Vickie Wilkerson, of Shreveport, Louisiana, has been living with psoriasis for more than 15 years. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Hoping to create more awareness about psoriasis, Vickie became involved with the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) in 2012, and since then she has been an active volunteer psoriasis advocate and one-to-one mentor. Vickie reached out to us to share her extraordinary story of battling her condition and breaking the stigma associated with psoriasis.
My psoriasis started with a patch on my left leg. When it didn’t get any better after two weeks, I went to see the doctor, a general practitioner who knew immediately that it was psoriasis. I then went to see a dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis. Since psoriasis can be inherited, he asked if there was anyone in my family with the condition – at the time, I didn’t think there was, but now I believe I may have inherited my psoriasis from my father’s side of the family.
Things got challenging after that. The small patch on my leg spread until about 80% of my body was covered with plaques. It was devastating. The treatments were only working on my hands, not the other areas, and I started to lose hope that anything was going to help. There were a lot of ups and downs, and I spent days crying, hoping to find a solution. Finally, I told my dermatologist about the pain that I was having in my joints and he diagnosed psoriatic arthritis. As if that weren’t enough, I also developed depression and anxiety.
Relationships with doctors
In the past, I had a really good experience with my dermatologist. However, after years of battling psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, I was referred to a new dermatologist who misdiagnosed me with vitiligo. I was absolutely shocked to hear this. The new dermatologist also contradicted my previous diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis, which was not true either. So when the World Psoriasis Happiness Report 2017 shows that people living with psoriasis don’t trust their doctors, I’m not surprised!
Listen to your body
Through the years of battling psoriasis, I’ve learned how important it is to listen to your body. I’ve tried different diets, which unfortunately didn’t work, and I’ve tried exercising, which has helped relieve the pain in my joints. If I’m having a bad day, or my joints hurt, I will sit down and rest, and not do as much. In the past, I used to wear long sleeves to cover up my psoriasis patches, even in the hot Louisiana summer, because I felt ashamed. I don’t do that anymore – now I wear shorts, because otherwise the heat and sweat will only make my flare-ups worse.
Gathering data on people’s mental health is important – how many people with psoriasis have depression and anxiety, and why? These factors are so real for us, and PsoHappy data is validating it.
I’ve been married for eight years, and my husband and I have two beautiful children. But I was always asking him – are you sure you can deal with my condition? One day, I realized that I should start looking into support groups and start helping others with psoriasis. And when I got involved with NPF, I suddenly felt that my life – and my psoriasis – had a purpose. The first psoriasis volunteer conference I attended was just mind-blowing. I met other people with psoriasis who listened to me and understood exactly what it’s like to live with this condition. Now I’m helping other people and it’s very rewarding – I’m giving back to others as much as I can.
The changing perception of psoriasis
I believe the perception of psoriasis is changing today. People are starting to feel less isolated and can actually find others living with the same condition and going through the same challenges. My number one tip for others – don’t give up. It’s easy to get down and feel depressed when living with this condition, but psoriasis associations and foundations can help you.
Before I got involved with NPF, my confidence level was very low. I could barely stand to look at myself. Now, I’m more confident than ever. I feel unstoppable and unlimited, and I believe I can do anything. I’m optimistic about the future too – there are more and more new medications approved every day. My treatments have also been more successful, and currently I have only 10% of my body covered in patches. I’m hopeful that one day we’ll find the solution and cure psoriasis completely.
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