"I Turned Obstacles Into Opportunity!"

Certain challenges every college student expects to take on: juggling a full class schedule with a full social life, deciding on a major, changing your mind and deciding on a different major…but learning you have psoriatic arthritis? Not exactly something Vanessa Shortley expected to confront while studying journalism five years ago. Yet, rather than buckle under a daunting diagnosis, she put her sleuthing skills to work, sussing out the who, what, where, when, how and why of her condition, so that she could not only deal with it—but defy it. Today, the 27-year-old editor of a weekly newspaper, Vanessa shares her secrets for surmounting the personal and professional difficulties posed by psoriatic arthritis.

Adapt your dream

At her first newspaper job out of college, Vanessa dove right into arguably the most challenging beat: crime. “Biologic medications had been keeping my psoriatic arthritis under control,” she recalls. “But being a crime reporter was so stressful, I would get flares.” Instead of closing the door on her dream, she redefined it. “After a few months, I transferred to the News of Orange County in Hillsborough, NC, to cover education. “Now I go into schools, report on what the kids are doing and feel like an important part of the community.”

Feel great from the outside in

“When I put together an outfit that looks and feels good, I take a picture of it, right down to the accessories, and label it with the symptoms it works best with; for example, I took a picture of an outfit without buttons and labeled it 'tendinitis.' Another outfit had a flowy skirt, so I noted that it’s perfect for days when my hips swell up.”

Up your self-esteem with the right hobby

“It’s crucial to cultivate hobbies that make you feel proud of yourself,” says Vanessa. “For me, it’s jewelry-making.” Indeed, the concentration and attention to detail required for activities like jewelry-making, gardening, scrapbooking and doing crossword puzzles are proven to relax you by triggering activity in the rational part of your brain and preventing you from dwelling on stress.

Find a mate who understands

Vanessa shares these reassuring words for singles trying to balance psoriatic arthritis with the dating scene: “The people who are meant to stick around in your life will, and there’s someone out there who thinks you’re awesome.” She knows because she’s found that someone, having celebrated her three-year wedding anniversary in June. And according to her, the simple act of saying “no” is sometimes the best thing you can do in a relationship if you have psoriatic arthritis. “Giving myself permission to say ‘I can’t’ when I’m exhausted is one of the most important things I’ve learned; you’ll know you’ve found the right person when you can say, ‘I’m just not up to going out on Friday or Saturday,’ and your partner understands.” After all, even sharing downtime with your significant sweetie can make you feel closer as a couple. “Just sitting on the sofa watching an old episode of That '70s Show with my husband is a way to laugh and do something together when I’m not up to ‘doing’ anything.”

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 June 2012 

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