It took me five years to go see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis for my skin condition. I guess I was in denial. Being young, I thought I was impervious to illness. I couldn’t accept the fact that I had psoriasis, especially the arthritis part. Isn’t arthritis an old people’s disease? How could I get it at 37? I was still so young.
It started with a scaly patch on my shin, which spread to my upper thighs, arms and scalp. It was extremely uncomfortable and painful, but nothing can beat the flare-up I had in 2011. I was bedridden for three weeks in the hospital. It was my worst experience. It was almost intolerable.
My skin was very thin because of erythroderma, and I felt cold all the time. I was always shivering, even when the fan and air conditioner were off. I couldn’t move much, and I was unable to take care of myself. I needed help with simple things like bathing and applying cream on my skin. It was a little embarrassing to have the nurses help me with that.
My wife was four months pregnant at that time and she was advised to rest at home. She didn’t visit me at the hospital very often and it was quite lonely. It was a very mentally and emotionally challenging time for me. After I got discharged, I had another horrible psoriatic attack. I was unable to walk properly for two more weeks and I had to spend Christmas in bed.
It took me almost a year to recover, but my body has never been the same again. My ankles and knees were affected the most. Until today I can’t run, cycle or do martial arts. Without my regular exercise, I started to gain more weight, which caused another set of problems.
I recently started working out again, but I’m not pushing myself and doing anything reckless. I can’t risk injuring myself even more.
I discovered that stress and infections are my two main-triggers. I have to always be mindful about not overexerting myself which can be difficult because work as a business owner can be quite taxing. I also have to be cautious whenever I go out and make sure that I don’t come in contact with people who are sick. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely made me more anxious. I have to be extra careful in order to stay healthy.
I’ve experienced so many difficulties in the past nine years. Another major thing that really changed is the relationship that I have with my extended family. I was ostracised by them and asked not to attend family events because of my skin condition. We have grown apart in a lot of ways and I only meet them when it’s absolutely necessary.
Thankfully, my immediate family is very understanding and supportive. My wife, my daughter, my parents and my church leaders have helped me tremendously. We always talk about things openly, and that has allowed me to process my thoughts, and help define my self-worth and self-identity. I’m doing much better right now and I’m very grateful for that.
Unfortunately, my brother and father have shown symptoms of psoriasis. I sometimes worry that my daughter will be the same. In our family, we say things as it is. I don’t hide anything from my daughter, and I always explain my condition to her and answer all her questions as honestly as I can. I am concerned about her future, but I believe that if she does get psoriasis down the road, I will be able to help her and we will go through this together, like how we’re going through it now - as a family.