous factors. I have gotten so used to having it on my face and all the things that come with having a visible difference – the stares, comments – that when it was gone, I didn’t realise I would have to get used to that too. I thought I would be happy to be “me” again.
You see when I first developed psoriasis – though at the time I didn’t realise that’s what it was – I would’ve done anything to have the 20p piece patch on my forehead disappear forever. I was so ashamed of how I looked and so worried about people judging me that I hid away from the world. I covered my face with lots of make-up and hoped no one would see my tiny little patch.
But then something incredible happened, something that I just didn’t expect at all. As my psoriasis patches started to spread across my face, my confidence grew. I became comfortable in my own skin, happy with how I looked, and didn’t feel people’s stares as harshly anymore. So, it came to be a complete surprise that I had to find that confidence all over again when I started a new medication and my skin cleared.
I was confused. Surely that’s what I’d been wanting this whole time. Society and advertising campaigns lead us to believe that clear skin equals healthy, and that clear skin is the goal. So why was I so miserable? Because I didn’t recognise the girl in the mirror. The girl looking back couldn’t stop worrying about when the psoriasis was going to reappear.
That’s the thing with an autoimmune condition that can come and go: it can come and go at any time. When it’s there, it’s there, but when it’s not, I spend my whole time worrying about when it’s going to come back. Why? Because I fear I’ll have to go on the journey of self-acceptance again.
You would think surely that it’s easier the more times you do it, but you would be surprised. Every time I have to pick myself back up, every time I have to explain ‘what’s wrong with my face’, and every time I see someone staring at me, I am right back to the moment when it was just a small patch on my face.
Self-acceptance and self-love is a journey that we all go on as humans. The funny thing about having a visible difference that’s not always fully visible, is that you find yourself taking that journey twice. Once when your difference is showing, and once when it’s not.
I have spent so long on this journey with my difference that I fear not having it. It’s almost become a safety blanket, my constant, something I know will always be there. And when it’s gone, I panic and I have to start that journey to self-acceptance and self-love all over again.
While I would never say that I’m defined by my visible difference, it’s undoubtedly a huge part of who I am. It helped me become more confident and comfortable in my own skin. It’s what makes me, me. That’s why losing it can be so daunting. It’s the fear of the losing that confident, assured part of myself that grew and emerged at the same time as my patches of psoriasis did.
I write this article because I hope it speaks to someone else out there, someone who feels the same way about their difference. And if you’ve ever faced challenges, like I have, remember you are not alone and there is help out there if you need it.