How Getting Psoriasis Challenged Me To Still Love Myself

Photo: courtesy of the author
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Self

When I woke up and felt something itchy on my right hip, I didn't think much of it; I just scratched it. The next night when the itching woke me up in the middle of the night, I cursed my sensitive skin, put some topical antihistamine cream on the strange red welt, and went back to bed.

When I woke up the following morning, the small red patch was topped with a silvery scab, and that's when I knew what was happening: I had psoriasis. It's hard to truly learn how to love yourself when you hate the skin you're in — literally.

On the one hand, it wasn't surprising. When I was 14, I developed acne that was so severe I once looked up from eating breakfast to find my dad gazing at me like I was actively eating human flesh at the table.


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Around the same period of time, I started getting warts — one on my finger, another on my foot. Then, my moles started sprouting up and annual skin screenings were added to my already pretty jammed back schedule of dermatological appointments. 

I figured all of that stuff (minus the skin screenings) would go away eventually, and they did. While people say I've been blessed with "great" skin, they don't know that a lot of work (time, money, effort, and failed attempts) went into making it great. I haven't had another wart since the one of my left middle finger was cut out, leaving a tiny scar as a reminder.

In short, other than the eventual wrinkles I knew I'd get and the moles I'd have to have removed, I thought I was out of the woods when it came to my skin.

I thought wrong.

You see, my mom and I share a lot of the same health stuff. When I was in college she developed painful psoriasis all over her body, particularly in places where clothing hugged her: her waist, the areas where her bra sat.

I went with her to doctors appointments, I looked up all natural ways of treating the stuff, I listened as she told me about how she was changing her diet to help her skin but in all that time in never occurred to me that if my mom could develop psoriasis, I probably could too. 

Seeing the quarter-sized plaque on my hip, I lost my mind and I'm not proud of myself. I sent a picture of it to my mom to confirm, and when she agreed that's what was happening, I basically ran to my dermatologist. After examining it, and my weirdly swollen joints as of late, she pulled away and looked at me.

"Wow," she said. "You cannot catch a break, huh?" To be honest, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I thought back to every other appointment I've had with the woman — hacking off moles, hacking off warts, injecting zits, managing the scarring from the shingles. She was right: when it comes to issues with your skin, I had officially lost the genetic lottery.

Psoriasis has dealt a double kick to my heart and my confidence. I hate that it's had that effect. I have worked for so long to feel beautiful in my fat, mole-riddled skin, and yet now I find myself cursing under my breath that I wasn't more grateful for the clear skin I had when I had it.

I hear the mean voice in my head, the one we all have, getting louder and saying things like, "If you ate better, this wouldn't have happened. If you were less anxious, this wouldn't have happened. You don't deserve to feel pretty anyway. I know what a bad person you are."


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The self-hatred came on so fast that it took my breath away. I was appalled with myself. I talk a big game about the external not mattering, and how we are all beautiful, but one plaque of psoriasis and I have lost my mind with disgust for myself, for my hideous body, and how quickly that hatred escalated into that of hating my own pathetic soul. 

I think this is worth sharing because I often say that self-love isn't a fight that you ever "win." There is no ending. It's a process.

You can be making progress for years, thinking you've left all of the BS behind you and then wham! — you're sitting in a doctor's office reading yourself the riot act once again. Two million steps forward, two million steps back. 

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Today, right this very second, I'm not feeling good about the way I look. I've got no makeup on, and the heat of the day is making my face shine like a grease slick. I've got redness around my nose and my chin. My bra isn't fitting me properly and no matter which way I angle myself, when I turn and look in the mirror all I see is a fat, ugly, worthless slob. 

I am going to change these feelings slowly; it's all part of learning how to love yourself. But it isn't going to be a eureka moment; no music is going to suddenly flood the sky. There will be no perfect conclusion.

Instead, when I look in the mirror and start ripping myself apart, I will say "stop it," and turn away from the mirror. I will let the chorus of hate flow through my mind, I'll let it chat and flitter away but I will hear it for it is: malicious untruths about someone I love: myself.

Maybe tomorrow I will feel better, maybe I'll feel worse, but one thing is certain: I will not feel this way forever. I have the tools to hold myself up even when it's hard. And if that can be true for me, it can be true for anyone else on Earth.

They say that you have to "love the skin you're in," but they never talk about how hard love really is. Before you can love another person, you've got to learn how to proactively love yourself — moles, warts, psoriasis and all. 


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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the love and dating advice show, Becca After Dark, on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.