On one winter day in 2018, I noticed a red pimple on my chest. I had just finished my cross country season in college and assumed this was because of the sweat and friction between my uniform and my skin.
But then the red marks multiplied.
I started seeing marks on my legs, arms, chest, and worst of all — my face. The hospital diagnosed me with psoriasis — something I’d realize I have to deal with for the rest of my life.
According to WebMD, “Psoriasis is a skin disorder that causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. This makes the skin build up into bumpy red patches covered with white scales. They can grow anywhere, but most appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.”
It’s an incredibly intense skin condition in the winters and makes me feel like a completely different person.
Psoriasis Drained My Mental Health
The first winter that I dealt with psoriasis, I would take off my shirt before every shower, look into the mirror, and dread the way I looked.
Red marks everywhere. I knew this wasn’t me. I prayed that it wouldn’t last forever. But it’s hard to be optimistic when you deal with something as intense as psoriasis for the first time.
Going back into the dating scene seemed like a nightmare to me. I didn’t want to go out and meet girls. I was afraid of what they’d think of me. I completely shut down and kept to myself. As an extrovert, this was one of the hardest times of my life.
Solitude isn’t my go-to move, but it was the only way to cope with this experience.
Psoriasis’s Affect on My Social Life
When I went into school, I would feel eyes looking at me because my skin was a little off. People were asking me if I was doing alright. Of course, I appreciated their concerns, but it was so hard to get all the attention.
I enjoy the attention, but not the concerned type of attention. I felt like all eyes were on me and not for any accomplishments or achievements. It was because I looked different.
According to Psychology Today, The “spotlight effect” refers to the tendency to think that more people notice something about you than they do.
I had the feeling that everyone noticed all of the little things that I did about myself. It turns out that only my closest friends noticed, and everyone who was an acquaintance or stranger didn’t ask questions.
The spotlight effect still took over a lot of my attention because I felt a bit like a freak. I hate to use that term “freak,” but it’s the only word that truly speaks to the experience.
It turns out that not everyone is as focused on you as you might think. Most likely, they’re too busy worrying about themselves. It’s tough being an over-thinker.
Masking My Insecurity
During my deployment to the middle east, I didn’t have to necessarily deal with a winter season — the season where skin flare-ups surge with psoriasis. It didn’t reach below 50 degrees for an entire year. My skin appreciated it.
Lately, I’ve been going out to work in coffee shops and libraries because working from home all the time makes me depressed. I need to get out.
The winter season feels like it’s already started in Chicago as we’re having days hit as low as thirty degrees, and it’s November. For that reason, my skin is already flaring up. I can feel it on my back, and I notice skin peeling on my face.
But the great thing is that in public, I cover it all with a mask. Although masks are a bit uncomfortable, they help me hide my insecurities. I look just like everyone else. No one’s noticing my red marks. Nobody is asking questions about my skin looking a certain way.
The attention is off me, and I love it.
Life After The Pandemic
With psoriasis, my skin clears up when the weather warms up, so I have the spring and summer seasons to look forward to. The only issue is going back to my psoriasis when mask-wearing winds down.
That’ll be the true test to see if I’m able to look past anyone’s judgment besides my own. Self-love is the answer.
I am ready for the challenge.
Part of me feels like I can relate to someone who deals with noticeable skin conditions or burn marks. I can’t compare my situation to anyone else's, but I feel like covering my insecurities makes me feel better.
One day, I’ll get to the point where I don’t care about what everyone else thinks. Or I may move somewhere warm like San Diego so I don’t have to deal with this draining disease.
An individual's appearance on the outside is only a minor amount of insight on someone. Everything on the inside is what truly matters.