Natacha Martins is 18 years old, and in her senior year of high school studying graphic design. Psoriasis has been part of her life since she was 4 years old. Her story shows the reality of many young people living silently with psoriasis, and how their struggles are often forgotten by society and even the educational system. As PsoHappy’s ambassador, Natacha shares some of her personal experiences with psoriasis, and how she has learned to overcome some of the challenges of living with a chronic disease, making her feel more confident in her own skin.
Mocked and alienated – coping with psoriasis at school
Although I’ve had psoriasis since I was 4 years old, the beginning of my school life was very unproblematic – calm with no attentive eyes as if I was just like everybody else.
But at the end of primary school, things started to change. For the first time, I felt that other children were focusing more on my skin than me as a person. I’ve experienced countless unsettling reactions from my classmates. They were disgusted by me. They didn’t want to be close to me or hold my hand during field trips, fearing that the rashes on my arms and palms were contagious.
Eventually, I couldn’t take the mockery anymore, and I ended up running away from my classmates. A school official took me to a room where I ended up crying, perhaps out of fear or anxiety. The teacher in charge of my class discovered what had happened and reprimanded my classmates.
In my 5th grade, my mother had a daily routine of waiting for me by the school gate when classes were over. As usual, she was standing quietly next to the other parents when the father of one of my classmates suddenly approached my mother, criticizing and blaming her for being negligent. How could a mother let her daughter go to school with “those things” on her hands, hair and scalp? My mother was in a state of shock to bear witness to this kind of behaviour and profound disrespect to all parents and children who deal with this condition. Fortunately, other parents and coincidentally one of my teachers witnessed the incident and immediately supported my mother.
It’s episodes like this that have left me somewhat alienated socially. Instead of hanging out and having fun with my classmates (or at least trying to), I ended up spending most of my time with teachers or school officials. I didn’t know what to say or how to confront my classmates when they mocked me. I was alone. And in this loneliness, my shyness grew stronger. With puberty and when starting in a new school with new classmates, uncomfortable situations would always occur. As I grew older, I learned to deal with these situations but it’s impossible to be completely indifferent when people try to hurt you. Too often, I’ve experienced people speak with total lack of knowledge about my condition, not being aware of the sorrow they cause.
Each time I realise that even strangers look at me on the street with a look of distrust and sometimes even disgust, I feel a mixture of sadness and irritation. Even with access to an abundance of information about psoriasis, people continue to judge and discriminate simply because of aesthetics.
One day, one of my teachers talked to me and suggested that I’d give a presentation about psoriasis to my classmates. Coincidentally, it happened the same week as World Psoriasis Day. I tried to get as much information as I could, and after sharing my experience and talking openly about psoriasis, I felt that my classmates accepted me and looked at psoriasis in a new light.
Sometimes I think that if my skin was completely clear of psoriasis, my life could be a little easier. It’s physically and mentally exhausting to be concerned about my skin all the time. It kept me from doing things such as gymnastics due to the plaques of psoriasis and the pain they caused.
I’ve always tried to be like any other teenager, and with the unconditional support of my family and friends, I have learned to accept psoriasis in my life.
Accept your condition
I found PsoHappy thanks to my mother and after participating in their surveys. This gave me the perfect opportunity to finally share my story.
Although I am still very young, I’ve always wanted to help more people overcome the barriers that psoriasis imposes on their lives. Not everyone knows how to deal with it, and with my testimony, I want to show that there is a silver lining, and that it’s possible to be happy.
Psoriasis does present challenges in our daily lives that are hard to avoid, but being accepted as a person shouldn’t be one of them. This acceptance starts with ourselves. If we can’t make an effort to accept our psoriasis, how can we expect others to do so?
When we feel good and happy, psoriasis responds to that feeling, and a whole new path opens up in our lives.
PS: Be Happy!
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