Dramatic Stories: Psoriasis can make you anxious
Long time psoriasis warrior and customer Brooke used to cover her plaques with bandaids so no one could see her skin.
Meet Brooke, a long time Yours Only customer and COAT lover. So much so, she’s been featured on our Instagram a few times as we helped soothe her psoriasis flakes back in 2020. We’ve bonded over the last two years over our dramatic skin, and now she’s ready to spill her experience with psoriasis and dermatitis (the double whammy).
Tell us a little more about you. Where do you live, what do you do for work, what do you love to do on weekends.
I live in Adelaide and I work as an SSO (teachers aid/classroom support) in a High School special Ed class. I’m one semester away from finishing my Master of Teaching which is exciting! Full time work and study isn’t a vibe though aha. On weekends, I enjoy spending time with my fiancé and buying decor/furniture for our house that we’re in the process of building. I also enjoy going to the gym or grabbing brunch/coffee with friends and family.
Has your health journey moulded you into who you are today?
I think so! My brother suffered from eczema pretty bad when we were kids so I always knew these kinds of things could be pretty horrible to experience. When I got diagnosed, I hated my psoriasis – it popped up randomly and it hurt and was itchy. No one else in my family had it at that stage and I was super self conscious. I think just knowing how much these kinds of things can impact your confidence makes you aware and empathic of what other people are going through.
Do you think having dramatic skin has made you a better person?
Surely! Similar to above, it makes you so much more aware of what other people might think of you and in turn, makes you aware of how you think about others. Especially in my job, I get a lot of students asking me what is on my arms or why my skin “looks weird” so I can use those instances to explain to them that people have differences and why it’s important to not say negative things to others
Tell us about your experience in being diagnosed with your skin and health conditions.
It was kinda crappy to be honest. My first biopsy came back inconclusive so doctors kinda brushed me off at first. Once we actually figured out what it was, I got referred to a skin specialist and to be honest, he was crap. He was very cold and unapproachable and put me on light therapy straight away which, in hindsight, is odd cause my psoriasis really isn’t super bad compared to some people. I got no info on what it meant, how it flared up, what to do, what not to do. My current GP is great though and is very aware of it – he referred me to another specialist who I’m on a wait list for. I think one of the biggest burdens is that in a topical sense, there’s only so many things you can try. I feel like at this stage I have tried every prescription topical cream/ointment/spray and some of them suck, and some of them work for a month and then grow less and less effective so it’s almost like that ‘well, we’ve tried this this and this so it just is what it is’ scenario and it’s disheartening.
I absolutely wouldn’t wish it on anyone but it should serve as a reminder that a little empathy can go a long way.
When you have a skin flare up, how does it affect your mental health?
Quite a lot! When it’s bad, I’m usually sick or stressed which obviously doesn’t help! Because the bulk of my plaques are on my elbows, it gets extra painful to lean on my arms in anyway. Not directly related but I can get quite anxious in some situations and subconsciously pick at my plaques which definitely doesn’t help! I get extra self conscious about it when plaques appear on my face which probably impacts my MH the most.
Do your friends understand what it feels like to have a flare up?
Probably not to be honest, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My flares up aren’t a suuuuper common occurrence so I usually just keep it to myself. My fiancé is great though, he always reminds me to on creams/moisturiser etc. I personally really hate putting moisturiser on and avoid doing it more than necessary haha so he will prompt me to stay on top of it.
Can you share a story when your skin flared up and what went down?
One of my first memories of psoriasis messing up my emotions was not long after I was diagnosed. I had just turned 17 and was going to parties and stuff. I had a pretty bad plaque on my leg and it was visible with the outfit I was wearing and I absolutely hated it; I covered it with like at least 2 or 3 band aids so other people just thought it was a cut or graze or something. After that, I kept covering the bad visible ones 90% of the time which is pretty sad.
More recent, I had a really bad dermatitis flare up back when covid first hit – not sure if it was stress related or what but I had a rash around both eyes, my nose and my mouth and it hurt so badly. I remember sitting in the office at work nearly in tears cause my eyes were watering and it was stinging so much that I could barely touch my face.
What advice do you have for others with your skin condition?
Be kind to yourself about it! It is crappy enough to have to deal with without being mean to yourself about it. Be persistent with doctors too, some of them sadly brush off these kinda things but you know your body at the end of the day. Lastly, be picky with what you put on your skin. I feel like I’ve tried every “eczema/psoriasis” cream/ointment under the sun and most of them suck!
What do you wish you could tell people who don’t get what it’s like to go through flare ups?
Probably just the way it can impact more than just the appearance of your skin. It hurts, it can bleed and itch and that’s only the half of it. I absolutely wouldn’t wish it on anyone but it should serve as a reminder that a little empathy can go a long way.
Any hacks or tips to help manage your dramatic skin?
The big thing for me was consistency! Like I said above, I don’t particularly like putting on moisturiser/creams and I never have; up until Yours Only, I’d never found one that actually was working without leaving me like a ball of grease or goo or feeling sticky. Especially in summer, moisturising my body and specifically my plaques was like a task cause I hate the feeling but I would remind myself that that feeling of uncomforted was more bearable than the bleeding angry plaques that would more than likely appear if I neglected my skin.