Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible chronic illnesses. The goal of the series is to see how we are similar and how we are different - and to remind us to keep moving forward because we aren't alone!
Location: Ontario, Canada
Age at Diagnosis: elementary school, around the age of 10
How are you currently treating your condition?
I go intermittently for phototherapy, but mostly I control my psoriasis with diet. Avoiding gluten, dairy, chocolate, nuts, beans, corn, bananas, and eggs makes a night and day difference for me! I identified most of my trigger foods through a blood test for IgG antibodies. Diets to help psoriasis (and I imagine many other autoimmune conditions) are incredibly individual, but I'm happy to have found something that works well for me.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
During my last bad flare I was recommended for methotrexate, an immunosuppressant, which would have seen me have to quit my job as a lab scientist (as I work with high level pathogens and cannot be on these types of medications). That was a scary time. I never realized my condition could have such a profound effect on all areas of my life, prior to that. Aside from that experience, the ever-present pain and itching of my skin lesions is mentally draining, adding into the fatigue that comes with many chronic autoimmune conditions.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
Anything that reduces the pain and itching is top of my list for everyday management. I have a super involved moisturization routine that I follow everyday, which helps prevent drying and cracking. Using creams with menthol helps temporarily reduce itching. I also practice Vipassana meditation. Keeping my skin as happy as possible and having tools to manage anxiety and feelings of hopelessness allows me to get on with the other aspects of my day!
How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
Having the pleasure of becoming a patient advocate for both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis keeps me facing forward! There are days when I feel run down and ready to throw myself a pity party, but I know that I could also spend that time answering someone's question, or sharing in someone's journey. The passion to create a safe community for people like me is what keeps me motivated.
If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
I would tell myself to enjoy my life and to try and overcome my ego at a younger age (a tall order when you're in your formative years!) I would also tell myself "yes, it does get worse, and yes, you do survive." So much of my childhood and early adolescence was spent agonizing over the "what ifs" of my disease. Knowing what was to come would have been disheartening, but it would have also allowed me to let go of those fears (and it would have given me a total appreciation of the almost decade when my skin really wasn't that bad. But everything is relative, and hindsight is 20:20!).
Do you have a blog you would like to share?
I write for PlaquePsoriasis.com.
Would you like to be featured on Facing Forward? If so, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.