You know logically there are far worse things to have than psoriasis. A glance at the evening news will tell you there are hideous things happening to millions of people across the world at every moment. But someone telling you that having psoriasis is not so bad by comparison does not make you want to put on your dancing shoes and throw a celebratory party. It makes you want to throttle them. And then put on your dancing shoes to kick them when they’re down on the floor.
I’m not going to tell you to cheer up. I’ve had psoriasis for over 30 years. I know all about the soreness, the flaking, the pain, the embarrassment, (pause for breath), the restrictions to life, the unpleasant treatments, the uncertainty and the horrible out of control feeling it brings but I honestly believe you can be happy despite having this condition. It’s just not as simple as someone telling you to look on the bright side because it could be worse.
There’s an exciting and developing field of psychology devoted to helping people feel positive and happy whatever their circumstances. If you think of a scale with misery at one end and ecstasy on the other, traditionally a psychologist would aim to help someone move from the depression end to somewhere in the middle of the scale; a neutral point. Recently psychologists have begun to focus on helping people move towards the happiness end of the scale instead of just aiming for an absence of low mood.
Positive psychology therapy involves techniques such as learning to savour the moment and connecting with other people and there is good scientific evidence that these strategies can help with clinical depression. You can read more about these simple yet powerful techniques on the Action for Happiness website.
It would seem that being happy has more benefits than the simple joy it brings. In the 1930s, a large group of Catholic nuns were required to write a 2-3 page autobiography before entering the convent and then went on to live very similarly structured lives. Many years later psychologists discovered and analysed these autobiographies rating the nuns’ cheerfulness. They discovered that the positive nuns lived longer by 10 years. A whopping 54% of cheerful nuns reached the age of 94 years compared with only 15% of the least cheerful ones. Evidence that it’s not only nice to be happy, it’s good for you too.
Living with psoriasis is not easy. Often it feels like I’ve turned up to an elegant cocktail party in fancy dress by mistake. Everyone else looks like they belong to the Kardashian clan and I’ve come as Hellboy. Oh the shame of being the only guest to miss the ‘bring your flawless skin’ memo.
So yes, it could be worse and yes, it could be better. The long and the short of it is I have psoriasis and there’s no cure. I struggle with accepting that but I am determined to enjoy my life in spite of it. I want to be happy. I am more than skin.
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