Can I Learn Anything from Psoriasis?
From time to time I'm asked how I've endured the hard times with psoriasis. A friend shared he had a rash for a couple of weeks that impacted his life greatly. He couldn't stop scratching at night, hampering his effectiveness at work the next day. He then tried to imagine what it would be like having that same rash every day for years. He had a new found respect for what I endure day after day with psoriasis after his experience.
It's not that it's hard all the time. But there are enough times I just want it to go away—far, far, away. Having an irritation that goes with you everywhere does get under one's skin.
Newly diagnosed psoriasis patients I talk to often focus on what they can do to rid themselves of the blight on their skin. Even my father, who was first diagnosed during retirement, talked to me nonstop about psoriasis. It got to the point where I wanted to talk about anything but psoriasis. But I also understood his need to discuss his diets, medications, and lifestyle changes.
The realization of psoriasis' potential permanence takes a mind by storm. My dermatologist described to me how new patients want a pill, injection, or ointment to fix it. When they learn of psoriasis' chronic nature, they become silent. It sinks in.
As a chronic condition, psoriasis often doesn't go away.
Some will experience remission of various lengths. I've heard of people “cured” of psoriasis. But there's the chance that it will return after a respite away, even if it's a long vacation. With no cure, and treatments often losing effectiveness over time, those afflicted with psoriatic disease must eventually face reality. Psoriasis could be here to stay.
It's natural to want to fight and battle something as impactful and challenging as psoriasis. It's visible, bringing on questions and even embarrassment. It's difficult to treat. Psoriasis impacts relationships, self-esteem, and wallets. In some ways I won't ever stop fighting. Even if psoriasis wins a battle, I don't want to let it win the war. It can't become all-consuming to the point where I no longer recognize myself and my life.
I need this can-do, don't give up attitude to thrive with psoriasis. But due to psoriasis' chronic nature, this fight fatigues me. Day-after-day the issues involved with psoriasis pound my psyche and health. The psoriatic scales keep piling up, making a mountain out of a little flake-hill.
The battle wages on. Can anything good come of it? Is there anything I can learn from psoriasis?
Learning Frustration Tolerance
As a child I heard that it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. The game of life brings adversity—something those with psoriasis or any chronic health condition know all too well. The response to that adversity, though, is half the battle.
A wise mentor of mine once observed that life's challenges either harden or mold a person for the better. It's a thought I've taken to heart. I admit those times my attitude isn't always great. In my teen and young adult years I carried a ton of anger around like a heavy weight on my shoulders. My journal writing from that time expresses how much I hated psoriasis. But over time I began to see that something good can come out of this experience.
The best example I can share is my ability to stay calm through irritating and frustrating situations. The professor of a class I took on psychological well-being taught about building up “frustration tolerance.” It's natural for a person to want what they want, when they want it. But what happens when circumstances go awry?
Complaints and grumbling can quickly surface. To develop tolerance to those situations, however, a person could stand in the longest line, instead of the shortest. Or they could drive during peak traffic times in the city. Engaging in smaller frustrating activities leads to the ability to handle much tougher and difficult circumstances.
A Winning Attitude
Psoriasis gives me ample opportunities to grow personally, such as in frustration tolerance. Treatments often take weeks, if not months, to reveal their full effectiveness. A flare can last longer than expected. Symptoms can worsen overnight and bother me all day. I didn't need to wait in long lines to practice patience, contentment, or gratitude in the midst of deeply exasperating situations.
This attitude of learning from psoriasis continues to transform my life and relationships. I smile when my daughter tells me that I'm not angry like I used to be. Or a colleague tells me I'm the type of person who can handle a lot of stress. I definitely still would rather it just go far away. But if it's going to stay close, then I'd rather gain something valuable from the experience.
Has psoriasis taught you anything about yourself or how to approach life? In what ways?
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.