"I Began Working on How to Make Myself Comfortable"

During what was supposed to be a beautiful vacation to Italy four years ago, Debra M. was publicly humiliated while visiting a salon to have her hair cut. A shampoo attendant refused to wash her hair because of the psoriasis on her scalp. "She got me in the shampoo bowl, but when she saw my head, she freaked out," says Debra, who has four children and owns a public relations business in California.

"There is so much shame attached to psoriasis, mostly due to the way people respond because they don't know what it is," says Debra. She was diagnosed nine years ago with psoriatic arthritis, severe plaque psoriasis and inverse psoriasis (which occurs in the skinfold areas such as the armpits).

Coping with emotional challenges

The severity of Debra's disease has caused both physical discomfort and emotional stress over the years. "Many people hide," she says. But rather than hide or give up, Debra, now in her 60s, decided to learn more about psoriasis so that she could find ways to live a happier and healthier life with the disease. "I began working on how to make myself comfortable when I had a flare," she says.

Debra recommends the following strategies, all of which helped her improve her quality of life.

  • Wear comfortable clothing—Instead of wearing fabrics such as polyester, which "feel like razor blades" on the skin, Debra found clothing online made with aloe vera, seaweed and bamboo, all of which are soothing to her skin.
  • Give yourself a professional pedicure—Knowing that the manicurists at her nail salon had a tendency to talk about her skin during a pedicure, Debra decided to learn how to do her own nails. "I bought all of the supplies, and now I take care of my own feet."
  • Learn to love lotion—"Lotion is my friend," says Debra, who used to resist using it because she thought it was messy and took too long to apply. Now, she has a collection of lotions for every occasion, including some that cool her skin during a flare, and scented lotions that just make her feel good.
  • Soak in water—Turn the timer on for 20 minutes and take a long, luxurious bath, says Debra, who also takes early-morning walks on the beach and dips her feet in the water.
  • Get a Thai massage—Debra loves getting a massage, but finding a massage therapist willing to work on her during a flare was a challenge. "I couldn't get anybody to give me a massage because of my skin," she says. Then she discovered Thai massage, which is done with your clothes on. "I have them do the Thai massage so at least I can be touched."
  • Find a mentor—Debra found a mentor through the National Psoriasis Foundation. "It is like having a buddy who understands you but isn't trying to fix you," she says.

Debra also has learned a form of acupressure that involves tapping specific areas of the body with your fingers to relieve stress. While she knows she can't fully control her psoriasis, Debra is in a better place today with the knowledge that she can take good care of herself.

Have a story to share?
We’d love to hear your story! Email us your advice for coping with psoriasis at: Guides@healthmonitor.com

Published August 2011

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