Psoriasis & Living with a New Normal
“You have psoriasis.” That statement can change everything. I learned of my diagnosis as a child. My dad, on the other hand, received his psoriasis diagnosis after retirement. Whether young or old, hearing you have a chronic illness like psoriasis may impact several aspects of your life. Living with psoriasis becomes a new normal.
A new normal is a situation that once was unfamiliar or unusual, but becomes the standard or usual situation. A friend referred a newly diagnosed acquaintance to me to talk about living with psoriasis. Once we connected, she asked question after question and called me a couple of times a week. She wanted to know about my doctor, treatments, diet, and how I coped with the social stigma and physical discomfort associated with psoriatic disease. When living with psoriasis is a new situation in your life, it may require some adjustment before arriving at a place that feels somewhat normal again.
Dealing with psoriasis, I've faced a shifting severity of symptoms and had to work with my doctor to adjust my treatments accordingly. My body changed over the years too. I felt my condition worsen even as treatments became more impressive and effective. In some ways, normal can mean accepting the many changes, for better or for worse, that accompany the unpredictable nature of psoriasis.
The new normal with psoriasis can mean many different changes and adjustments to your life. Here are a few that you might face with psoriasis.
Scheduling Medical Visits
When I lived in the Bay Area, my dermatologist moved his office from a ten-minute commute to over an hour away. Then I moved even farther away. I liked my doctor, so I endured those long visits. I appreciate my healthcare providers wanting to monitor my health closely but it sometimes feels overwhelming.
Finding a doctor you feel comfortable with, and getting to a stable treatment plan may take time. You may be surprised at how quickly various visits to the doctor, pharmacy, and laboratory can populate your calendar.
Incorporating Treatments into Daily Routines
Over the years, I’ve partnered with my physician to try many different treatments and medications. Each treatment comes with a scheduled routine to incorporate into my schedule. An injection could be twice a week or once a quarter. A pill needs to be taken daily or weekly, or phototherapy trips to the clinic three times a week. In one stretch of a couple years I kept trying one new medication after another—each with a different dosing schedule.
Having a routine could help in the process of keeping up with treatments, but getting into that routine can be the harder part of the new normal with psoriasis.
Considering Lifestyle Changes
When my dad was first diagnosed with psoriasis, he called me more often than usual. His dermatologist came up with a good plan for treating him, but he still had lifestyle-related questions. Could he still travel as he and my mom enjoyed doing in retirement? What about the best diets or clothing material to wear? Would he continue going to the local gym as he had for decades? Energy levels might fluctuate from day-to-day with side effects from medications, general fatigue, or insomnia.
Everyone needs to answer those kinds of lifestyle questions for themselves. Learning about your own condition, and how you respond to different options, becomes a long-lasting search to find ways to maintain and improve your condition.
Tackling Social Situations
How I relate to others, and act in different social situations might also shift with psoriasis. For example, if I am being honest, I’ve felt anxiety about getting a haircut when my scalp psoriasis flares. I’m bolder now with finding a hairdresser who understands my condition, but I wasn’t always that way. Being in a public role at church, I shake a lot of hands throughout the week. When psoriasis creeps on my hands, though, I might wave more to those who don’t know me as well. Dating and intimacy are other areas where psoriasis can awkwardly come up.
Accepting your condition can be a valuable first step in relating to others. Those with psoriasis are people like anyone else. As I get to know others I find that they too have something they are struggling and dealing with, even if it’s different from what I have. But I certainly understand that there may be an adjustment period to how I relate to others in various social circles.
After graduating from high school, I took a six-week long trip—to a psoriasis daycare clinic. My fellow graduates, on the other hand, took trips to fun and exotic places like Disneyland, Asia, or Mexico. One of my journals filled up as I poured out my frustration and anger at staying in the clinic six hours a day, five days a week.
All kinds of emotions, many negative, arise with a chronic condition. Sometimes I still ask why I have severe psoriasis when others have normal skin and immune systems. It’s frustrating when I take longer to do what used to be a quick task. Depressing and anxious thoughts often fill my mind on down days. Identifying these emotions, and addressing issues as they arise, becomes a part of everyday life.
Psoriasis inevitably brings changes and adjustments into your life whether you are newly diagnosed or a veteran of many years. The good news is that the new normal can become the old routine with a bit of attention, flexibility, and willingness to adapt—great tools to have in facing any kind of change or challenge in life.
Any suggestions made are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your treatment, exercise or diet routine.