Of all the psoriasis patients we’ve interviewed, Erica was hit by this highly stigmatized autoimmune condition the earliest – she developed visible symptoms at the tender age of 9. Now 21, she shares her decade-plus journey from being the girl that people avoided in school to an increasingly confident young woman who has finally started meeting others like her, people who are also living with the daily challenges of psoriasis. What difference has that made for her? And how has she started to take control of her treatment course as of late? Find out that and much more in this inspiring interview.
1. Tell us how you were treated by classmates and school nurses growing up.
The first few years were the hardest, trying to understand the disease and how it affected me. It was hard to explain to others, since they didn’t really want to listen. Most of my classmates avoided me because they were afraid they would catch it, no matter how many times I would explain it they never believed me. I was sent to the nurse a lot because I’d scratch my head or my arms till they bled. The nurses never wanted to deal with it so they sent me home. Now that I’m older and can explain it better, I don’t have as many problems. If someone stares at my skin, I simply tell them it’s psoriasis and it’s not contagious. But the hardest thing I had to go through was people avoiding physical contact with me.
2. How important is it to find the right dermatologist? You’ve said yours is like a second mother.
I’ve known Dr. Clifton since I was 13 years old, and I’m 21 now. It’s very important to have that great relationship with your doctor. They need to know every single little detail of your life when you have a serious disease such as psoriasis, as so many things can cause it to get worse or better and can react with the medications. You need to know that they will listen to you and take the time you need. You also need to trust them with your life. The last time I saw Dr. Clifton after three years, I had changed, however, and I didn’t agree with the treatment course she wanted to do. I respect her advice but I don’t agree with her [at this point], so therefore I’ve decided I want to find a different dermatologist.
3. What’s helped you develop the confidence and love of life you have now?
I still have days where I feel depressed but I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing supportive people in my life. God is the main reason I overcame the depression. I pray a lot! I also read my Bible, listen to Christian music (Skillet is my favorite band!), talk to someone and change my way of thinking. When I feel sad or upset I’ll look up Skillet on the laptop and just play it as loud as I can and just breathe. I always feel better after that. I go to an amazing church that has some awesome people in it. I know I can call or text any of them any time and they will be there for me. If I’m focusing on the bad, I try to look at the bright side of things and that seems to help as well. But praying is by far the thing that makes me feel best and at peace.
4. What’s it been like to connect with other psoriasis patients at PatientsLikeMe?
Growing up with psoriasis, and having no one else around with it, was extremely hard. I had no one to connect with. But since being on the site, I’ve made some great connections and have made some lifelong friends. The strange thing is how much we have in common and how many of the same things we’ve been through. What’s awesome is being able to tell someone what’s going on with my skin and they really understand because they’ve been through the same thing. In the past nine months, I’ve also met a lot of people in person with psoriasis and I’m always telling them about this site!