Shining Bright with Psoriasis
After an unfortunate incident at a public pool, Melissa is sharing how she continues to shine bright.
Living in NYC and former professional dancer, Melissa developed psoriasis at only a few months old. What had begun as a small patch on her cheek covered 90% of her body by the time she was diagnosed at the age of three. Although psoriasis has largely impacted on her life, Melissa views psoriasis as just a small part of who she is. Melissa gives us a very honest account of the emotional impact of psoriasis and how she has overcome the challenges she has faced.
Summertime. Some may argue that this is the most beautiful season of the year, but for me, summertime can leave me feeling conflicted.
On one hand, I love the warm weather, my favorite place is the beach and moderate sun exposure can potentially be healing for my psoriasis plaques.1 On the other hand, summer means short sleeves, and exposing my skin. This is why I’ve always been conflicted between loving summer and feeling particularly vulnerable about my appearance.
And it’s not just a superficial fear, either. If you are living with psoriasis, you understand the potential consequences of showing your skin. I’ve encountered stares, dismissive remarks, and most painfully, the fear on someone’s face when they notice my disease.
There is one instance that stands out in my memory. When I was a child, I’d sometimes have plaques that covered most of the skin on my legs and arms. Although it was not always the easiest sight to see, as my plaques were dry and red, I was dealing with it the best way I could. One summer afternoon, I went to a public pool with my friends. I was feeling brave and let my psoriasis show, but I anticipated having a great time. It was the start of the summer season, so I was also looking forward to the sun potentially helping alleviate my psoriasis plaques.1
Soon after laying down my towel, I was approached by the pool manager. I was asked to leave. He explained to me that several people expressed concern about my skin, and that they didn’t want to be around me. He said it wasn’t appropriate for me to be at the pool swimming in the water with other people.
I was crushed, devastated and deeply misunderstood. I understood his fear and sense of responsibility, but in one sweeping moment I had been reduced to my psoriasis. I explained the disease that I had, and although he was vaguely familiar with psoriasis he was still not convinced that the disease was nonthreatening. I put on my sandals, collected my towel and left in utter sadness.
Luckily, my friends were supportive and happily picked some other activity for the day. But I couldn’t help but fixate on the fact that my psoriasis was noticed above all else. In that moment, it had been my defining feature, but I knew I was so much more than my skin.
As I reflect on the experience, even now when so many years have passed, I’m able to see how difficult circumstances helped me grow as a person. Thinking about that day doesn’t discourage me, but instead reminds me to be compassionate and understanding towards all people I encounter. My painful childhood memories are experiences from which I derive confidence, because I know that I can overcome the challenges of living with my disease.
Through the years I’ve faced similar kinds of adversity. There have been times when my psoriasis and its stigma alienated me, and was an obstacle in even simple, daily encounters. I can’t say that it always gets easier, but I’ve learned to feel confident in the person I am. I know that I can never be defined by psoriasis.
Now more than ever I’m motivated to spread awareness about the disease. No matter how my skin is looking, summer will always be my favorite season. My new mantra? Shine bright like the summer sun.