Most days, I hate my skin.
Years of saying “oh, it’s nothing… it’s a scratch…. it’s fine…. no, no, it’s psor-i-asis, not cirrhosis…. it’s not contagious…. it’s just dry skin…. it doesn’t hurt…. (do you not get the message that I want you to stop making this a big deal?)…. I’m fine, yes, I’m sure. ”
It wears on you.
Some days I am comfortable and happy living my life, embracing the fact that my skin requires extra care. Some days I hardly notice it. Others, it bugs me all day long and provides a constant distraction from the otherwise wonderful, beautiful things in my life. Some days it dictates my clothing choices. Some days I feel beautiful and unique and some days I feel ugly and broken.
At least once a day, people take a second look at my leg, my wrist, my arm, my face. Sometimes they might come up with a concerned look, placing a hand on my elbow as they ask “what did you do to your leg?” They mean well, but this always always drives me nuts. There is no easy way to explain it; there is no way to describe it without getting excessive and unnecessary pity in response.
People mean well, but I have so many deep wounds from feeling those eyes on me all the time, for all of my life; seeing their pity or disgust or fear every. single. day.
And every day, no matter how much I tell myself it doesn’t matter and not everyone notices and not everyone comments, every day, this makes me ashamed that my body is different and will never be the way I wish it could be
As an adult, I can see that this is something small; my disease could be so much worse and it really does not limit my life in any other capacity.
But as a human, I can tell you that psoriasis is an emotionally exhausting part of my daily life that will never go away.
This battle will always be a part of me. My responses have not changed much in the last twenty years and I don’t anticipate them changing for the rest of my life. I have the same conversations now that I remember happening since childhood- trying to explain psoriasis to a fourth grader in the lunch line is nearly identical to explaining it to the person next to me in line at the grocery. I’ve got a few more medical terms down, but the gist is the same. The feelings it stirs up are the same, no matter how hard I work to suppress them.
One day in fourth grade, around the time we finally had a diagnosis for my psoriasis, I sat under the ginkgo tree in our front yard with Vanessa (and for some reason the cat was hanging out with us there too). In autumn, the ginkgo’s fan-shaped leaves turn a gorgeous, brilliant yellow; I blissfully sat in this small circle of heaven, running my fingers through a pile of impossibly soft golden leaves (and piling them on top of the cat). After yet another conversation with a classmate trying to explain, “it’s just dry skin, it’s fine,” I remember wanting nothing more than for my skin to be just as soft and smooth as those leaves.
I’ve carried that same wish with me for fifteen years.
But one thing has changed.
That ginkgo, which used to be a taunting symbol of what my skin would never be, has instead become my symbol of survival.
A beautiful reminder that life is tough, but I am tougher. That beauty can be found in the darkest of places, even when that dark place is in my head. A reminder that no matter how hard things get, I can choose to find the goodness in something, in someone, in me.
And so I chose to claim back a part of my skin. To mark it for my own, to claim joy, to see my reminder of strength and resilience every single day.
To remember how I am deeply loved by my sister who remembered this random and then little-known fact about me and sent me a ginkgo ring as a gift seven years ago that I have not taken off since.
To know that the next time someone asks me about my psoriasis, I can take myself back to that safe and quiet circle under a ginkgo tree and feel at home in my skin at last.
Today? I finally love my skin.