I am a 58-year-old who has been living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis since the age of five. I got my first job at age 14, and have been going strong ever since.
When I started my very first summer job working at a school for kids with disabilities, I knew my psoriasis was going to be a problem. Indeed, people were staring and pointing within a matter of minutes. I had psoriasis on my face and arms that was visible for all to see. As a child, I was used to kids pointing and making fun of me, but I thought the adult working world would be totally different. Boy, was I wrong!!
When I first started working, I didn’t know how to cover up or hide my condition for a job. As the years went by, I would learn how to take extra care of what clothing I wore or how I wore my hair so people wouldn’t focus on my psoriasis. This wasn’t easy.
I found out quickly that choosing the right clothing and styles when you have psoriasis and flare-ups can be a challenge for work or any time. I had to wear loose clothing that didn’t rub against my skin and cause pain and irritation. Fabrics made of cotton were more comfortable than synthetics.
I also realized early on that I couldn’t wear necklaces, bracelets, watches or waistbands. Pantyhose were my best friend growing up for hiding my psoriasis, and thankfully I worked in offices where it was mandatory to wear them.
However, there were days that I had to wear three or four pair at a time to hide my psoriasis, making my skin itch like crazy. I remember being in meetings and not wanting to fidget or scratch because I knew flakes would be everywhere.
My worst fear at any job was that I would leave flakes wherever I went with people saying, “Diane’s been here again, she left her skin behind.” I have lost count of times that I have been on my hands and knees in bathrooms, near other peoples’ desks and hallways to clean up flakes.
It was so hard for people to understand that psoriasis was not just a rash.
Sometimes, smells such as perfumes would cause my skin to be irritated, but in the workplace, you can’t tell someone not to spray perfume or ask them to do it in the bathroom. I didn’t want to come across as someone who was a complainer or wanted special treatment. As the years went by and I got to understand my condition better and educate myself more, I was able to tell my employer how serious my condition was.
Then, in addition to dealing with psoriasis in the workplace, I started having signs of psoriatic arthritis at the age of 25. I had to seek the help of my doctor because I hurt so badly. There were days I couldn’t walk without severe pain. However, because I always looked great and had