*Post may contain graphic images*
Grab yourself a cuppa and sit down, and let me tell you how this post came about. Well, the idea for this post came last weekend. I was talking with my mum about what sort of blog posts she would like to see more of online, and she came up with a post raising awareness about what it’s like living with an illness that people don’t necessarily see day to day. In other words, invisible illnesses. I’ll be primarily talking about an illness close to my family.
So why did she want a blog post like this? Well my mum suffers with a skin condition called psoriasis (pronounced with a silent P). Psoriasis is a common immune condition which affects 3% of people in the UK and Ireland. It has affects on the skin and is linked to several other medial issues that can develop.
Psoriasis causes a persons skin replacement process to speed up, taking a few days to replaces skin cells whereas someone who hasn’t got psoriasis would take 21-28 days. Due to the process being so sped up, the skin cells build up on the skin and form raised ‘plaques’ on the skin and it is flaky, scaly, it can be different tones on different skin types and it incredibly itchy. It can affect anywhere on the body, depending on the type. It is caused by the cells which fight infections becoming overactive, which as a result causes inflammatory chemicals to be produced, which leads to the rapid skin regeneration.
I know what some of you might be thinking, does this mean that you heal super quickly when you hurt yourself like a super hero?? In short, no. It just sucks.
Unfortunately there is no cure for it, but it can be managed with treatment and advice. But different things can trigger it and these are different for everyone.
My mum suffers with psoriasis pretty bad, literally head to toe. She’s tried all creams, lotions and potions out there. She could probably open her own chemist with all the different things she’s tried. The only thing that seems to work is the sun. Yes, the actual sun. And guess what, we live in England.. Not typically the home of hot sunny weather.
This means that one day you could see her and she’ll be out in a vest top and shorts and you wouldn’t think anything is wrong with her skin, and the next she could be in a long sleeve turtle neck with jeans and a hat to cover as much of her skin as possible. My mum kindly agreed to have some photos taken of her skin so you can see what it is like living with psoriasis.
As with all invisible illnesses, just like with mental health challenges, there are some things that people will suggest or tell you to do when they don’t necessarily understand where you’re coming from. And that you have likely already tried everything they are going to say. But we all know deep down they’re coming from a place of trying to help you out, so you just sit there smiling trying not to implode.
Things my mum hears all the time:
- Have you tried this moisturiser? I get really dry skin and this works for me.
- Are you sure it’s not dandruff? (Disclaimer, the answer to this is always NO. And we’ve tried all forms of anti-dandruff shampoo out there and they don’t work.. Stop suggesting them!)
- My friend has a friend who’s uncle’s cousin has psoriasis, and his doctor gave him this.. (we’ve literally tried everything from the doctors for my mums skin already)
- Why hasn’t the doctor given you injections to manage it? (The thing with going to the doctors about your skin is that you can always get an appointment at the doctors the same day, and with skin conditions they can look worse on day to the next. Which means half the time when you actually get to the doctors they don’t think it’s that bad because you’re having what my mum calls ‘a good skin day’.)
- Have you tried cutting out dairy? (yes.. It sucked and didn’t do anything..)
- Have you tried exercising more or yoga? (I don’t know why this is everyone’s answer to any medical problem..)
- Just stop itching it and it’ll go away (it wont.)
- Just stop worrying about it (people can say this all they like, but it won’t change the fact that we’re self conscious about it)
Having a condition or illness that can be invisible can take it’s toll on you mentally. It can really get you down and affect your self esteem. For my mum, if she’s having a ‘good skin day’ she’ll be happy to wear black tops and jumpers because she isn’t worried about having skin flakes everywhere. But if she’s having a ‘bad skin day’ she’ll wear primarily white tops just because she feels when her skin flakes it’s less noticeable.
The best thing you can do for someone with an invisible illness that isn’t always invisible is just be there for them. And ask them what you can do to help. Or ask them if there is anything they have found works for them, and just reassure them that if people stare, it’s because it’s just human nature to look at things we’ve not seen before (we’re curious beings, so we understand that people don’t just stare to be mean, they often don’t realise they’re even doing it). Keep telling them that they’re perfect the way they are and that it doesn’t bother you at all. It’s common and nothing to be ashamed of.
What’s important is letting them know that they are loved, regardless of any invisible or visible illness/conditions and that they will not change the way you see them.
My mum is incredible with how open she is about how her skin affects her mental wellbeing. She’s not afraid to speak up about it as skin conditions are not something really spoken about enough. It’s cheesy, but I don’t see my mum’s skin condition, she’s just my mum. And she’s perfect the way she is.
I think that’s enough from me today!! Have a great week everyone!!