Living with Psoriasis : The Journey of Acceptance

accepting psoriasis

Written by: Francis Florencio

 

As I see my wife live with psoriasis, it is very evident of the emotional highs and lows that she would have depending on the state of her skin condition. I am not able to fully understand the experience of living with psoriasis, yet this would not stop me to be with my wife when the going gets tough. Understanding the journey of the person living with psoriasis would equip us as their loved ones to support them on their journey.

Living with psoriasis parallels that of a person who is grieving. Though it may not be a loss of a loved one, psoriasis does bring with it a sense of loss to the individual. My wife often described physical and emotional losses.  Physically there is the loss of healthy, normal skin. Emotionally, there is that sense of dread, tiredness, irritation and at times, hopelessness because of the never-ending experience of psoriasis flare-ups. I will use the ‘five stages of grief’ theorized by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (in 1969) to give us a framework on how we could support our loved ones’ journey with psoriasis. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

 

Denial

Denial is the stage when the person feels shocked, fearful or  avoiding the reality of psoriasis. It may come during the first diagnosis of the skin condition. At times, it may come when our loved ones succumb to the condition and lose motivation to treat it properly. In this stage our response is to encourage, validate and support our loved ones. We can check in about their thoughts and emotions and provide them support. By doing so, we open the communication line and provide us with actionable support for them.

 

Anger

Anger is the stage when the person feels frustrated or irritated. Having a skin condition can trigger negative emotion as it makes it hard to feel good about yourself overall. On this stage, active and empathic listening is the key. Listen to the frustration of your loved ones and allow them to vent those frustrations. Eventually that anger will subside and then you can support them to take necessary steps to care for their skin once again.

 

Bargaining

Bargaining is the stage when the person finds no meaning or perhaps he/she feels punished by having the skin condition. Active and empathic listening will be useful at this stage. In addition, it may be useful as well to help your loved ones get connected with others with a similar condition. There is healing and strengthening that can take place in the sharing of stories among other people with lived experience of skin conditions.

 

Depression

Depression is the stage of sadness, loneliness that comes with having a skin condition. Feeling overwhelmed may come to this stage too. The feelings of loneliness though may be brought on by the pain of the skin condition, the visual evidence of skin flare ups or the reality this is a lifelong condition. Overall, it is the feeling of loss about ‘being normal’ that is grieved. In this stage, active and empathic listening is the key. Give assurance that no matter what happens, you will always be there for them. For my wife, it is giving her the assurance that she is loved and is beautiful in my eyes always.

At the depression stage too, take notice of your loved ones sleeping, eating and washing. In this stage you may notice your loved one may have reduced motivation to eat, sleep or wash. If you do notice these things, it is very important that we support them in attending their everyday care. If at any point, you feel concerned about your loved ones mental and physical well being, it is important to seek professional help.

 

Acceptance

Acceptance is the stage in which our loved ones find their resolve amidst their skin condition. This is the stage that in spite of the condition, life worth living is always there. At this stage, support your loved ones by sticking to their routines, treatment and regimes that keep them well. It may be their diet, adjustments regarding their schedule, a particular ointment or medicine that is effective. Praise them for the great work and celebrate with them.

 

It is important to understand that living with a skin condition, like psoriasis, is a lifelong journey. It is normal at times to go through the set of emotions once again. Our role as support person is not necessarily to help them stay at that ‘acceptance’ stage always, rather to stand by their side. So should they fall, we are already at their side to encourage and support them to stand up once again. After all, it is not about how many times we fall but how many times we stand up once again stronger than before.  



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