August is Psoriasis Action Month, inspiring me to spread psoriasis awareness and improve the lives of other people like me who are impacted by this condition. I also see this month as an opportunity to assess how I’m doing with my own psoriasis and consider ways I can improve my quality of life.
Last August I determined the best way to take action was to rest and recuperate from the emotional drain I felt from the pandemic. You might be in a similar place — needing to take a time-out for self-care and recovery. Don’t feel pressure to do too much if that’s the case.
This year I have more energy and feel settled with my relatively new job. As August approached a few ways to participate in the Month came to mind.
What surprised me is how anxious and unsure I felt about doing them.
Psoriasis Can Lead to Lack of Confidence
For much of my life I’ve been down on myself. On a self-assessment paper for graduate school, I noted my need to gain confidence to pursue my educational and vocational goals. Even when I gathered up enough courage to take a risk, I felt overcome with pessimism and negativity.
I credit being diagnosed with psoriasis as a child for feeling timid in the face of life’s never-ending challenges. The teasing and bullying that came with psoriasis made me want to disappear. But as much as I tried to blend into the environment, my red and raised psoriatic plaques drew unwanted attention.
I came to see myself as ugly and unlovable. I chalked up any good that happened, or any accomplishments I earned, to luck. It took some time, but through my faith, the acceptance of my family and friends, and talk therapy, I built up my confidence.
Yet I still experience a crisis of confidence when contemplating doing something new or potentially risky. So, for this year’s Psoriasis Action Month, I’m choosing activities where I must stretch myself. As I do, I’m hoping to feel more self-assured as I effect change.
The following are my four actions for this August. Think about ways you might be able to build confidence as a person living with psoriasis as you read them.
Action No. 1: Spread Psoriasis Awareness
When I meet someone new, I see how quickly they notice my skin. I take those chances to share psoriasis’s impact on my life and debunk myths that it is contagious or only a rash.
This month I have a couple of opportunities to spread psoriasis awareness. A pharmaceutical company asked me to participate in a video that will be featured on their social media channels and sent to dermatologists. The National Psoriasis Foundation also invited me to speak to the media.
Making videos and talking to journalists will certainly stretch me beyond my comfort zone, but I’m willing to do these things for a good cause — and for my self-confidence.
Action No. 2: Evaluate Current Treatments
Periodically it’s good to evaluate how well your psoriasis treatments are working. If I do need to make a change, I’m reluctant to start new regimens or go back to old ones where I had a negative experience. This month, though, I’m pushing myself to restart phototherapy treatment.
I have a home phototherapy unit that my friends and family helped me purchase four years ago. It worked great for over two years to reduce my psoriasis and eczema severity, reducing my itch and helping me sleep better.
Unfortunately, my skin began to reject the narrowband ultraviolet light treatments to the point where I had to take a break. A few months ago, my dermatologist urged me to restart, but I delayed.
This month I’ve decided to try my phototherapy unit again. I’m hoping to complete a few weeks of treatments before seeing my dermatologist near the end of the month.
If my example inspires you, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting or stopping any therapy.
Action No. 3: Try On New Clothes
Before summer I began preparing myself for the strong sunlight here in the Sacramento area. Sunburn is a trigger for my psoriasis, so effective sun protection is a must. In my research I read about protective clothing that has UPF-50 fabric that blocks the sun’s rays.
Still, I’ve been reluctant to try sun-protective clothing out of worry that the fabrics could irritate my psoriatic skin. Besides, I’ve become quite comfortable with my loose-fitting cotton clothing.
A couple of weeks ago a clothing company offered me the opportunity to try some UPF-50 clothing from their sensitive fabric collection. At first, I resisted the idea but then I decided I shouldn’t be afraid to try something new, especially if it might help protect my skin.
Action No. 4: Take a Summer Trip
As I scrolled through news on my phone one day, one headline caught my attention: “Psoriasis: A Quarter of People Affected Have Already Canceled Their Holidays Because of the Disease.” The survey, from France, noted that 59 percent of psoriasis patients interviewed wanted to avoid being teased and 74 percent didn’t want to have to answer questions about their plaques.
I can relate to wanting to cancel travel because of my psoriasis. Before a recent trip to Seattle my skin flare made me want to stay home. Travel is especially concerning for me with COVID-19 variants still spreading in the community, as I’m afraid a viral infection would trigger even worse psoriasis.
But I’m glad I went on the annual father-son trip with my son Tim. I gained confidence that I can handle whatever my psoriasis throws my way on a trip even when my skin is in less-than-ideal condition. In mid-August I’ll travel again to Southern California to see family.
Make a Change This Month, Even a Small One
Whatever you decide to do this Psoriasis Action Month, even if it feels small, go for it. Just one social media post can make a difference.
Overcoming your anxiety and trying something new can build your confidence, and maybe even improve your psoriasis. It’s as simple as finding what fits you and your needs best and choosing something doable.
You can read more about my experiences on my website, PsoHoward.