At the tender age of 9 years old, I was diagnosed with Scalp Psoriasis, which quickly enough, made its way down my body, like raindrops, thick, red & scaly patches appeared on every limb and crevice. Bitterly, I’d watch the other children at play on the street from my bedroom window, for it was time for the daily ritual of having my scalp, buttered with harsh creams and my body, laid thick with cold cream under my favorite pajamas.
For a child, turned teenager and then an adult – in this image-obsessed world, Psoriasis has been hard. My battle is now 16 years long and changing with every passing hour. A common nature of the skin condition.
There is one fantastic thing about a diagnosis in today’s social media world, you are re-born A Psoriasis Warrior. We are tough, we are brave and we share everything with each other. To the eyes of those peering into our community from the outside, we are an incredible bunch and today, thanks to the branches of the internet, we do not have to feel so secluded with our flaws and we are not in the minority.
So, you’ve been diagnosed and your skin is changing. Maybe it is affecting the skin on your face, the hair on your head, your nail beds, your joints…
Book the day or two off work. Because this needs time, and when you start delving into the human psyche, it could be a long, deep and narrow cave. But that’s where we’re going to go today, and there’s an endless harvest of gold, at the end of the tunnel. This is the first step to smiling alongside your psoriasis, grinning whilst you apply creams, and listfully dancing into your new self-care regime, and you must take the step.
Stress. Yeah? We all have it, sometimes you don’t know that you are spreading yourself too thinly through a world of worry, until Bam! You are given a diagnosis like Psoriasis. But just as you are changing, so is the world, with its new battles all the time; the land rife with toxins from unprocessed waste, a demand on its atmosphere it just cannot sustain of poisonous chemicals, when consistently inhaled are detrimental to the human body.
Thankfully, your body is showing you this on your skin. It is saying;
“ Hey look, Buddy! I am trying to cleanse you, I am trying to do my thing to keep you alive and kicking, I do not mean to hurt you, I just need to speed your processes up a little – here and there.. To keep up with your demand, but I’m with you – I’m right here, I’m listening and when you are ready, I am ready. We are in this together, body and soul. “
To combat stress, I have found it most useful to detox my entire life. I have sat myself down and thought about what pressures I could relieve myself of, and searched for the perspective we do not often see. Perspectives and solutions that ARE there. It can take drawing up spider diagrams, talking to friends, talking to strangers, online research, or re-connecting with spirituality, to find the answers that these ulterior perspectives offer, but they are there.
I have realized that my possessions can be unnecessary clutter, so I have taken a lot to charity shops, disposing of materials correctly, and released the weight of excess belongings.
I have a picture framed my closest friends and now they are the ones that benefit mostly from my time, and our friendships have ultimately deepened and become more intense with platonic love, or whatever love you want to call it… but indeed, now I seek beautiful, authentic connections only. We build each other up and grow in our suffering together. We lean on each other’s optimism but do not shy away from the lessons and confessions our pessimism will teach us. I try, for the sake of the world, living Plastic-free, fast fashion free, and I stay in touch with nature. I get my lungs breathing good air, the kind you find on top of the mountains and in the middle of the sea. I go outside and leave the confines of my room, I take all the natural beauty in, in my deepest breaths, and I exercise my right to explore, and yes – I EXERCISE.
All the while, my nervous system will respond to this ‘Letting Go’ and I will see my skin calm itself and slow in its erratic movements. like the eroding shorelines, I see my plaques rise and fall, flare and relax with every new hour, until the patterns are so unsimilar from one day to the next, sensitive to emotions, suns, and moons, representing the unique constellation of cells in constant evolution around my body.
My personal journey with Triggers & Treatment;
Personal; because we are all so very different. My experience and with each small achievement, my determination for clear skin grows.
My knowledge of psoriasis is that it is the build-up of cells on the surface of the skin. The body creating new cells 6x faster than that of the average person. The build-up is visible, hence the plaques. What this translates to me, is my body is working too fast and too hard, creating new skin cells to keep up with the pressure that bubbles within, and I understand that to be a result of an imbalance in my nervous system.
So my reaction to that has always been, to slow things down, and assess my daily situations and the environments I am mostly in, with relationships and workload.
I drop everything and start by turning to my mirror and giving myself the huge embrace of love that I begin every challenge with.
‘The nervous system is a highly complex part of an animal that coordinates its actions and sensory information by transmitting signals to and from different parts of its body. The nervous system detects environmental changes that impact the body, then works in tandem with the endocrine system to respond to such events’ Google, Wiki
So…. If Psoriasis is an Autoimmune Disease… Does the nervous system affect the immune system?
‘Alterations in the state and function of the nervous system influence the immune response. The nervous system regulates innate immune responses through the release of neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and neurohormones.’ Google, Wiki
As part of slowing my immune response, I have studied how food is used as energy in the body and adjusted my diet to respect the needs of my body. I have tested all sorts of diets, from Vegan to Paleo. The diet I now eat is rich in minerals and vitamins.
Tailored to my own working lifestyle, I eat a breakfast of porridge oats, sweetened with Honey and dark fruits. I snack on a selection of un-seasoned nuts (I eat just 2 Brazil nuts every day, for they are a rich source of selenium, an essential mineral with antioxidant properties) I eat 1 banana, 1 apple, and 1 orange, and try to eat my greens and fish main in either my lunch or dinner. I try to eat meat at least once a week. I am largely dairy-free.
For personal reasons, I practice intermittent fasting in a 16-hour window. I do this a few times a week. Eating my last meal at 4 pm and my breakfast at 8 am. Although, I cannot help but pass up on the indulgence of 85% dark chocolate, in my fasting window! (Oops!)
Intermittent fasting or as we call it in my flat ‘I.F days’; give me instant visible healing results, mostly for the hormonal acne I have on the jawline of my face.
You should always seek advice from your Doctor before changing your diet in such a drastic way like with fasting. If you do decide to try this for your psoriasis, make sure you are getting all of the protein and nutrients you need, in the 8 – hour- eating window. Ultimately, Tailor your diet, to the demand for energy your life needs of you.
Now for myself at the age of 25, I have a very healthy diet and I pair this with a very active lifestyle. This is the biggest factor of having good skin days.
Note; these things take time, if you are putting your body under too much pressure to change, you are going to see adverse results and put your body and mind under more stress. So, Take it easy!
Another personal trigger but also very common is Travelling. Any time spent on a long train or plane journey has left me with bad flares when I’ve reached my destination. Changes in air conditions and air pressure, air circulation and sometimes uncomfortable inactivity during the traveling period, is a trigger for a flare-up.
I now pair traveling, with earplugs, a pillow, and a sleeping eye mask.
I try to relax into the journey as much as possible, making sure I keep a positive and optimistic outlook on the experience, this means expecting or dealing with any journey delays or cancellations with a relaxed attitude and a pinch of salt.
Note; I carry cloth and cream when I travel, wetting the cloth in a washroom, and wiping my face and body down in the cubicle, then quickly applying a layer of cream before putting my clothes back on, works wonders and leaves me feeling totally refreshed.
As a young female, I have had all of the usual trials and tribulations with contraception. I was always seeking the pill that is ‘right for me’.
I found that during 2 years on the Progesterone Only Implant, remarkably my psoriasis cleared. However, It actually elevated other skin conditions and I developed Hidradenitis Suppurativa. This is a painful skin condition that causes abscesses and scarring on the skin. It occurs near hair follicles where there are sweat glands. In my case; in the armpits and around the breast area. But alas, now I am a year without all Hormonal contraception in my body, I have no HS flares, and though my Psoriasis returned, I am more capable to easily manage it, with all my hormones balancing out and returning to their natural cycles.
I am happily fitted with a copper, Non-hormonal coil, which I suggest as the best method of contraception for anyone who needs to have a clear, obvious connection with how their skin reacts to natural triggers.
As you are aware, this section is so important. With many brands to try, it’s all trial and error.
The cream that has worked best for me is Diprobase.
I calm flares initially with Aloe Vera Gel or Vaseline – Petroleum Jelly, and in my shower cubicle, my products are all-natural (And single-use plastic-free!!)
I also use fake, self-tanning creams. My theory is that the action of thoroughly rubbing them into my plaques increases exfoliation and improves them. As a result, I feel confident and sexy.
I do not recommend Steroid creams for long term use and today I do not use them at all.
Consistency is key!
Moisturizing as much as possible is your best habit. Accept this and learn to enjoy this self-care ritual.
I would like to share that I have found over-washing underproductive for my skin’s healing. Our body is already equipped with natural oils and we should not wash them away as often as we do in the west.
I thoroughly shower or bath just 2 to 3 times a week. In between showers and baths, I carry out cloth washing.
I fill a bowl with hot water and use face & body cloths to rub down and exfoliate my skin. I then leave the clothes to dry, they go into my used cloth basket, and at the end of the week, they all go into the washing machine.
Cutting down on showers and baths has definitely worked wonders for my skin, scalp, and hair.
I started to develop Psoriatic Arthritis at the age of 18, after nearly 10 years of having Psoriasis.
‘Between 1 and 2 in every 5 people with Psoriasis develop Psoriatic Arthritis. It usually develops within 10 years of psoriasis being diagnosed, although some people may experience problems with their joints before they notice any symptoms affecting their skin.’ – NHS, UK
At first, I could feel the inflammation mostly in my knee’s. 7 years later, I feel stiffness in my shoulders, lower back, fingers, and knees.
I find Yoga, regular exercise and the daily administration of a Cod liver oil tablet, sufficiently deals with my bodily aches.
However, I continue to struggle with stiffness in my fingers, especially in colder temperatures, which brings me onto my final trigger confession – The Weather!
‘UVB rays slow the rapid growth of skin cells that occurs with Psoriasis. The sunshine eases inflammation and reduces scaling’. – Medical News Today.
For many years now, and at every opportunity, I have practiced safe sunbathing,
Using a low SPF cream, so that the UV light can get to my plagues, but not damage my good skin. I protect my eyes with sunglasses and I stay clear of sunbeds. Remember, ‘A tan is your body’s attempt to protect itself from the damaging effect of UV rays’. NHS UK
The colder months of the year can elevate both my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis symptoms. To combat this I never leave the house without a warm pair of gloves and all the other necessary winter wear accessories.
I do not let my Psoriasis stop me from enjoying Autumn & Winter. It is simply a matter of putting more time and effort into my self-care rituals. I create a cozy and comfortable atmosphere’s in my home, I burn essential oil, burn candles and surround myself with soft textures like blankets and pillows.
The heating can be a real issue for me. As soon as the thermostat is cranked up in temperature, the air in my flat is instantly dryer, and this triggers a flare. Keeping the atmosphere moist will improve your skin, air circulation is so important.
I communicate with the people around me, to make them aware that my needs are a little different with the changing of the seasons.
Still, I encourage healthy eating and sufficient, safe exercise throughout every month, to alleviate psoriasis plaque intensity.
Finally, I now live with the ability to throw my arms back behind my head and truly relax with myself. I care for myself in ways that a lot of us forget to. I care for my whole self, and I have the utmost respect for my body, all its systems, and all its glory.
As I sit here speaking to you now, I am someone who has amazing skin. I am totally happy with it. Yes, I still have psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis too. And deep scarring from my battle with Hidradenitis Suppurativa. But my relationship with my skin is completely different now. We (My skin & I) know what I need. We know how to deal with flare-ups. We have sourced the determination to control our diet and lifestyle through a balance of delaying gratification but indulging and treating myself when I just need to take a break.
I have an insight into what is going on inside my body and how happy my internal systems are from how my skin looks day today. We don’t all have a connection like this. I wish that I could show my 16 years old me, hunting for a suitable prom dress, that covers me all up, that I can look absolutely fantastic in anything I want, even a bin bag!!
If I am happy on the inside, I can see it on the outside, and that is the beauty of Psoriasis.
Rose Blofeld, Age 25, Leeds, UK.
Singer, Song Writer & Psoriasis warrior of 16 Years.