Beth Mhairi Webster gives us a heart-rending account about her experience with psoriasis. She expresses what it is like to live with this incurable condition and how it deeply affects both her physical and mental health at times.
For people living with chronic conditions, mental and physical health are deeply linked. It can get to the point where it feels like you’re in an endless cycle of trying to manage both physical and mental health issues.
I’m naturally a very anxious person but this was elevated to a whole new level when I was diagnosed with psoriasis. There are several reasons for this and I’m sure many suffering from psoriasis and other chronic diseases can sympathise with the countless different triggers. However, the first and most obvious trigger for me, is that after developing psoriasis completely out of the blue three years ago, I was told it was incurable and I’d have to manage this inflammatory disease for my whole life.
It’s completely overwhelming and because there is no cure, GPs can seem pretty apathetic. Yet, psoriasis is so much more than just the obvious, visual issue. Psoriasis originates from issues with the immune system and the result of this is very itchy and flaky patches of skin which in severe cases, can affect every part of your skin (including scalp and nails).
Dealing with painful skin over your entire body can be stressful and exhausting. I’ve often said that I would love to take a knife and slice all my psoriasis off because I can’t stand how itchy and uncomfortable I am - a pretty grim, but at times, relieving thought.
I was put through a step process of treatments for psoriasis, with the aim of finding something that will keep my condition under some sort of control. The hope of a new treatment working, followed by the crushing realisation that it’s not having an effect, or stopped working, can be devastating for people with psoriasis.
Stats from research conducted in 2012 by The Psoriasis Association and Mental Health Foundation (See Psoriasis: Look Deeper), found some pretty shocking results about the emotional impact psoriasis has on people. Approximately 1 in 3 people experience depression and anxiety, with 20% of people with severe psoriasis taking antidepressants. What really saddened me, was that 10% of people had actually contemplated suicide, which is completely heart-breaking and demonstrates just how much support people with chronic conditions need from their families, friends and health providers.
The physical side of psoriasis can also impact your mental wellbeing, with people being ashamed of their appearance. I always strive to be as confident as I can with my skin, but it’s tough. You’ve got this very visible, bright red sign all over your skin, just asking for glances and rude comments. In the midst of a bad mental health period, my psoriasis makes everything just that little bit harder. Because of that, I stop taking care of my skin as much, my psoriasis gets worse, which makes me feel worse – and so begins the downward spiral.
I’m still learning about my psoriasis and my mental health, but the best thing for me has been to speak to people - in real life, online and even writing about it! You need a support network, of both people you love and people who have psoriasis and can sympathise with how you’re feeling. Sometimes all you need when you’re struggling is someone to say, “Yeah, I know exactly how you feel” – it’s amazing to feel like you’re not alone.
Psoriasis Association have a lot of support for people, including a Whatsapp you can contact during weekdays: 07387 716 439
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