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Michelle talks about her experiences growing up with psoriasis, from the many treatments she used as a child to supressing her feelings about her skin, and why she is determined not to let the condition define her.
Hi, my name is Michelle. My journey with psoriasis began when I was 7 years old and living in my country of birth, Zimbabwe. I am now 24. It started just as one tiny spot on my arm which seemed to have grown every time I looked at it. Not long after that, the spot became a patch, then the patches would show up on different parts of my body and would itch incredibly.
My mum would take me to many doctors who would not be able to correctly diagnose me and, of course, that came with many suggestions for treatment from relatives and people who knew us. I have tried pretty much everything thinkable, being in Zimbabwe, many people suggested natural things that we should try. I remember my mum smoking me in a bath rub of coal and it being so uncomfortable. My mum also remembers someone suggesting she covers me in peels off lemon and of course she did, and I don’t personally remember the experience but my mum remembers it as being one of the most horrific experiences of her life, having to put her child through that and no progress came from it. I have tried many prescribed ointments, light therapy and I’m now on tablets. I tried Ciclosporin, which worked wonders, but it was a short course and once that course was over the psoriasis came back. I then started on Methotrexate which cleared the skin, but always needed the dose to be increased every time my skin reaches a plateau.
When I was 9 my family and I moved to the UK, Nottingham to be precise. It was really odd for me because there were no real restrictions on what your child should look like as there was in Zimbabwe. I thought because I had short hair with stuff that looked like dandruff falling all the time, I would not be able to make friends, but I did.
In secondary school I feel like I suppressed all feelings to do with the psoriasis, I just felt like it was an unfortunate thing I was cursed with and now had to deal with. So, I wore clothes that would ensure it was covered at all times, when I started wearing make-up, I wore layers upon layers just to hide it. When it came to Physical Education, I made sure I was always able to cover my skin and when I wasn’t able to, they were my greatest moments of insecurity. I will never lie and say secondary school was hard for me cos of bullying because it wasn’t, it was hard for me because of me and the way I perceived myself.
I have come to accept that this is not going anywhere, this is a part of me. When I was in secondary school, I desperately wanted to be a model, but I felt that the way I looked wouldn’t let that happen. I know psoriasis won’t stop me from achieving things, granted people will look and maybe ask but there’s absolutely nothing I can’t achieve because of psoriasis. I want everyone with psoriasis to know that you can lead a normal life, you can find love, you can model, you can go to Uni, you can be a celebrity, you can be whatever. Never let his condition stop you because I have allowed it to stop me from many things but that stops today.