In the UK, men and women with psoriasis have reported worryingly low levels of self-esteem and confidence. According to the World Psoriasis Happiness Report 2017, only 10% of women and 20% of men feel good about themselves – that’s less than half the global averages. In addition, 41% of women and 39% of men living with psoriasis in the UK reported feeling isolated. 26 year-old Marie Burdis, from Yorkshire in the UK, has lived with psoriasis for most of her life – here, she shares with us the story of her battle with a chronic condition that’s much more than skin deep.
Growing up with psoriasis
I’ve been battling psoriasis since I was quite young. My psoriasis used to be mild most of the time, but there have been times in my life when it was so severe that I wasn’t able to walk or work properly. I was covered in little psoriasis patches everywhere and in my high school years, I got bullied for it a lot. When I was 21, my psoriasis symptoms became a lot worse, and it took almost two years to get a referral to the dermatologist.
When I had severe flare-ups I simply didn’t want to leave the house. Psoriasis affected my self-esteem – when people were staring and making comments to me or their friends, it stressed me out and created a lot of anxiety. People would even pull away from me when I handed over change in a shop, because my hands were cracking and bleeding so much. I used to get quite angry because I knew that psoriasis was not my fault, and it wasn’t something that I could control.
The perpetual cycle
Throughout my life, the battle with psoriasis has been a perpetual cycle. You get stressed out because of flare-ups, and after trying a new treatment that doesn’t work, you get even more stressed out because your skin is not getting any better. In the past, I developed depression but I managed to get back to life. It’s important to look out for symptoms of depression and seek out help if you need it.
Dealing with relationships
Psoriasis can definitely have an impact on personal relationships and intimacy, but it’s important to be open about your condition. When I was 17 or 18 and started dating, I used to say right away, “Look, I need you to know this – I have psoriasis and it’s a chronic condition”. My current boyfriend has been very supportive and accepting. We’ve been together for nearly eight years, and though I have those days when my psoriasis flare-ups get really bad and I feel down, my boyfriend helps me overcome these challenges.
A couple years ago, Kim Kardashian announced that she had developed psoriasis and it affected her confidence massively. I think it comes down to how society perceives women – we feel the pressure to look and act in a certain way, and there’s so much attention on our physical appearance. I know myself how difficult it is to wear short sleeves and show off the skin patches when psoriasis is severe on a hot summer day.
Need for awareness
Over the years, I’ve met perhaps ten people living with psoriasis. None of my friends knew about psoriasis before they met me. I don’t think psoriasis is that uncommon, but people aren’t aware of it because it’s simply not in the media. Other types of skin conditions like eczema are discussed, but there’s rarely anything about psoriasis. Many people with psoriasis are also not aware of psoriasis support groups and research groups.
I’ve never felt that doctors have really understood what I’m going through, how psoriasis makes me feel or how I’m coping with it. My mother went through much worse because she was covered with psoriasis flare-ups from head to toe. Still, she was able to teach me how to feel better about myself. She helped me a lot when I was a teenager. My skin patches used to crack and bleed regularly and it was very painful. But my mother used to tell me “Marie, you’re not a different person. You have something different, but that doesn’t make you different than everybody else.”
People’s comments can hurt a lot, but I’m also aware that they don’t understand what psoriasis is. I can help to change that. I try to explain to people exactly what psoriasis is, and how it affects different parts of the body. They’re surprised how intricate psoriasis is – and that it is much more than just a skin condition.
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