Bright lights, big city - a twenty something gal living with psoriasis in London.
10 years with guttate psoriasis, 90% covered through my teens, early twenties to present, what impact has it had on my life? A big one! It’s with me 24/7, whether I like it or not. It makes me so angry but also makes me laugh. It’s taught me so many things and overall, I can’t live with it and I can’t live without it. It’s like having a boyfriend except it never pays for dinner. In fact, it does quite the opposite. With every glass of wine or sweet desert it kicks up a fuss. The end of the night kiss or nookie is replaced with itchy, red, sore, flaky skin and I can assure you there is no orgasm with that!
I mean, how the hell do you break it to someone that underneath the clothes, the jewellery and red wine lips, you are covered from head to toe in something that is often mistaken for chicken pox and feels like sand paper!? This, my friends, is a challenge. My usual dating approach goes something like this. We are in a bar having a cocktail or two, the normal get to know you questions start and my answer is “Yes, I absolutely love the theatre, wish I travelled more, my favourite music is dancehall and oh yes I have psoriasis. Another drink?” My approach has always been to drop it in to conversation, play it cool and make it fit in like every other interest or activity of mine. At this point, there may be some questions or perhaps just an “ok cool.” It always surprises me how afraid people are to ask about things they don’t know or perhaps secretly fear. I know we have all been there with our dermatologists, right...?!
Either way, at this point we date like any other people. I hope he pays for the dinner, chews with his mouth closed and oh God do I hope he’s good in bed. This somewhat laissez-faire attitude goes out the window once we get to the bedroom. The candles are on, it’s hot and steamy, the clothes are coming off and the psoriasis is out.
Out there for your partner to see, feel and judge and of course at this point there has to be a small Q&A. “What is that, does it hurt, oh my God is it contagious?” I mean really, 10 minutes of a psoriasis Q&A, what an orgasm killer! How do you get back into the moment after this? Your best moves and some crafty distractions, that’s how. But, of course the psoriasis ordeal isn’t over yet. What happens next could be considered worse. Dark sheets and flakes on the bed.
Why oh why do boys always have dark sheets?! I’ve been in this situation numerous times and my go to is to send them out for water, then frantically sweep the bed, hoover if possible and still try to maintain my best after-sex glow. At this point he thinks I’m a great house guest, or perhaps slightly insane with OCD!
Humour aside, this situation can be an everyday affair for someone with psoriasis. You can view it as gross or be embarrassed, but I think it’s important to remember ‘normal’ sex is NOT clean. Through the media, we are constantly peppered with images of what sex is: the perfect body, perfect skin, correct positions, orgasm face, the list goes on. But, let’s get real; sex is none of the above. Its messy, things are happening that aren’t supposed to happen, there are bodily fluids all over the shop and then with psoriasis there’s flakes and blood. THIS is normal. THIS just means you are doing it right and THIS is passion. Bottom line is, everyone has one thing they are slightly insecure about.
If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable about your skin you should put them straight in the bin. Having psoriasis makes us unique, brave and bold, don’t let anyone tell you different!
Depending on where you are on your psoriasis journey, getting to this moment can be difficult. You don’t feel attractive or perhaps in general you are just feeling super low. I’ve been lucky with my partners who have always made me feel incredibly beautiful, sexy and comfortable in my skin. It can take a while and you shouldn’t rush, but you should definitely allow time to get to this moment. Allow the time to connect with yourself, with your psoriasis, to love yourself, so eventually you can connect and be intimate with someone.
I’m no sexologist or doctor, but my suggestion would be to bring it back to the senses. Let your partner see, touch and smell your psoriasis. Bring them into your world. At a time when I was feeling incredibly fed up with my skin and had no libido, a partner offered me a massage. He grabbed the coconut oil, (obviously raw and organic) and proceeded to give me a massage. This was his way of taking my psoriasis into his own hands, to touch my skin and experience the texture and form of my body. Somehow allowing the time for a massage meant a connection which in the end led to incredible sex…who knew!
Psoriasis affects every part of our lives, mental, psychical, financial, sexual, you name it, and it’s there and it has an impact. My motto has always been to get it out, to show it off and bring everyone on my journey. My family and friends are team psoriasis for Holly, joining me every step of the way, playing in the doctor’s appointments, the 50 different types of creams, the home treatments and the endless challenge of controlling the flakes. We make a song and dance out of it and it becomes their norm too.
Having an incredible support network is the thing that helps me live with psoriasis. Surrounding myself with people that encourage me to be fearless and positive allows me to be free and not ruled by my psoriasis. It’s a part of me, but it does not define who I am. This support is irreplaceable and quite frankly the bee’s knees, as my mother would say. So, 7 months ago I started the campaign #GetYourSkinOut, a campaign to encourage and empower the 100 million people living with psoriasis worldwide. I want to give a voice to our leopard spots and put psoriasis on the map. Give it some flavour, some sex appeal and above all, give solidarity and awareness to a group of incredible people who take the word heroic to the next level. So what are you waiting for? Share your story, take a photo #GetYourSkinOut and buy some coconut oil!
This content is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.
UK/IE MAT-02913. Date of Prep: April 2016