When Psoriasis Impacts Your Loved Ones
Living with a chronic disease like psoriasis can really take a toll on you–mentally and physically. I’ve had psoriasis for 15 years, and my son was diagnosed with it even earlier, so we’ve been battling this autoimmune disease for quite a while. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that your psoriasis rarely affects only you.
Yes, psoriasis often has a hereditary component and usually runs in the family, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Beyond genetics, there’s inevitably an emotional strain on members of your family and your close friends. I’m fortunate to have a strong community around me, but it’s been an adjustment for everyone as we’ve learned to live with this chronic disease.
I was already married and had my son by the time I received my psoriasis diagnosis. Luckily for me, my husband takes “in sickness and in health” pretty seriously. That’s good, because I can use all the support offered and more. I often struggle with fatigue, a symptom commonly associated with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. When fatigue sets in, my husband picks up the slack by doing extra chores and errands to keep the house running. He doesn’t complain, but I know he gets annoyed. Honestly, who wouldn’t?
It’s sometimes difficult to figure out how to split household tasks and how to communicate my needs in a given moment. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t have a crystal ball and he’s not a mind reader. He wants to help, but most of the time, he just doesn’t know how.
I’ve found it is so much easier on both of us when I am direct and ask him for help doing specific tasks. “Hey, the bathroom is dirty” gets very little response. “Can you please do me a favor? The tub needs a good scrubbing, and I’m just too tired. Would you mind doing it?” Bingo. Tub is clean, argument is avoided, and stress level is lowered.
It’s easy for me to get self-absorbed in this disease, but the reality is, it affects him, too. My stress becomes his stress. My frustration becomes his frustration. My flares cause me to get upset and lash out, and he’s there taking it all. It’s important to remember that how we cope with our psoriasis is how they will cope with it, too. Take a deep breath and try to work through your negative emotions so they don’t spill out on to bystanders.
Children will always respond differently at various ages. Little ones might not understand why you don’t want to bare your skin and go to the pool when it’s 90 degrees out. Teens might think you’re in a power struggle when you simply can’t find the energy to take them to the mall because of overwhelming fatigue. When these events happen often, your kids might start wondering why you don’t care about them. Talk about a guilt gut punch!
My advice: Try compromising, but only if your health will not suffer. Maybe the kids can find a ride from a friend. Turn on the sprinkler and let your little one jump in the spray. This way, you can do you and not have to worry about meltdowns or misunderstandings.
Just like with your significant other, your kids will also take on your emotions and make them theirs. If you’re upset, they will be upset, and probably not even know why. Going through the day with everyone walking on eggshells does not breed a healthy mental state.
I’ll never forget when my son said, “Mom, you need to go to kickboxing because you are stressing me out!” He was right. I’d been dealing with an exasperating insurance issue and everyone could feel the tension. I had missed my kickboxing class three days in a row, and that meant I missed taking my frustration out in a constructive way.
Taking “me time” is so important when you have psoriasis. Don’t forget to put yourself first once in a while, whether that means exercising, sitting with some tea and a good book, or talking to a mental health professional. Your family will thank you.
Sometimes you just need to cancel plans. Maybe something’s come up. Maybe there’s a work emergency. Or maybe you feel a little embarrassed or stressed out about a psoriasis flare, and all you can think about is hiding out.
While I don’t recommend hiding out, I do understand the setbacks associated with a flare, and so will your friends. Of course they will be disappointed, but just be honest with them and explain how you’re feeling. Instead of canceling your plans altogether, try finding alternatives to keep the social interaction, for example:
- Instead of a movie out, maybe enjoy a movie night on the couch
- Go shopping with your friend and treat yourself to a nice new outfit that covers your plaques so you can feel confident when you hit the club later that night
- Don’t cancel your party–move it outside to the patio so you can soak up some rays and not worry about leaving flakes on the sofa
Psoriasis affects more than just yourself. Everyone who loves you shares in your discomfort, pain, frustration, and stress. Ask for help, prioritize your mental wellbeing, and find ways to keep your social life fulfilling. It’s a tricky situation to navigate, but being intentional and honest makes for a healthier relationship with family and friends, which can help you better manage your psoriasis, too.