Want a strange kind of body confidence? Get psoriasis, says Kate Morrison. This sexy little skin disease will ensure that you will never again angst over your love handles, your weird feet or chunky calves. Because you’ll be far too worried about covering up.
So, psoriasis: what is it? Basically it means the skin cells are working overtime, multiplying about up to 16 times their usual rate. This leads to itchiness, red plaques covered with silvery scales that flake off everywhere and general unsightliness. It affects around 2% of the population in the UK, more in the USA and although it is not contagious or caused through bad hygiene, there is no cure (although there are a virtually unlimited number of creams, lotions and potions you can use to treat it).
For me it all started after a fairly nondescript throat infection. My face felt tight and a bit blotchy, which I thought was down to the wind and cold weather. Within a few weeks my body was covered in red patches, some a few millimetres across, some the size of my hand. It itched; my skin grew so dry that the skin under my breasts split and bled. The patches on my face made me look like I’d been burned in a fire.
As a girl prone to depressive episodes, who had recently been dumped, I didn’t handle it well. I went into hiding. My parents and friends grew increasingly concerned. My GP was baffled. In January my darling father then decided to throw money at the problem and got me an appointment with a dermatologist at the private hospital. I was in there five minutes before he diagnosed psoriasis. He wrote me a prescription for creams to soothe the skin and return it to the normal colour. I went home and cried my eyes out for about 3 hours then headed online and researched the hell out of it.
It’s a few months later and I’m still red and blotchy. It comes in waves, usually around my period, Or when I get stressed about things I’ll break out again. My legs are still a mess and by far the itchiest place. My face is now clear, but the psoriasis has migrated north to my scalp, so I’m plagued with appalling flakes and my hair is thinning a bit. This is not a feminine disease.
By far the most annoying thing is not being able to wear what I want. I feel doomed to wear trousers or very thick tights, long sleeves and high neck lines forever. I’m glad to say my confidence has returned though and it hasn’t stopped me taking home a few guys, who have both been really cool with it and not run away screaming.
My dermatologist is impressed with my attitude as one of the main issues for psoriasis sufferers is a decline in their quality of life. It’s not just a skin condition, it saps your confidence, makes a normal life seem impossible and when you’re in the midst of a bad flare-up the light at the end of the tunnel seems impossibly far away.
As well as a condition which changes you physically, it affects you mentally. People without psoriasis don’t understand: from the outside you can look fine but it’s soul destroying to spend so much on prescriptions and so much time applying them to only see a small improvement and to know that you may get a remission and be clear for a while, but that it could come back at any time.
Thankfully I’m surrounded with amazing friends, the most generous and supportive parents a girl could ask for, and there’s even been a rather cute guitarist lurking in the wings. I’m on the waiting list for UV light treatment which is pretty successful at clearing the patches. Generally things are on the up. I still disgust myself with the amount of skin I can shed in a day, I still look at my strappy tops and short skirts and sigh mournfully, but here’s hoping in a few months time I’ll be out there getting tan lines with the rest of you.
Last photo taken by the talented Susan and her 5d