Tadhg Dolan talks about psoriasis to SpinTalk

‘Psoriasis’. It’s a small word that packs a punch. For those unfamiliar with the disease, it can be defined as a skin disorder that causes you to break out in patches of red scales that can itch or be incredibly painful.

Like many skin disorders, there are variations in the degree and severity of the disease. Mine is called guttate psoriasis, and it is actually quite mild. I started to break out in the patches when I was in my first year of college aged 18.

Whilst on a study break, my friend noticed that I had a few red lesions on my arms. ‘What are those’ she enquired, whilst running her finger over the flaky pieces of skin that were falling to the ground.

‘I’ve no idea’ I said incredulously, as she suggested that it may in fact be psoriasis. I had no idea what that was, but luckily my friend had suffered with it for years and was able to explain to me what it meant.

Naturally, my curiosity took over. Instead of researching in the library for my Literary Genre exam, I spent hours on my laptop researching the disease. To say I was horrified was the understatement of the century.

I foolishly did a Google search which showed me the worst case scenario for psoriasis suffers. I saw complete areas of skin taken up by red, purple, and crusty looking scabs.

I then took to YouTube, as I so desperately wanted to believe that the photos were lying. I needed to hear people talking about the disease and this is where I stumbled over an interview with country star Leanne Rimes. She had been a sufferer her entire life. Her skin appeared to be so flawless and yet she had experienced depression and anxiety as a result of her psoriasis.

This did the job for me; I was quite comforted to see a celebrity talking so openly about her problems. She mentioned some creams that had worked for her, and I immediately went to source them for myself.

The next day I hit a bad patch. I woke up and my skin felt as if someone had poured acid on it overnight. It was bright red, with scaly patches covering my arms, legs, chest and to my horror my face!

I was in a state of panic, and excommunicated myself from all forms of community. I didn’t talk to my family and spent days in my room just sobbing to Leanne’s ‘How do I live’ which by now had taken on a whole new meaning for me.

The next day I hit a bad patch. I woke up and my skin felt as if someone had poured acid on it overnight. It was bright red, with scaly patches covering my arms, legs, chest and to my horror my face! I could deal with the areas I could cover, but there was no hiding what was in plain sight. Having psoriasis on my face was devastating. It was the prospect of people being able to see it, being able to comment on it that made me so anxious. I didn’t want to have to explain what it was, I didn’t want to lose friends because they were embarrassed to be around me. At the time, it seemed like a death sentence.

I could deal with the areas I could cover, but there was no hiding what was in plain sight. Having psoriasis on my face was devastating.

Now, looking back I can see why a young 18 year old would freak out about psoriasis. It’s a blow to your self-confidence, and the issues it brings surrounding body image. For instance, it makes you feel ugly. And I don’t mean ‘Oh my God, does this shirt make me look fat?!’ I mean ‘Oh my God, no one will, can, or should ever love me as my skin is too horrifying’.

These feelings recently resurfaced for me. I am 24 and have been psoriasis free for a year. I started a new job that’s quite demanding, and to my horror my psoriasis decided to pounce on the opportunity to run free over my skin once again.

While it is nowhere near as severe as before but I found myself asking the same questions. ‘Am I ugly?’ ‘And what if it doesn’t go away?’ Then I am truly fecked as we live in a society that places so much value on external beauty. I don’t have to tell most of you that we live in a photo shopped world. Instagram, Facebook and whatever is to come next is geared towards external values. How many likes can I get? Why didn’t I get those likes? ‘I mustn’t be good enough’ are thoughts that are beginning to circulate through the cyber air.

It’s a scary prospect, especially for those of us who can’t always fit into this prescribed notion of beauty. My psoriasis won’t allow me to be vain. Coupled with that, it’s just not in my nature to cater to my ego and pretend that I am perfect. These are just my thoughts but I wanted to write this as a shout out to my fellow psoriasis suffers.

These feelings recently resurfaced for me. I am 24 and have been psoriasis free for a year. I started a new job that’s quite demanding, and to my horror my psoriasis decided to pounce on the opportunity to run free over my skin once again.

Our imperfection is actually a gift; we have a unique ability to rely on our inner qualities. We need to be smarter, in order to hold a conversation that is durable. We need to cultivate a deep compassion for our disease, a skill that is transferable to other people. Above all else we know that what goes on inside our brain has a direct impact on our body. In those stressful moments when we forget that we are beautiful; our skin will remind us. It forces us to look inward and realise that beauty is anything but skin deep.

Recently, I have been more proactive in my aim to treat my psoriasis. I was put on a waiting list to see a dermatologist and this time I elected to go publically as opposed to privately, as private consultations are notoriously expensive. I was placed on a waiting list, and within a few weeks I saw a dermatologist. The queues of people waiting to see dermatologists in Ireland is very large in the public healthcare system, so be aware that you might be waiting some time.

I met with my consultant in the early hours of a Tuesday morning. She immediately undertook a thorough examination of my skin and diagnosed me with two separate types of psoriasis. She explained to me that I would need to gradually come off Dovobet, the steroid cream I was using. I needed to do this gradually over three weeks because if I were to stop using it immediately, the psoriasis could flare up.

She was considerate and compassionate whilst maintaining a professional care and understanding of my condition. She also suggested using light therapy and was confident that this will clear most up of my psoriasis. I left the hospital feeling uplifted and for the first time understood by my doctor. She took into consideration my emotional wellbeing, explaining that the severity of the psoriasis also depends on the emotional distress it is causing you.

Now, looking back I can see why a young 18 year old would freak out about psoriasis. It’s a blow to your self-confidence, and the issues it brings surrounding body image.

I have begun to see a very bright light when it comes to psoriasis. It is most definitely a debilitating condition but it should not be limiting. We are so much more than the shade, tone or texture of our skin, and psoriasis can help you understand what that means to you. There undoubtedly needs to be more facilities in place for sufferers of skin disease in Ireland. We need lower numbers on waiting lists and that means the government needs to invest in our skin.

Personally, I can see that psoriasis has come a long way and it will continue to do so in the coming years.

For more information on the emotional impact of psoriasis, visit our Psoriasis – Emotions and Behaviours page.

 

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