Michael's Story

Michael used to hide his psoriasis and deflect any questions about his skin. Now, 40 years on from his diagnosis, he reflects on finding a successful treatment and letting go of the shame he once felt.

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I should start by saying that my psoriasis is now ‘under control’ and my psoriatic arthritis has remained fairly stable for a few years. Although I still feel as if that control is precarious, and, as someone who has always needed to be in control, professionally and personally, the loss of control over one’s body that psoriasis brings can be as hard to deal with as the symptoms themselves.

My battle with psoriasis began in my early twenties (I shall be 64 years old in a few weeks). My hands were the worst affected. My mum always said it was following cuts to my hands that I suffered whilst working in a bamboo plantation! My condition was sore and uncomfortable and meant doing things with my hands was often difficult and painful. I was a secondary school teacher for 36 years. In the early days, using chalk on the blackboard was a nightmare and handling paper was problematic. I was also painfully aware that my hands were always ‘on show’.

My coping strategy was to deny and hide my psoriasis. If asked by pupils “What’s wrong with your hands sir?” I would just say my skin is a bit sore, must be the cold weather; I would never use the word “psoriasis”, not even to my colleagues. The condition was diagnosed by my GP who referred me to a dermatology clinic at the hospital.

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To summarise the next thirty years:

A plethora of emollients, creams and ointments.

PUVA treatment at the hospital

Seaweed baths

Dead sea salts

Chinese herbal medicine

Acupuncture

Occasional improvement in symptoms

Lots of flare ups

Spreading to arms, legs, feet and torso.

Anxiety 

Anger

Desperation 

Throughout these years the love and support of family and close friends was invaluable. Then, two things made a significant difference. The first was that I acknowledged to the world at large that I suffered from psoriasis; yes it had a name, no it was not something to be ashamed of. The second thing was being prescribed methotrexate about ten years ago. At first in tablet form and then as injections. There are side effects; nausea, sore mouth, headaches, but my symptoms are much improved. Of course, with the Covid epidemic, being on immune suppressants, has brought new concerns and challenges. I am now not just a psoriasis sufferer (as well as a heart attack survivor) but a shielder and a vulnerable person. I am now not ashamed of my psoriasis. I have regained some control. But I have also realised that sometimes you cannot control everything. The care I have received from NHS staff in both the dermatology and rheumatology departments has been excellent.

Read more real-life stories from people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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